Tag: christmas recipes

Chestnut Stuffed Squash

It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you need to do in the lead up to Christmas. Making gifts, buying gifts, wrapping gifts. Attending numerous Christmas parties, planning festive recipes, making, buying and wrapping even more gifts. So two weeks back, before Christmas-mode got into full swing, I escaped city life for a few days in the New Forest.

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Cue hats, gloves, scarves and walking boots. Jumping over streams, walking on fallen trees. Long lunches. Dark afternoons spent in cosy pubs lit by candles and heated by open fires. Yep you get it, the perfect winter break. Perfect that is, if you aren’t vegan.

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I finally got it. This is why my boyfriend, and no doubt countless others don’t want to make the commitment to veganism. It’s not because they don’t agree with the environmental and ethical view points. It’s not because they don’t enjoy delicious and satisfying vegan food. It’s because it’s unbelievably frustrating going out for food and paying good money for completely uninspiring and sometimes frankly, tasteless food. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had great experiences eating out, even in places that aren’t particularly vegetarian friendly, let alone vegan friendly. It’s just that that weekend I had a string of awful meals, one after another, after another. One of the main problems was that the vegetarian options on offer were cheese based and because they were pre-made could not be adapted and made vegan. The problem with the vegetarian options that could be adapted was that they completely lacked the thought and attention that the meat and fish options had clearly been given. And I suspected that the chefs making them would never eat those dishes themselves.

Ok rant over. But my point being, that if I wasn’t as passionately committed to my vegan lifestyle choice as I am, I wouldn’t want to pay to eat a half arsed, tasteless meal whilst everyone around me is tucking into a carefully prepared, deliciously balanced, flavour-packed meals. 

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So maybe the restaurant sector still has a way to go to offer and tempt people (ie. my boyfriend) to choose to pay for a vegan meal. And whilst it can seem like a massive commitment to alter your diet and have to start explaining to waiters or your friends that no you don’t eat fish or cheese or honey, it is easier to start at home. 

Buying fresh, whole ingredients and making yourself delicious flavour packed vegan meals is so easy. And at this festive time of year when we’re being bombarded with pictures of giant joints of roast meat, there are super tasty alternatives that capture the spirit and flavours of the season without harming animals, contributing to climate change and whilst benefitting your health.

This chestnut stuffed squash is exactly that.

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Chestnut Stuffed Squash

Serves 4

2 small squash (eg. acorn, red kuri, harlequin)
200g cooked chestnuts
75g puy lentils
Rapeseed oil
1 red onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Cut both the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place on a baking tray. Drizzle over a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile prepare the chestnut filling. Rinse the lentils in a sieve then bring them to a boil in a saucepan before reducing the heat and simmering for approximately 20 minutes. They should be soft but still have a little bite to them.
  • Whilst the lentils are cooking chop the onion and fry in a little oil on a medium heat in a frying pan until they start to caramelise.
  • Roughly chop the cooked chestnuts into small chances. Add the dried herbs and garlic to the onions and stir through before adding the cooked lentils and chopped chestnuts. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Take the squash out the oven and spoon the chestnut filling equally between the squash halves. Cover with foil and the squash back in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven. Serve with a side of steamed greens or as the centre piece of your festive feast.

 

 

 

 

Warm Brussels Sprout & Pomegranate Salad

Two things, brussels sprouts and pomegranates. First the sprouts. Yes, that’s right, sprout season is here which means of course, it’s f-ing Christmas! Which I’m actually really excited about and am totally ready to embrace, even though it’s only November… but I need something, anything to get me through these cold dark, days!! Secondly, pomegranates. Yep, not so seasonal. Well not to aforementioned cold, dark Britain. But it’s like having a clementine in your Christmas stocking, sometimes you just need something exotic to brighten up your lump of coal…

(Actually there is a third thing… I did not know they are called brussels sprouts. I thought it was brussel sprouts and now I’m totally freaking out…)

Pomegranate

Anyway, no, I’m not saying that brussels sprouts are like coal. I love them! Just not how my Mum used to cook them, sorry Mum! November, for me, is a tough month. It’s dark, like all the time. If I don’t go out at lunch time I’ll pretty much never see the light of day. The beautiful colours of Autumn have all been blown off the trees and everything has turned kinda grey-brown. And unless some snow comes our way, things are gonna be grey-brown for a long time!

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So I need a little sparkle in my salad. A little festive cheer to get me through the day. And what better than a pomegranate! If you check the label you should be able to find some in the shops from the not-so-far-away Egypt or Turkey… I know, but it’s better than Peru or China!

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And yes, now that Veronica and I have taken over Christmas dinner duties, we no longer serve our brussels boiled. (Again, sorry Mum! She’s literally going to kill me, or at the very least give me an evil stare which is possibly worse.) Frying them or roasting them is the way to go. Plus, now we both get seasonal veg boxes every week, sprouts are no longer just a thing for Christmas day. Oh no, the sprout season in the UK can run from September to February. That’s a whole lotta sprouts!

This simple recipe works great as a side for a roast, or yes Christmas dinner. Or cook up a little quinoa and stir it through to make it a delicious meal all on its own. (British grown quinoa of course!)

Warm Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Salad

350g Brussels Sprouts
1 Onion or 1/2 a Leek
1 Small Garlic Clove
Half a Pomegranate 
3 tbsp Chopped Walnuts
1/2 tbsp Rapeseed Oil

For the dressing

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup 
Pinch of all spice
Pinch of cinnamon

  • Trim the base of the brussels and peel off the outer layers, wash and half them.
  • Heat a frying pan to a high heat and toast the walnuts for a few minutes, remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. 
  • Add the brussels to the pan, turn down the heat slightly and add a few tablespoons of water to the pan to slightly steam them. Meanwhile slice the onion or leek. Once the water has boiled, add the onions and turn up the heat again. Keep stirring whilst you fry on a high heat until the onions and brussels begin to brown.
  • Add the garlic and stir through for a minute. Transfer the brussels into a serving bowl along with the toasted walnuts and leave to cool slightly.
  • In a small bowl or cup mix together the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the brussels.
  • Cut the pomegranate in half across the middle. Hold half the pomegranate cut side down over a large bowl. Bash the skin like crazy with a spoon until all the seeds fall out into the bowl.
  • Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the brussels and serve warm.

So get out your frying pan out and tell November to do one, we want Christmas!

Amy x