This is a commissioned post.
Today’s two vegetarian recipes are extra special ones. Not because of what they are particularly – although shatteringly crisp phyllo pastry surrounding creamy wild mushrooms, wild rice, and sauteed chard is, I’ll admit, one of my new favourite flavour and texture mash ups. These holiday recipes are extra special because they are shared. Between not only me and Andrew, but with everyone staying overnight on Christmas Eve.
Whilst sporting festive headgear (reindeer horns, Santa hats, flashing headbands – ie nothing tasteful) it is our tradition to trip over each other in my small kitchen prepping for Christmas Day, then share a lingered-over vegetarian supper as Santa makes his way to Scotland.
Most years I come up with something different, but even if not it will be a recipe that has been elevated, as befits a gathering with one’s nearest and dearest. In past years I have made this pie and this savoury cake. In fact, three of the latter are being made by Pete, one of our clinical psychologists, for our Christmas work’s night in tomorrow. A few other of my recipes are being made by staff, including this celeriac remoulade, my festive slaw (this post includes 15 healthy holiday eating tips!) and a raw, non-boozy version of my port-poached pears, endive and blue cheese salad. I love that instead of going out for our Christmas party, we eat homemade dishes at a long, beautifully decorated table in candlelight. And get silly with games and races.
The Food To Glow Christmas Day itself features locally-raised turkey (organic, free range) as the only meat, and a greengrocer’s shopfront of vegetables. But it is so nice to share my love of seasonally inspired, properly vegetarian food with the wider family. So our tradition, I guess, is to be a bit untraditional.
I am fortunate that I am cooking for people I know well, and who are very relaxed about not quite knowing what to expect on the menu. We are also a very small family (my own family live in the US) so cooking for Christmas, while extra jolly – and Champagne-fuelled – is less fraught than for a dinner party. The timings are loose, and stretched out with presents, games and smoked salmon blini. In other words, low stress. But I do cook a lot for work, and single-handedly for around 16-24 people. So, although I’m not an expert on hosting, I do feel I may have some advice for any of you cooking for larger crowds this Christmas.
I’ll share a few of my tips next time, but meantime I am pleased to let you know that some of my Christmas cooking tips are being featured in this week’s Waitrose Weekend. From today (December 8th) you can pick up a copy at any of their stores and see an interview with yours truly as part of their #HomeforChristmas campaign, celebrating those who help bring us together at Christmas.
Within the pages of this weekly, free (!) paper, I am hugely honoured to be featured as one of “Britain’s brightest food stars”, alongside John Whaite (GGBO 2012 winner & TV chef/presenter) and awesome food writers Ren Behan (debut modern Polish recipes cookbook from her next year), Karen Burns Booth (traditional British food + 5:2 diet), and Lucy Parissi (stunning photography is her signature).
My own Home for Christmas interview will (hopefully!) cover my vegetable-centric upbringing and southern traditions, and how I’ve brought them to my own table to share with my British family. I was really nervous and babbled a bit, but I’m trusting that the editor made sense of it all!
One thing that does make sense is viewing this heart-tugging video from Waitrose about a tenacious and brave robin making its way home. I hope that none of you have to weather (quite literally) this little chap’s epic journey to reach his loved one. I’ve viewed it over 10 times. Goosebumps every time!
I’m back on Sunday with an easy, seasonal but very special soup (including some fab horseradish and truffle toast, if you fancy), and those promised tips for feeding a large gathering. Until then, keep well and glowing. xx
PS Don’t forget to grab your copy of Waitrose Weekend before next Thursday!
Creamy Wild Mushroom, Greens & Grain Phyllo Pie
This festive skillet phyllo pie is not only stuffed with loads of delicious things (wild rice, chard, chanterelle mushrooms) but hides a secret layer of savoury baklava crunch. It is also great with a puff pastry lid instead of the phyllo pastry. Perfect as the vegetarian main course at your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day table. Easily vegan.
To get ahead, make up the filling and refrigerate for up to two days.
