Reporter Jasmin martin discovers a hug array of meat-free dishes to delight the tastebuds this Christmas.
It’s that time of year again - trees laden with tinsel, bustling high streets, houses awash with lights, magical mince pies and that all important date and walnut roast.
No, really. Growing up in a vegetarian household has meant that the traditional turkey has never accompanied my crispy spuds, crunchy carrots and controversial brussels sprouts - and never will.
Thankfully, restaurants, supermarkets and endless amounts of websites are also increasingly catering for the growing number of vegetarians and vegans across the UK making the opportunity to have exciting meat-free dishes grace our dinner plates easier now than it’s ever been.
And this is much to the delight of Hilary Humphrey who lives in Bostock Road, Horsham, with her husband. She has been a vegetarian since 1982 when she was 12 after gaining an interest in animal welfare and hearing it could potentially benefit her health.
“I did eat fish probably for the first 10 years when I was eating out or at friends houses because it was so hard at the time,” she explained, “but things changed, especially during the 90s, when it became easier to eat out as a vegetarian and friends and family began to understand.”
Although the 43-year-old didn’t think she would stick to the new diet at first, with her favourite birthday treat at the time being steak and chips, she doesn’t miss meat with even just the smell of bacon making her feel queasy.
“I’ve always been someone who believes whether you’re veggie, vegan or eat meat that’s your choice as long as you’re comfortable with where your food is coming from,” she added.
“I meet a lot of meat eaters who don’t want to know what’s happened pre it being packaged up in the super market and that to me is kind of denial.”
With this in mind, the Christmas veggie option in the Humphrey household never sounds bland with delicious and fresh produce ranging from chestnut filo parcels to spicy chickpeas.
“My number one favourite is cashew and red pepper loaf,” revealed Hilary who works at Horsham-based company Seofon. “ It’s bright and colourful, you can put red and green peppers in and with the white of the cashews it looks really festive and that goes down well with the meat eaters.”
An array of goods from the Vegetarian Society, Quorn and Horsham’s very own Natural Way are also recommended by Hilary, and after attending the Vegfest in Brighton back in May, she signed up to Veggie Vision TV - a site devoted to vegetarian and vegan cooking and tips.
The site, which was founded by Karin Ridgers, has also released a five-part guide called ‘Loving and Surviving your Vegetarian Christmas.’
Karin said: “My free guide is ideal for worried readers who have a vegetarian relative coming for Christmas dinner or your veggie readers who need inspiration and fresh ideas for enjoying a meat free Christmas
“It is completely free and has advice from experts, real people from all over the UK - as well as some celebrities.”
The possibilities are endless, and it’s something Hilary hopes the many eateries in the town will take inspiration from.
“I do use a couple of stalls in the Carfax and Crates Local are fantastic but apart from the fresh veg, there isn’t anyone doing anything specific,” added Hilary who also volunteers as a Horsham Community Responder.
“It would be good to have a veggie restaurant in Horsham or for the independents to get some new ideas of what to serve because there is so much you can do very quickly.
“I’m not a masterchef by any means but it’s easy to make good, wholesome and fun foods and Christmas is all about sharing so make something that everyone can have a go at,” she continued.
“It’s about having your friends and family around so share the fun.”
So if you feel this year you might want to try that date and walnut roast or would like to make the most of other earthy winter vegetables this season has to offer, Veggie Vision have released a tasty recipe from the vegan author and presenter Tony Bishop Weston for some early inspiration.
For more on this, visit www.veggiechristmas.com or www.veggievision.tv
Main Course ‘Turk-ish’ Christmas Strudel with Herby Beanie Balls by Tony Bishop Weston.
Spare the turkey this Christmas with FRY’S Vegetarian Chicken Strips parcelled up in crispy seeded filo pastry with a colourful festive concoction of chestnuts, red cranberries and green curly kale. Served with herby hazelnut FRY’S Veggie Mince balls and a selection of winter vegetables.
Prep and cooking time 1 hour
270g pack Filo Pastry sheets
190g FRY’S Vegetarian Chicken Style Strips (1/2 x 380g box)
160g jar/vacuum pack of cooked chestnuts
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
80g curly kale – finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon of cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon of flax seeds
For the balls
190g ( ½ pack) FRY’S Vegetarian Mince (defrosted)
60g ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon fresh sage finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon marmite
1 tablespoon wholemeal flour
160g roast sweet potatoes
1 dessertspoon coconut oil
160g parsnips cut into sticks
1 teaspoon soy sauce
160g mashed swede turnip
1 teaspoon grated fresh Ginger
160g stir fried shredded red cabbage
80g cashew nuts
1 tablespoon sesame oil
160g green beans
160g carrots, thinly sliced in rounds
Salt and pepper
Prepare all vegetables, finely chop the swede and boil in water
Preheat oven to 180ºC with a baking tray with the coconut fat.
Chop up the sweet potato, toss in the hot oil on the baking tray in the oven put back in the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Bake the FRY’S Chicken Style Strips in the oven for 5 minutes
Toss parsnips in soy sauce and add to the sweet potatoes
Put the finely chopped kale, the chestnuts, the balsamic vinegar and garlic Into a large stainless steel heavy pan and gently heat for a few minutes until the chestnuts are hot Add in the FRY’S Chicken Style Strips and the cranberries, take off the heat and leave to simmer with a lid on
Unfold the filo sheets onto a sheet of baking paper on a large chopping board. Paint a very light coat of oil and a pinch of flax seeds between each sheet
Into the middle of the stack of filo sheets place a horizontal line of the chestnut and FRY’S Chicken Style Strips mix. Roll it up, paint lightly with oil and sprinkle with remaining seeds.
Scrunch the strudel up a little, and place on a baking tray and then into the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
In a cold bowl, knead all the ball ingredients together then shape into 12 balls
Add balls to the sweet potatoes and parsnips in the oven which will meanwhile all need turning to make sure they are oiled and cooking on all sides
Mash the swede with the ginger
Simmer the carrots and beans in 3 tablespoons of water and juice of a lime
Gently stir fry the red cabbage, with the sesame oil and the cashew nuts
Serve with rich gravy, cranberry or redcurrant jelly, hot apple sauce or a Christmassy chutney