It’s that time of the year again and those of us who celebrate Christmas are busy making plans for the Christmas Table. While there are still lots of traditional key-note dishes that are evocative of this celebration, new eating habits are also influencing choices. Fortunately, the variety of foods available to satisfy everyone’s palate and dietary inclinations or restrictions is huge, and families and friends can still enjoy the sense of community and sharing essential to the event. Make life easier by providing fewer cooked dishes accompanied by salads and collate fresh fruit platters for a sweet but healthy conclusion. Here is a simple green & red menu for a vegan lunch for 10:
Mezze is always tops – it’s easy to collate and everyone loves it. Make up a big batch of sun-dried tomato hummus and a batch of coriander and green chilli hummus and serve with chunks of fresh-out-the-oven baguette, salted potato crisps, and crudités (celery, carrot, baby tomato and baby sweetcorn make a nice array). Have bowls with pieces of vegan feta (marinated tofu blocks); green olives; and chopped peppadews seasoned with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of olive oil and a little fresh thyme.
A platter of mixed cooked grains (cous-cous, brown rice, red and white quinoa) studded with skinned almonds and sprinkled with lots of finely chopped red pepper fried in olive oil, and loads of fresh parsley, looks splendid. You can serve a dish of roasted, halved green peppers and slow-roasted roma tomatoes, sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. A red pepper pesto made from grilled & skinned red peppers blended with olive oil, lemon juice, almonds or cashew nuts and seasoned with paprika and salt, makes a gorgeous sauce. Have an array of salads: three-bean, (red beans, white butter beans and freshly steamed green beans); mixed lettuce, rocket and baby spinach with dressing on the side; whole baby beetroots steamed, quartered and dressed with vinaigrette. Add a potato platter made from baby potatoes steamed in their skins, rubbed in salt and olive oil and popped into a hot oven for the skins to blister, and served with a creamy spinach puree. These are all great choices. Protein freaks can fry burgers, sausages or soya prawns and these can be served alongside the grains and salads.
To the Finish:
A fresh fruit platter makes for a beautiful, colourful and delicious ending. Peel, slice and de-pip watermelon; peel and quarter apples (dress with lemon juice to stop them from going brown); cut long slices of papaya and rounds of sweet pineapple; small bunches of green and black seedless grapes; yellow or black plums; and a scattering of blueberries. Edge the platter with fresh strawberries dipped in melted black chocolate. (You can make all this the day before and cover well with cling wrap.) On the day, add lots of freshly cut mint leaves for flavour and festive appeal.
Coffee and Fruit Cake and Vegan Fruit Mince Pies:
You can bake the mince pies beforehand and freeze them, ready to pop into a hot oven when the time is right. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place 1/2 cup of sugar; 2 grated apples; 1 cup of chopped dates; 1 cup of sultanas; 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and a little water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Cool the mixture, drain off the excess syrup, then chop it up roughly or pulse mince it in your blender - it should still be textured, not runny. Place a round of dairy-free puff pastry in each little hollow of a shallow muffin pan, brushed with melted coconut oil, place a dollop of fruit mince in the middle and cover with another round of puff pastry. Press edges firmly, prick with a fork, brush with coconut oil and place in a hot oven to puff up. Remove when golden brown, cool, then freeze. Don’t forget to sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, and if you have a coconut cream to go with them, your vegan family members will love you for ever.
Must Make Edible Gift - Candied Orange Peel:
Spiral cut the rind off 10 oranges, with as little pith as possible. Slice rind in thin, 5cm long slices. Place in cold water and boil for 5 minutes, drain and repeat - this clears any bitterness and softens the rind. In a saucepan place 1 cup of sugar; 1 cup of fresh orange juice (this REALLY makes a difference to the flavour); 3 whole cloves. Add the peel and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Bottle while hot in 125ml glass jars, topping the peel with the syrup. When cooled, put on the lid and decorate the jar with a festive ribbon. This gift will be appreciated as it is delicious on tarts, fruit dishes, with breakfast cereals or as a garnish for desserts, and it evokes the spirit of bygone days when oranges were a seasonal Christmas treat. Enjoy!