Food & Drink

Plant Grill meets MM to talk vegan food at Xmas for everyone

When it comes to Christmas there can be so much to consider, and cooking can take up the whole day, so what happens when a vegan or vegetarian shows up?

You would be forgiven for simply not knowing where to start, and having a headache just thinking about the added stress, but there is still lots of food that’s already vegan that everyone can enjoy at Christmas.

It doesn’t have to as difficult as it may seem; it might mean making separate gravy or putting some extra vegetables in the oven, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Head chef Holly Fitzgerald, 28, from Plant Grill, Manchester shared her tips for making the ultimate vegan Christmas dinner, with gravy being her favourite.

She said: “I love gravy!

“It should be something that’s so simple, but it just isn’t for some reason.

“People just don’t seem to have a good understanding of how to make good vegan gravy.”

According to the chef, if you’re making gravy from scratch, then the main issue is the stock base, where vegetable peelings are used rather than fresh vegetables.

Holly also revealed that the big trade secret is in fact marmite – whether you love it or hate it – adding it to your sauce can add that meaty, broth-like flavour.

 “That’s how we get our sexy, savoury, deep flavours into things in restaurants, its marmite,” Holly explained.

If you aren’t really a fan of cooking, then it’s always best to keep it simple by starting with the basic vegetables that can easily be cooked for everyone.

Sure you might have to use some alternative flavours, but it doesn’t mean compromising on taste.

The most important part of vegan cooking is adding just the right amount of seasoning, like thyme, maple, salt, rosemary, and chilli flakes.

Vegan food in particular isn’t always great admittedly, and Holly – who also created the vegan Christmas menu for The Allotment – described vegan food as an exciting journey.

She said: “Because nobody knows exactly what they’re doing.

“You don’t get taught it in culinary school.

“It’s basically all problems solving, and that side of it just really intrigues me.”

Another staple for a decent veggie roast is either a nut roast or a wellington, which is easy enough to prepare even if you don’t have much cooking experience, adding plenty of versatility to the meal.

Holly added: “I typically use Puy lentils ‘cause they’re a lot meatier, and they’ve got a lot of protein in them as well, which is always good on the whole getting your protein side of things.”

Holly also noted that other ingredients to complete the wellington can include onions, beetroot, gravy, and mushrooms, rolled into just roll pastry, and simply popped in the oven.

Roast potatoes are another must, and Aunt Bessie’s Roasties can quite easily do the trick, but nothing beats homemade roast potatoes, which can be cooked in coconut oil instead.

Even Holly was sceptical.

She said: “I thought it might give them a coconuty or sweet taste but assured me they turn out just as crispy and tasty, as long as they’re well seasoned with lots of fresh garlic, thyme and rosemary.

“It’s these little changes that make food go from, yeah that’s nice, to wow this is what I’ve been missing.”

The reality is that vegans and vegetarians don’t want to make a fuss, or want to feel like a burden; it just comes down to wanting something equally as tasty at Christmas.

Holly said: “It’s just food, and it’s the same as all food.

“I never want my meal to be an afterthought.”

It can also help being able to cook non-vegan food Holly said: “I think it’s probably something that helps me in my career because I understand non vegan cooking, which I think is probably the best way to understand how to do vegan food well.”

As the popularity of veganism has continued to grow, so have the options in most supermarkets, which has made it so much easier to buy something already made, especially if you aren’t the most culinary person.

“People might not have wanted to go vegan before ‘cause they didn’t know how to cook, but now they’ve had convenience brought to them,” said Holly.

Plant Grill have just opened with a brand new Christmas menu, and are located in Escape to Freight Island, where there are plenty of food outlets for everyone.

Photo: Unsplash by Robert Bye

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