Sam’s Tip of the Season: Christmas
It’s hard to not think about Christmas at this time of year. There’s already so much around to remind us that the big day is coming! I’m naturally a planner and a list-maker so I don’t need much encouragement to start thinking ahead to Christmas dinners.
Things have changed a lot since my first attempts at Christmas dinner. There are lots of great ready-to-cook options and exciting recipes about. But for me, what makes a really special Christmas dinner isn’t the focal point of the main meal: it’s all the trimmings, fancy veggie sides, amazing potatoes, delicious sauces, tangy chutneys, and pretty garnishes. I love cooking but it can be hard to keep coming up with new ideas every year. There are only so many things you can do with a parsnip!
I get excited experimenting with new flavours, so to get you started here are my tips for delicious seasonal veggie sides. I hope it’ll give you a bit of inspiration and maybe nudge you into trying something new… and help you to step away from the honey-roast parsnips.
You’re probably a dab hand at roasting carrots but how about adding a few slices of fresh ginger and orange wedges to the dish? Just toss everything once or twice while roasting to spread the flavours.
Or roughly chop an apple with your carrots, a sprig or two of fresh sage leaves. Toss everything in a little oil, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper before roasting.
For softer parsnips, steam or boil sliced parsnips to soften them before roasting or frying. Try sautéing chunky slices in garlic butter or mash them roughly and add chopped chives and roasted hazelnut pieces.
Don’t forget the Brussels! Steam or boil your sprouts first. Then pop them into a roasting dish, pour over enough warm béchamel sauce to cover them. Next, into a medium heat oven they go until the top is starting to brown and bubble nicely.
If you fancy an extra treat add some veggie bacon bits to the top just before serving. This tip is especially good for leftovers… Shred cooked sprouts and add them to mashed potato with lashings
of butter and black pepper.
I love the clean and crisp flavours of braised leeks with lemon and fennel seed. The flavours complement richness in other dishes. Cover trimmed leeks with warm vegetable stock; add 3 to 4
wedges of lemon and 1 tbsp of fennel seeds. Slowly braise them in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until super soft.
Here are a couple of my favourite flavours that pair perfectly with any seasonal cabbages: Cut your cabbage into chunky wedges. Brush them with a little oil and then with miso paste. Roast the wedges in a hot oven until the edges are starting to blacken.
If you like spicy sides, shred whole cabbage leaves then pan fry with a teaspoon of gochujang paste and a few drops of sesame oil.
Root vegetable mash can be a lighter option than mashed potato and is packed full of fibre. My favourite variation is celeriac and parsnip mash with fresh thyme and plenty of wholegrain mustard.
How about making this delicious pie recipe with any leftovers?
Celeriac Topped Lentil Cottage Pie
Preparation: 30 mins
Cooking: 1 hour 35 mins
For the filling:
• 80g aubergine, cubed
• 2 tbsp light olive oil
• 1 tbsp liquid smoke
• 30g sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained (dried, not in oil)
• 15g dried mixed mushrooms, rinsed and drained
• 150g dried green lentils, rinsed and drained
• 600ml vegan vegetable stock
• 1 tsp Marmite
• 1 onion, finely diced
• 1 stick of celery, finely diced
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 4 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp dried thyme
• 3 tbsp arrowroot powder
• 2 tbsp tomato purée
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
For the mash:
• 700g celeriac, peeled and chopped
• 440g potatoes, peeled and chopped
• 4 tbsp vegetarian pesto
• Salt and pepper to season
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
2. Make the mash: Place the celeriac and potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Add a large pinch of salt. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat, drain and mash with the pesto until smooth. Season to taste.
3. While the mash is cooking, soak the dried vegetables. Place the dried tomatoes and mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with 300ml of boiling water. Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes. Drain the vegetables, retaining the liquid for later. Chop the tomatoes and mushrooms and set aside.
4. Also while the mash is cooking, roast the aubergine: Toss the cubed aubergine in 1 tbsp of the oil and the liquid smoke. Season with a little salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
5. To cook the lentils: Place the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the Marmite and stir until dissolved. Add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and reserve the liquid. Set aside.
6. Heat the remaining oil in a large deepsided frying pan or saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
7. Add in the chopped tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking to the pan.
8. Add the aubergine, lentils, onion powder, thyme and arrowroot. Stir until well combined.
9. Next, add ⅔ of the reserved liquids, tomato purée and soy sauce. Stir well.
10. Continue to stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes while the sauce thickens, adding more liquid as necessary to form the sauce. Remove from the heat.
11. Spoon the filling into a deep ovenproof dish and smooth out to form an even layer.
12. Gently spread the flavoured mash over the filling to cover the entire surface.
13. Cook in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is starting to turn golden brown.
14. Serve with your favourite vegetables and pickled red cabbage. The pie can be cooled then stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Want more cooking tips? Check out our cookery classes and get hands on as you chop, slice, dice and knead your way to delicious veggie and vegan dishes.