Let’s face it: Christmas 2020 isn’t going to be the same as usual.
We may be allowed to meet up with more family members for a few days, but there are still restrictions – plus, of course, there’s the ongoing risk of actually contracting Covid.
What’s more, again thanks to the pandemic, many families are making do with a tighter budget than usual.
All in all, it might just be the perfect time to try out something new, cheap, and good for the soul.
That’s right: ’tis the season to go vegan.
As well as cutting down on costs, eating vegan has health benefits and is one of the most effective ways that you can help reduce your environmental impact.
But it can be hard to know where to start with vegan cooking – particularly when food is as important as it is at Christmas.
So here are a few ideas to get you started for some spectacular vegan dishes for your Christmas dinner.
The classic Christmas option for turkey-dodgers is a nut roast, which goes wonderfully with the standard Christmas trimmings of roast vegetables and (vegan) gravy. Many varieties are vegetarian rather than vegan because they include cheese, but vegan options are easy to come by too. The Vegan Society has an easy recipe if you want to keep things simple, and Jack Monroe’s smart budget version costs just 42p a portion. If you want to do something more ambitious, the sky’s the limit. Jamie Oliver has a sophisticated option involving tofu and spinach, and The Veg Space’s impressive vegan Christmas pie is filled with nuts and veg.
Like Yorkshire pudding or cauliflower cheese, a wellington is one of those controversial things that may or may not be part of your traditional Christmas spread. But as vegan options go, it’s definitely worth a shout, especially if the pastry is stuffed with portobello mushrooms like Delicious Everyday’s recipe. Or try out Avant-Garde Vegan’s chestnut-based version with warming wintry spices and dried fruit.
If you feel your Christmas dinner spread needs a meat-like centrepiece, you may be tempted by Tofurky – a substantial orb of tofu and wheat that you can cook much like an actual turkey. It was originally developed in the US as a Thanksgiving substitute, but it’s available over here too. The company’s own site has a tempting recipe for Tofurkey roast with caramelised onions and cherries. If you’re up for it, you could even make your own seitan – a wheat-based meat substitute – and roast that instead, as One Green Planet explains.
Whole roasted cauliflower
Another great centrepiece idea is to do something interesting with a cauliflower. This versatile vegetable absorbs flavours brilliantly and works a treat if you put it in the oven whole, covered in a tasty glaze or rub. Minimalist Baker has a recipe with just five ingredients, while Anna Jones uses turmeric and coconut. But for a proper Christmas feast, Vegan Food and Living’s recipe includes a broccoli and walnut stuffing and puts the cauliflower leaves to good use too.
Roasted butternut squash
A butternut squash can also fit the bill as a vegetable centrepiece, especially if you scoop out the inside and stuff it. The Veg Space’s recipe has a gorgeously Christmassy stuffing of cranberries, rosemary and red wine, while Go Organic goes for mushrooms and rice with dried apricots. Both tie it all up with string, like a ham.
Granted, a salad may not sound like much of a Christmas meal, but in fact potato salad is a traditional Christmas dish in Germany and elsewhere in continental Europe. It’s easy to veganise, simply by leaving out the traditional eggs and using vegan mayo (which is widely available, or you can even make it yourself). Cheap and Cheerful Cooking’s German-style recipe uses kala namak, a kind of salt, to replicate the flavour of boiled eggs, and Active Vegetarian’s innovative Czech version is mayo-free.
Sprouts (not that kind)
Some love them, some hate them, but everyone agrees that if you try and scatter Brussels sprouts over the top of a roast dinner, they’ll make an enormous mess. Luckily, though, there’s another sort of sprout in town that can garnish pretty much any meal you can think of. And you’ll get serious vegan kudos for making them.
Regularly water some dried seeds and pulses for a few days, and they will start to sprout – and it’s at that point, it’s thought, that they pack the most health benefits. What’s more, they make a delicious and crunchy addition to anything from soups to salads. Wholefully has a good guide to get you started. Just make sure you only sprout stuff that’s decent quality and pesticide-free.
Despite their distinctly un-vegan name, mince pies are dead easy to make vegan, and in fact vegan mince pies are widely available from supermarkets. Livekindly runs through a few of the best options to buy, plus this year you can get them from the famously vegan-friendly bakery Greggs. To make your own, try the recipe from Bosh! or check out Vegan Christmas, where, as you might have guessed, you can find a few other tips too.
Let a restaurant do the hard work
For obvious reasons, this year restaurants are having to think on their feet, and a number of Manchester’s vegan or vegan-friendly establishments have come up with special Christmas plans.
You can pre-order a hearty vegan roast to cook at home from Nora’s Kitchen, which, under normal circumstances, does the food at the Chorlton Tap bar – if you order a week in advance you can even book a Christmas Eve delivery. The legendary Greens in Didsbury is planning to offer meal kits for collection too. And vegan cafe Vertigo, which has several branches in Manchester and Salford, is doing a Christmas hamper.
Photo credit: Nora’s Kitchen