Hosting a vegan this Christmas? The Vegan Society has your back

Due to the ongoing rise in plant-based diets, it’s very likely that more people than ever will be eating vegan over the festive period this year. That means more people than ever hosting a vegan. If that thought fills you with dread – read on. I’ve got a few tips to ensure your Christmas dining is all plain sailing.

Well, as plain sailing as it ever is. I can give some guidance on the vegan aspect, but not any long-running family feuds.

The food

Let’s face it – the trick to a good Christmas is to make things as easy for yourself as is possible. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to come up with a starter which everyone can enjoy, rather than adding an extra dish. Some tasty ideas include roast butternut squash soup (add coconut milk for extra creaminess), artichoke bruschetta or beetroot and pear salad with walnuts.

For the main, think tarts, roasts, pies and wellingtons (the food kind). These can all be made in advance, which will save you time (and sanity) on the big day. For anything pastry-based, remember that you can buy vegan ready-made pastry in most supermarkets. No one has the time to be faffing about with homemade puff pastry at a time like this – or indeed any other time.

If you’re already tearing your hair out at the idea of adding yet another thing to your to-do list, which presumably also includes buying stocking-fillers for twelve children, knitting a festive jumper and then chopping some firewood – never fear. Do yourself a favour and buy a ready-made roast from the supermarket frozen section, or a Tofurky roast from Holland and Barrett.

Anyone who knows their Christmas is also aware that it’s all about the sides. Think carrots and parsnips baked in maple syrup. Think crispy potatoes roast in olive oil, salt and rosemary. Think leaving the Brussels sprouts in the supermarket, because tradition just isn’t worth it. Note that you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself if you leave out the butter or goose fat, and use vegetable oil to roast your veggies in.

Also – and this is very important – Christmas isn’t Christmas without gravy. You can pick up a pot of vegan-friendly gravy granules pretty much anywhere.

For dessert, you can find vegan mince pies and vegan mince pudding in most supermarkets. Pair with some dairy-free ice cream and you’re winning. Or maybe your vegan guest would like to bring a dessert, big enough for everyone to try?

The drink

It’s easy to forget that some alcohol isn’t suitable for vegans. Creamy liqueurs are out, as well as any drinks involving honey. Some wine, beer and cider aren’t suitable due to the unnecessary and un-festive use of fish bladders in the refining process.

If you’re unsure what to buy, the website www.barnivore.com can help you out. It’s also a reasonable request to ask your vegan to bring their own booze, if you feel you’ve got enough on your metaphorical plate.

The chat

Speaking as a vegan who has been on the receiving end of many ‘jokes’, I’d like to take this chance to say – please keep your vegan one-liner under wraps. Now is not the time to trundle out the old ‘how do you know someone’s vegan?’ line, even if you do think that it’s genuinely hilarious.

As tempting as it may be, nor is it the time to question your dining companion on why they’re vegan. You may think you’re being nice in showing an interest, but no one wants to discuss slaughterhouse footage or global warming during a Christmas meal. Believe me.

If you’re genuinely interested in the reasons to go vegan, make a mental note to chat to your guest at a later point. I’m sure they will be more than happy to answer any of your questions – as long as you’re not entering into the conversation as someone with a hankering for a good old-fashioned Christmas-themed dispute.

A final pro tip – don’t make my aunt’s mistake and tell me what a lovely life the sausages enjoyed before being put on the table.

Anything else

Please, please don’t seat your vegan next to the turkey.

Don’t make a big flourish when you bring the vegan option to the table, therefore making your vegan guest feel like a strange spectacle.

By all means, if it appeals then please do veganise the whole day – it’s easier for everyone to eat the same thing and what’s Christmassier than extending your goodwill to our turkey chums?

If you’re after brownie points, remember it’s the little things that separate the good host from the great host. This might mean finding vegan chocolate mints for after dinner, or checking which plant milk is your guests’ preferred option for hot drinks.

So, to summarise – thanks for catering for us! Now let’s all put our paper hats on and be nice to each other.

For more information visit www.vegansociety.com. By Elena Orde, The Vegan Society

Red Cabbage and Orange Salad with Date and Olive Cigars Serves 6-8

For the ‘cigars’ (makes 8):

Filo pastry (4 sheets)
Rapeseed oil
20 black olives, stoned
3 dates, stoned
½ tsp smoked paprika
50g/1 ½ oz shelled pistachios

For the salad:

1 small red cabbage
1-2 orange(s)
100g/3 ½ oz pistachios

For the salad dressing:

2 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 tsp sherry vinegar
3 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

For the ‘cigars’:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment.
  2. Place the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process to a paste. Divide into 8 portions.
  3. Take a sheet of filo pastry and lay it on a clean work surface.
  4. Brush sheet with oil, top with another sheet and then cut into 4 rectangles.
  5. Brush with oil again. Take a portion of the filling and form it into a line along a long edge of the pastry. Roll up tightly and place on prepared baking tray. Brush with oil.
  6. Repeat to make 8 ‘cigars’. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden, transfer to rack to cool.

