Delicious and ethical vegan treats (Picture: Metro.co.uk)
In the UK we consume around 10million turkeys at Christmas each year. However, your Christmas dinner is not great for the planet.
Your pigs in blankets, turkey, beef dripping and a meaty gravy produce a surprising amount of CO2 emissions.
So maybe it’s time to take the turkey off the menu?
According to The Vegan Society’s Christmas 2021 survey, 20% of Brits are incorporating vegan dishes into Christmas this year and Gaz Oakley, aka the Avant-Garde Vegan, is encouraging people to cook a plant-based meal for their festive feast.
‘Swapping turkey is the most obvious starting point,’ he says. ‘It’s the centrepiece of the table, so you need to replace it with another showstopper. A Wellington is always a great focal point, plus it has lots of textures and flavours and it’s something people already know and love.
Gaz Oakley, aka the Avant-Garde Vegan, is encouraging people to cook a plant-based meal this Christmas
‘When you’re making a Wellington you want to get umami flavours in there and these are meaty tastes in the form of miso paste, marmite, soy sauce, sundried tomato and mushrooms etc.
‘You can use a ready-made grain — Merchant Gourmet has a new Spiced Grains and Chestnuts pouch — then add the umami flavours to that and make it festive by adding cranberries, sage, orange, mixed spices, apricots and cloves.’
A nut roast is another obvious choice for the main dish and although this sometimes gets a bad rep, Gaz says it’s all about the perfect combination of texture and flavour.
‘The texture comes from nuts, pulses, chickpeas, lentils and sweet potatoes. Then flavour wise for Chrismas, try including a spice mix, mushrooms, all those umami flavours and some cranberries running throughout. Make the mixture in a frying pan, then compact into a lined loaf tin and bake it for 45min-1hr.’
Gaz started cooking at the age of eight with his dad and by 15 had his first part-time job in a hotel restaurant cooking fine dining. But he, too, was baffled by a plant-based diet to start with.
The best plant-based Xmas ideas
Dopsu No-Meat range
Try every flavour (Picture: Roman Samokhin)
Looking for meat-free fillings for your Wellington? Dopsu has a No-Meat range of products made from vegetable proteins.
Plant Based Vegan Cranberry and Chestnut Wreath
Perfect for the Christmas table
Asda’s new plant-based range includes this Plant Based Vegan Cranberry and Chestnut Wreath, made with mushrooms, chestnut and sweet cranberry in a puff pastry. Available tomorrow
Allplants Festive Box
Filled with all the plants (Picture: Allplants)
Looking for a no-fuss dinner? Allplants Festive Box is delivered to your door and just needs heating.
You can build your box with things like Mushroom and ‘Pancetta’ Filo Pie and Chocolate Peanut Fondant.
Morrisons No-Pigs In Blankets
No pigs harmed here (Picture: Morrisons)
Morrisons No-Pigs In Blankets are mushroom-enriched cocktail sausages with a smoky no-bacon rasher. Available from December 21.
Oggs Vegan Mince Pies
Made by hand (Picture: Oggs)
Oggs Vegan Mince Pies are handmade without any eggs or butter. The centre is bursting with sultanas, currants, raisins, Bramley apple puree, vegetable suet, mixed spices and brandy.
‘When vegans would come into the restaurant, I would look at the other chefs and be stumped,’ he admits. ‘I didn’t really understand it.’
However, after taking a break from the hospitality industry, he got into weight training and started eating a ‘colossal’ amount of animal products. He was recommended a speech by animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky which he describes as ‘an awakening’ and from that day on has been vegan.
Gaz launched his YouTube channel in 2016 and now has more than 1million subscribers with around 741,000 followers across other social media channels.
‘In my Vegan Christmas Plants Only Kitchen cookbook, there’s a recipe for vegan pigs and blankets using wheat gluten and a coconut bacon using coconut shavings marinaded with paprika, maple syrup, salt, soy sauce and liquid smoke. Nowadays there are lots of plant-based replacements in supermarkets, though.’
