To non-vegans, the idea of a plant-based Christmas dinner may smack of Scrooge crouched over a miserly candle, sucking on a single slice of tofu. There are few holidays more dedicated to tearing up the five-a-day-guidelines than this one, so if you take away not only the meat but the cream, then what’s left?
Actually, this year there’s a lot left, as supermarkets are increasingly wise to the idea that plenty of vegans want to stuff their faces, too. With estimates that between 2 and 12% of British people now follow a vegetarian diet, it’s unsurprising that a vegetarian Christmas is well catered for by shops, but the rise of the “flexitarian” means that even non-vegans may buy and try vegan now, if it’s an option. It takes a bit of supermarket-hopping and a familiarity with an online checkout to do it, but with a little effort, there’s now a gluttonous array of choice.
Christmas dinner is a roast with bits added on, and the majority of a roast is vegan anyway. There are a few tweaks that may need to be made – use oil to roast the potatoes instead of fat; swap butter for olive oil in the mash, and leave honey off the parsnips and carrots (you could swap in maple or agave syrup for sweetness).
When it comes to the star of the show, the amount of effort you’re willing to put in will dictate your centrepiece. The ever-reliable Linda McCartney range’s new “roast beef” joint comes with a boozy-tasting red wine glaze and a remarkably beef-like flavour, which is great for vegans who like the taste of meat but not the methods, though it may be too meaty for some.
Fry’s soy and quinoa Country Roast is a solid herby veggie roast, while Tofurky’s turkey and stuffing is a respectable substitute for the real thing. At the more artisan end of the faux butchers – there’s an emerging meat-substitute industry that reminds me of the craft brewery explosion – then Irish company Moodley Manor offers top-end luxury in its mammoth meat-free roast, with a sausage and breadcrumb stuffing inside that tastes like the real deal, while Scotland’s Sgaia Meats is serving up a new and limited version of their signature “mheat” vegan roast wrapped in maple-glazed rashers and filled with orange, hazelnut and pancetta stuffing.
If you’re a no-meat-substitutes kind of vegan, the hardy nut roast is a perennial stand-in and most major supermarkets have a vegetable-based centrepiece, if you don’t fancy making your own. Ocado has a stuffed butternut squash made by Irish company Dee’s, while Tesco is pushing the boat out with cauliflower wellington.
But the real joy of Christmas is in the trimmings, otherwise it would just be an ordinary Sunday. You can make bread sauce with a non-dairy milk, though most are likely to be too sweet – unsweetened almond milk is a good bet. For pig-free pigs in blankets, pick a fakon (fake bacon) and a brand of vegan mini sausage, and make up your own (I’d go for Moodley Manor’s bacon on Linda McCartney’s cocktail sausages). Ocado stocks Dee’s vegan sausage stuffing; while on the sauce front, most cranberry sauces will be vegan, and for the fancier meat-avoider in your life, there’s also Tideford organic vegan gravy with red miso.
It’s surprisingly easy to avoid a fruit platter at dessert time, too. Asda’s own-brand mince pies are vegan, as are Waitrose Essential mince pies, and today dairy-free ice creams are available in most supermarkets. Or, if you’re the kind of person who pours cold Bailey’s on a steaming mince pie, then there’s even a vegan version of that – slosh on the gluggable Baileys Almande, available in Whole Foods, while sipping M&S’s Gold Crème Brûlée Liqueur.
For the determined and brave, if not foolhardy, it’s even possible to cook up a vegan cheese platter. Violife and VBites offer a variety of “cheeses”, though for this particular customer they’re a substitute too far. If you’re really determined, I’d go for a simple homemade cashew cheese using online recipes, which makes a good soft cheese for crackers. You can whip up an easy mushroom pâté at home, or Ocado does a VBites duck pâté if you’re more effort-free.
So whether you’re the sole vegan at a meat feast or serving up a meat-free dinner for non-subscribers, step away from the stuffed red pepper: at last, food producers, from independent businesses to big supermarket chains, have made it possible for everyone to pig out this Christmas. As long as those pigs are creative plant-based versions of the real thing, of course.
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