For the salad:

  1. Shred the cabbage finely – allow 50g per person. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then pour onto the cabbage and mix thoroughly.
  3. Cut the rind and pith off the orange(s) and slice into rounds – allow one or two per person.
  4. Preheat a ridged griddle pan. Place the orange slices on the hot pan and allow to sit until caramelised in stripes.
  5. Chop the pistachios roughly.

Assemble the dish by piling the cabbage onto each plate, sprinkling with chopped pistachios, and adding a slice of orange, a ‘cigar’ or two and a grind of black pepper.

Smoky Beetroot Tart, Tiny Roasties, Sage & Onion Kale, Blackberry Sauce
Serves 6-8

For the beetroot tart:

1 pack filo pastry
Rapeseed oil for brushing
4 large red onions
200g/7 oz fresh beetroot
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 200g/7 oz pack smoked tofu
2 tsp dried thyme

For the mini roasties:

Mixture of parsnips and red-skinned potatoes – allow 150-200g/5-7 oz per person
Finely chopped rosemary leaves – allow 1 tsp per person
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt and black pepper

For the sage & onion kale:

250g/8 ½ oz kale or black kale
rapeseed oil for frying
2 large onions
4 tsp dried sage
Sea salt & black pepper

For the blackberry sauce:

150g/ 6 oz blackberries
¼ tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

(This recipe makes a small amount of sauce to drizzle over the potatoes and parsnips. It’s easy to multiply up the quantities of this to make more if you need it.)

For the beetroot tart:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Lay a sheet of the filo pastry onto a clean, dry chopping board or kitchen counter, brush it with oil and fold it in half to an approximate square (this depends upon the brand you are using).
  2. Place in the bottom of a large, loose-based tart tin, allowing the pastry to overhang the edges of the tin slightly. Repeat twice so that the base and sides of the tin are covered. Prick the base and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel and grate the beetroot, or slice very thinly with a mandoline. Peel and finely chop the onions. Put the beetroot, onions, thyme and vinegar into a saucepan and cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Slice the tofu to make 3 or 4 large, thin sheets. Use a pastry cutter to cut out decorative shapes such as stars, blot these with kitchen paper and, if you like, spray with edible gold spray or edible glitter. Shred the unused tofu and stir it into the cooked beetroot mixture.
  5. Pile the filling into the pastry case, smooth with the back of a spoon, top with tofu decorations and bake for a further 10 minutes until heated through – take care not to let the delicate pastry edges burn. Serve hot or cold.

For the tiny roasties:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Clean the potatoes but don’t peel them. Cut into small pieces (approx. 1.5cm cubes).
  3. Peel the parsnips and cut into similarly sized pieces. Place in a mixing bowl and toss with the oil, rosemary and seasoning. Transfer to a baking dish and roast for 30-35 minutes until golden.

For the sage & onion kale:

  1. Peel the onions and chop roughly. Place in a saucepan with a little rapeseed oil and the sage. Fry gently until soft.
  2. If not using pre-prepared kale, wash the leaves, cut away tough ribs and stems and chop into ribbons. Add the kale to the onion along with 100ml of boiling water. Stir to combine, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes until kale is tender and water is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

For the blackberry sauce:

  1. Rinse the blackberries, put into a small saucepan and cook in a little water until falling apart. Pass through a sieve.
  2. Return the sieved pulp to the pan, stir in remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly, simmer to reduce to a syrupy consistency and serve warm or cold.

Cranberry Cheesecake

For the base:

250g/ 8 ½ oz vegan digestive biscuits
100g/3 ½ oz vegan margarine
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the filling:

100g/ 3 ½ oz dried cranberries
Liquid for soaking (see method)
450g/1 lb unflavoured vegan cream cheese
200g/7oz unflavoured vegan yoghurt
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp golden syrup

To decorate:
holly leaves
fresh pomegranate kernels

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease the base and sides of a 23cm/9 inch, loose-based tart tin.
  2. Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with soaking liquid of your choice – perhaps vegan red wine or brandy, fruit juice or an alcohol-free fruit punch. Leave to soak for up to an hour until required.

For the base:

  1. Put the biscuits into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  2. Melt the margarine in a saucepan, then take off the heat and stir in the biscuit crumbs and cinnamon.
  3. Mix thoroughly, then press the mixture into the base of the prepared tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Bake on a baking tray for 10 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. Put the vegan cream cheese, vegan yoghurt, cornflour and golden syrup into a large bowl and mix well. Drain the cranberries and gently stir into the mixture.
  2. Spoon the filling over the biscuit base, smooth it with the back of a spoon and return to the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and just set.
  3. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove from tin onto a serving plate and chill until ready to serve. Decorate with holly leaves (not for eating!) and fresh pomegranate kernels.