According to a new poll, one in five Brits will be cooking a vegan Christmas dinner this month – and, how can we blame them? As December is sandwiched between World Vegan Month in November and the popular Veganuary challenge come the new year, it’s the perfect opportunity for those dipping their toes into the plant-based lifestyle to find out what all the fuss is about. Plus, given Christmas dinner is centred around steaming piles of Brussels sprouts, crispy roast potatoes, sweet red cabbage and the kind of carrots Rudolph could only dream of, creating a vegan Christmas dinner is easy, right?
It would seem so, according to Mildreds’ chef and food director Sarah Wasserman. Founded in 1988, Mildreds has been a stalwart on London’s plant-powered food scene for 35 years and its mission remains unchanged: to celebrate and pioneer vegan food using the freshest, most vibrant and flavoursome ingredients. Now with five London-based restaurants spanning Soho to King’s Cross, Mildreds has become the go-to destination for Londoners looking for quality vegan food that doesn’t sacrifice taste, style and presentation.
Come Christmas, the menu is no less exciting, featuring beetroot gravlax, porcini chestnut parfait and a main event of chick’n, sage and roast leek lattice with butternut squash and roast potatoes drizzled in a red wine jus. So, if you fancy incorporating more plants than meat into your festive dinner this year, or fancy going the whole hog (ahem), here’s Wasserman’s guide to elevating your vegan sides, mains and desserts this Christmas.
Brilliant Christmas vegetable dishes
“The great thing about Christmas dinner is the proliferation of vegetable sides,” explains Wasserman. “Most people can gorge themselves on the maple roast parsnips, candied Brussels sprouts, carrot and swede puree, roast leeks, cauliflower cheese and, of course, the roast potatoes. There is no Christmas dinner without roast potatoes, and these are so easy to make vegan. Try doing the first boil with a little saffron for a gorgeous golden finish, or toss them in a little truffle oil and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt.”
Wasserman is a self-professed Brussels sprouts fan – and a common, non-vegan way to make these taste more luxurious is by adding blue cheese and bacon. This year, however, try adding a little crunch instead. “Brussels sprouts are a real favourite of mine and I like them roasted with a simple herb and garlic oil, before serving with a sprinkle of toasted and crushed hazelnuts.”
How to create a vegan Christmas centrepiece
Often, when you think of a vegan roast dinner, you think of a nut roast. And while homemade creations are often delicious, the shop-bought iterations can sometimes lack the flavour and oomph you’re after when serving a show-stopping centrepiece. “To me nut roast is basically stuffing in the form of a log, so making a nut roast special is all about those premium winter ingredients, like beautiful pumpkins, porcini mushrooms, candied beetroots,” explains Wasserman.
“I would pick one key vegetable and offset it with the right nut, such as pumpkin and pecan, porcini and pine nut, beetroot and hazelnut, before adding a zing of acidity, like orange or lemon zest.” Finish with a simple maple glaze for extra shine and toasted nuts, dried oranges and a sprig of holly to garnish and you’ve got yourself a winner.
For plant-based pundits with a knack for pastry, Wasserman suggests you get creative in the kitchen. “[Other] Christmas centrepieces could include leek and butternut lattice, beetroot porcini Wellington, heirloom cauliflower galette and a vegan version of Moroccan pastilla. Then dress them like a yule log with cranberries, redcurrants, and sage leaves and even a very light sprinkle of icing sugar.”
Vegan Christmas desserts
If there’s one thing you should know about Wasserman, it’s how passionate she is about desserts. Come Christmas, she recommends indulging guests with a rich and surprisingly vegan sticky pudding with all the sides. “At Mildreds, we make ours with gingerbread spices and obviously loads of toffee sauce. Vegan sticky puddings work well as dates do a lot of the work that eggs would traditionally do as a binding agent, while keeping the pudding rich and moist.
“Also, the trick to vegan toffee sauce is to follow a normal recipe but replace non-vegan ingredients with plant-based butter and cream, before stabilising with just a little cornflour so the sauce becomes thick and doesn’t split. Serve with plenty of plant ice cream or custard.”