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.
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.
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.
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.
Chestnut Stuffed Squash
2 small squash (eg. acorn, red kuri, harlequin)
200g cooked chestnuts
75g puy lentils
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.