3 tbsp olive oil, divided use
2 leeks, trimmed, washed of grit, halved lengthways and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
500g mixed mushrooms – wild (such as chanterelle, pied de mouton and porcini; shiitake is nice too but may not be the taste you want) and cultivated, cut in different sizes (slices, halved); OR chestnuts mushrooms plus handful of rehydrated porcini mushrooms
2 tsp soy sauce, coconut aminos or tamari sauce (optional, but really amps the savouriness without tasting of soy sauce)
2 ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves, divided use
300g chard, chopped OR 500g spinach
250g cooked wild and basmati rice (I cook a mix from Waitose, but ready-to-eat pouches are available)
150g crème fraiche (reduced fat okay) or vegan cream
2 tsp vegetable stock powder or ½ crumbled stock cube
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
6 phyllo pastry sheets
50g butter, ghee, vegan butter or culinary coconut oil (odourless), divided use (optional)
30g finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1 tsp runny honey (optional)
1 tbsp dried barberries or chopped dried cranberries (optional)
20g butter, for brushing the top
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet or pan and sauté the leeks until softened, then add the garlic and 2 tbsp thyme leaves, and cook for a further three minutes. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add 1 tbsp to the skillet and sauté the mushrooms until they release their liquid; cook this off and add the soy sauce. Cook a further minute and then scrape into the bowl.
4. Now for the chard or spinach. Heat the final tablespoon of oil over medium-low and sauté the chard or spinach. Drain off excess liquid and scrape into the bowl. You could also steam these instead of sautéing.
5. In a jug, mix together the crème fraiche or vegan cream, vegetable stock powder and whole grain mustard. Add this and the rice to the bowl, mixing all well. At this point you can pop this in a sealed container and refrigerate up to two days.
6. For the optional baklava crunch layer, melt 50g of butter or coconut oil in a small pan, add the honey, walnuts, barberries/cranberries and remaining thyme leaves.Melt the 25g butter separately.
7. To assemble, line a cast iron skillet with the phyllo pastry, staggering the placement of the sheets to create jagged angles. Pile in the filling. Draw over the overhanging pastry, leaving the centre open. Lift the top layer away from the filling and brush or daub on the buttery savoury baklava filling, if using. Fold back over. Brush with the extra butter.
8. This is where it might seem strange, and a tip I learned from Anna Jones, whose own skillet phyllo recipe inspired this one. Place the skillet on the hob/stovetop and on low-medium, heat the pie for eight minutes, lifting gently with a spatula to check it isn’t burning. Adjust the heat as needed. This will help the phyllo bottom get a head start.
9. Now bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, covering lightly with foil if needed.
1-. Serve warm in generous wedges with loads of colourful vegetables, rainbow carrots and flower sprouts with roasted garlic-tahini drizzle (recipe below), and homemade cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce is mandatory!
Kalette and Rainbow Carrots with Toasted Garlic-Tahini Sauce
Whether you opt for fancy rainbow carrots or plump for everyday orange ones, painted in roasted garlic-tahini drizzle this dish is holiday-table ready.
1 head garlic, papery outer skin peeled away
1 tbsp olive oil, divided use
400g orange or rainbow carrots
200g kalette/flower sprouts, washed and lightly dried in a tea towel
3 tbsp light tahini paste
2 tsp good honey
1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp warm water
Salt to taste
Arils/seeds from one small pomegranate
20cm square of baking parchment, to roast the garlic
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Slice off the top quarter of the garlic bulb, lay the bulb in the centre of the parchment paper square, and drizzle over one teaspoon of olive oil, daubing all exposed edges. Draw up the edges for the paper to form a parcel, securing with twine or a metal paper clip. Place on a baking tray or dish and roast for 45 minutes. When roasted, cool slightly and pinch three cloves from the bulb and squeeze from the skin into a small jug. Wrap up the remaining cloves and store for another use.
3. While the garlic is roasting, trim the carrots and slice into quarter lengths. Toss the carrots in the remaining oil and add to the “garlic tray” for the final 20 minutes.
4. Add a bit of salt to the garlic cloves and beat well with a fork, until creamy. Spoon the tahini into the jug, along with the honey and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in the warm water until it is evenly mixed and light. Set aside.
5. Steam the kalette/flower sprouts for five minutes.
6. To assemble, lay the carrots and flower sprouts on a platter and spoon over the roasted garlic-tahini drizzle and scatter with pomegranates arils.
*This is a paid, commissioned recipe in collaboration with Waitrose. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for me to continue creating and sharing recipes on food to glow.*