Friday, 6 December 2013

Merry Veggie Christmas :)

This year, I have made a meal which brings together elements from my favourite Christmas dinners over the years. 

The heart of the dish is Thanksgiving Stuffing, a recipe from America, which is essentially a savoury bread and butter pudding. It is a fantastic winter comfort food, thick and crunchy and gooey!

To accompany this I have made Parmesan roasted Parsnips, which have a slightly nutty flavour, Honey roasted Carrots, whith a touch of vinegar to balance the sweetness, Steamed Curly Kale, for freshness, and The Best Gravy Ever.

I do have to point out that the parmesan is NOT vegetarian - it contains rennet. My personal relationship with cheese is that I have never bought, cooked with, or eaten vegetarian cheese, so I haven't used it here. If you don't have an issue with non-vegetarian cheese then knock yourself out :) but if you would prefer to omit it, or experiment with other flavours with parsnips then go for it :) maybe even leave a comment with the alternative that you used!

(I also added a big spoonful of cranberry sauce on the side, it's an accompanying treat which works with this meal, and definitely adds to the Christmassy flavours!)

Here are the cooking times. Basically the main elements can be prepared and cooked at around the same time, and you can make the gravy and steam the kale just before plating up.

Stuffing = 5 mins prep, 50 mins cook
Parsnips = 2 mins prep, 40 mins cook
Carrots = 5 mins prep, 45 mins cook
Gravy = 15 mins cook
Kale = 5-10 mins cook

To prepare the Stuffing, I cut half of a French Bread Loaf in half, and then cut that half into cubes.

In a frying pan I melted some butter and gently cooked a chopped onion and one chopped celery stick.

While this was cooking I mixed the french bread with two beaten eggs, a teaspoon of pepper, half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of dried sage.

When the celery and onions were soft I added them to the mixing bowl and slowly stirred 500ml of vegetable stock in too.

This was poured into a shallow roasting tin, covered with foil and cooked for 45 minutes in 160 degrees of heat.

For the last five to ten minutes of cooking I took the foil off of the tin to make the top crispy and golden.

 For the parsnips, I peeled and chopped them into equal sized batons and boiled them for six minutes, to make them tender.

After draining them, I coated them in a mix of 100g of grated parmesan and five teaspoons of flour.

The next step is to heat a little bit of oil on a baking tray over the hob, and place the coated parsnip ontop. This is to make sure that the 'batter' goes crispy, rather than going straight into the oven which can leave them a bit soggy.

 After 30 minutes in the oven, they were crispy and smelling awesome!

To make the Honey roasted Carrots, I peeled a large handful of these Chantenay variety (they were only £1 in the supermarket for a large bag!). Drizzled in oil and tossed in a shake of pepper and salt, they went into the oven at 170 degrees.

After 30 minutes I brought them out to add a little shake of White Wine Vinegar and half a teaspoon of honey. Then they went back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

To make The Best Gravy Ever, you only need these ingredients: Butter, flour, marmite, soy sauce, tomato puree, vegetable stock and hot water.

To start, we have to make a roux. This is simply equal amounts of butter and flour, ideally in a non-stick pan, over a medium heat.

The aim with this recipe is to keep stirring the mixture until it turns a light nutty brown colour, so that all of the flour-flavour is cooked away.

At this stage the stock needs to be added, a little at a time. This makes the roux turn quite dough-like, but by adding the stock gradually, it will thin out.

Once the stock was finished I kept topping up the sauce with hot water, until it was a normal gravy consistency - thicker than water, but thin enough to pour off of a spoon.

Now it is time to add the flavour! In went a large, heaped, teaspoon of tomato puree...

...a teaspoon of Marmite...

 ...and teaspoon of Soy Sauce. Keeping the pan over a medium-low heat, I stirred all of these ingredients in until it was smooth. (I then added another small teaspoonful of Marmite for a little extra flavour). 

Finally, in a frying pan with a splash of water, I steamed a handful of Curly Kale for just over five minutes, with a lid on. 

Time to plate up!

Merry Meat-Free Christmas! 

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