And don’t forget the trimmings, he says. ‘If you’re doing carrots and parsnips, don’t just boil them, caramelise them in the pan with some thyme and get them nice and crispy and use a maple glaze. You can also make meaty gravy by adding Marmite or a shot of coffee for depth.’
Braised Chestnut and Grain Wellington
The perfect centrepiece for a vegan Christmas meal
- 1 leek, chopped roughly
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 red pepper (deseeded)
- 10 shiitake mushrooms
- 2 carrots (peeled and chopped)
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbs tomato puree
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2tbsp plain flour or GF flour
- ½ cup/125ml vegan-friendly red wine
- ¾ cup/195ml vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 2 250g pouches of Merchant Gourmet Spiced Grains and Chestnut
- 1 tbsp cranberry sauce
- 1 Roll ready-rolled puff pastry
- ¼ cup/30g plain flour
- ¼ cup/60ml milk
- 4 tbsp maple syrup
- 4 tbsp oil
- Pinch sea salt
Caramelised Red Onion
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil or water
- 3 red onions, peeled (halved and finely sliced)
- 4 tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of sea salt and pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped), plus extra for garnish
- Crispy sage leaves
- Vegan feta (optional)
- Pistachio nuts
- Pomegranate seeds
1. Make the filling (I usually make it the day before serving), by adding the leek, garlic, red pepper, carrots and mushrooms to a food processor and blitz. Pre-heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. When it’s hot, add the leek mix to the pan and sauté for three minutes or until golden.
2. Stir in the tomato puree, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, then add the flour. Cook the flour out by stirring constantly for about a minute.
3. De-glaze the pan with the red wine and vegetable stock. When the liquid comes to a simmer add the Merchant Gourmet Chestnuts and Grains, soy sauce, miso paste and cranberry. Let the mix bubble for 10-15 minutes or until it has thickened. Transfer the mix to a container to cool completely.
4. The day of serving, add all the glaze ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together. Dust your surface with flour and roll out your pastry approximately 30cm x 30cm, then cut it in half. Making sure your filling is completely cool (ideally fridge cold) spoon the filling into the centre of one of the pastry rectangles, leaving a 3cm border around the filling. Brush the border with a little of the glaze then place the other pastry rectangle neatly on top. Seal the border together with your finger, then trim the edges. You can crimp the edges with a fork. Add any off-cuts of pastry to top the Wellington. Brush over a little glaze. Then set the Wellington aside until you’re ready to cook it.
5. To make the caramelised onions, in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat add a touch of oil followed by the onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often until they start to soften and colour. Add the sugar, vinegar, seasoning and thyme. Stir well and turn the heat down very low. Cover the saucepan and allow the onions to caramelise for 15 minutes — stir/shake the pan every so often.
6. To cook the Wellington, place it onto the middle shelf in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. Apply extra glaze 25 minutes through cooking. Serve your Wellington with lots of dressing, the caramelised onions and all your Christmas garnishes.
Nush Biscoff Cheesecake
Sweet vegan treats
- 250g Biscoff biscuits
- 50g dairy-free butter
- 300g Nush Natural Almond M*lk Spreadable Ch*ese
- 130ml dairy-free cream
- 65g icing sugar
1. Place your biscuits into a food processor and blend into a fine crumb (or pop into a bag and crush with a rolling pin). Pop the crumbs in a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix to form a large ball — add more melted butter if too dry.
2. Take your jars and pack one centimetre of the biscuit base into the bottom tightly. Pop them in the fridge. Add an additional layer of Biscoff spread if you wish.
3. Pop almond spread and icing sugar into a bowl and whip for about 4-5 minutes until it stiffens. Then in a separate bowl place your cream and whip into a heavy foam-like consistency — this will take a few minutes but stay patient.
4. Place the cream cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base/layer of Biscoff. You can fill the jars to the top or alternate layers of cheesecake with Biscoff. Chill the cheesecake for at least two hours in the fridge to allow them to set before enjoying.
Gaz Oakley has partnered with Merchant Gourmet as part of its Appetite For Change campaign — an initiative rooted in helping save the planet, one plant-based meal at a time.
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