I don’t want to hear the ‘it’s too early to think about Christmas’ complaints. When it comes to Christmas dinner, there’s no such thing as too early in our house. We generally start talking about Christmas dinner in September. Yes, September. While the sun beats down and we’re still feasting on tomatoes, courgettes and other summer food, our minds begin to wander to the Christmas feast. Listen, we can’t help it, we’re British. In a gloomy British winter, a holiday where you’re actively encouraged to wear pyjamas and eat as much as you can is a high point.
However, I’m not always in the mood for a standard British Christmas dinner of roast turkey, maybe other roast meats, gravy, bread sauce, stuffing, and a million veg sides. I started going off it even before we went vegan. Much as I love a roast dinner (and I do), sitting down to a groaning plate of food, in a hot kitchen, after cooking for hours, isn’t necessarily what I want on Christmas day. So we found ourselves occasionally deviating from the norm. One year we did a minimalist Scandi-inspired meal of beef with dilly potatoes. Another year we did a simple roast ham with just a couple of sides.
This will be our fourth Christmas dinner as vegans, and we still like to mix it up. Our first year we did a roast dinner with, I think, homemade vegan stuffing balls as the ‘meaty’ bit. Then we had a fake Christmas one March with Rob’s folks and did a vegan cauliflower cheese pie as the centrepiece. The following Christmas we did a wild mushroom and chestnut lasagne, which was so good I demanded it again last year.
And that brings us to Christmas 2023, where we’ll be having … we’re not quite sure yet. Rob kicked off the discussions by refusing – downright refusing – to have lasagne three years in a row. Which is fair enough, I suppose. Then I said I didn’t want a heaving roast dinner with 12 separate components.
So we’ve settled on a ‘light’ roast dinner (ahem, if there’s any such thing), with roast potatoes and parsnips, a carrot and turnip mash (because swede is rare in Bulgaria), homemade gravy, and some sort of ‘main event’ dish. Preferably something that involves greens, so we don’t have to do a separate side of Brussels sprouts or cabbage.
Here’s what I’ve got in mind … a savoury Bulgarian banitsa (filo pie, traditionally eaten for breakfast), with the flavours partly inspired by the Bulgarian onion pie ‘luchnik’ and partly inspired by a recipe I saw years ago and never got around to making. (This savoury pork and fennel baklava by Sabrina Ghayour.) So, I’m thinking slow-cooked cabbage and onion, flavoured with fennel seeds and garlic, and layered between crunchy (and yet soft) filo pastry. Or possibly bound up into a swirly snake filo pie. Either way, doesn’t that sound nice? Answers below, because I’m still trying to convince Rob that this is what we should have.
What about your Christmas dinner? Got anything different planned? If you’re looking for inspiration for what to feed a vegan or vegetarian guest (or yourselves, if you’re keen to eat more plants this Christmas), I’ve got just the post for you. As a bonus, it includes our recipe for addictive vegan sausage rolls – a must for any Christmas.