Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (2024)

A crackling raw salad; a fragrantly spiced rice and aubergine pie; bowls of rich, cheese soup; a platter of roasted pumpkin with a nutty dressing and crisp tarts with a gently flowing curd filling. These are my suggestions for meatless dishes to offer this Christmas. The roast pumpkin and the layered pie are suitable as principal dishes, the rest will slot in at any time over the holidays, and indeed the months that follow.

Winter root salad, citrus dressing

A crisp salad, bright with golden roots, sweet grapes, young kale and crunchy nuts comes as something of a relief after all the sweet, rich festive offerings. I added lightly pickled shallots to my raw salad this time, giving little bursts of astringency among the slices of sweet beetroots and citrus fruit. The hour or so they spend in the vinegar removes any harshness.

Serves 6-8
For the pickled shallots
shallots 8 small
rice vinegar 5 tbsp
lemons juice of 3
caster sugar 1 tsp

For the salad
golden beetroots 2
red or candy-striped beetroots 2
carrots 2, orange or purple
young kale leaves 100g
orange 1
clementines 2
almonds 75g, whole, skinned
roasted cashews 75g
sesame seeds 50g
muscat grapes 100g
white chicory 1 head

For the dressing
citrus juice 2 tbsp
dark soy 1 tbsp
caster sugar 1 tsp

To make the pickled shallots, peel the shallots, halve each one lengthways, then slice off the root and separate each half into individual layers.

Put the the rice vinegar and lemon juice into a small mixing bowl, add the sugar, then stir until the sugar has dissolved. Put the separated shallots in the juice, toss gently and set aside. Leave, with the occasional turn, for a good couple of hours, till the shallots are tinged with pink.

For the salad, peel and very finely slice the beetroots and put them in a large mixing bowl. Scrub the carrots and use a vegetable peeler to remove long thin shavings, then add them to the beetroots. Tear the kale into small florets. Peel the orange and clementines then slice them thinly. Reserve any juice for the dressing.

Make the dressing by lightly mixing together the citrus juice, soy and caster sugar. Toss the beetroots, carrots and kale with the dressing.

Toast the almonds, cashews and, finally, the sesame seeds till they are all pale gold and fragrant. Halve the muscat grapes and remove the seeds. Slice the chicory. Toss together the toasted nuts, sliced citrus, drained shallots and the vegetables. Leave for 20 minutes then serve.

Baked aubergines with rice and saffron

Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (1)

A complex dish of layered aubergines, rice and spices inspired by the classic biryani. Not a difficult dish to make, but worth taking your time over. When you break the pastry crust at the table, the scent of warm sweet spices wafts up. Pastry crust aside, the dish reheats rather well the following day too.

Serves 4
white onions 2
red onion 1
fresh ginger 60g, grated
groundnut oil 10 tbsp
aubergines 350g
cardamom 12 pods
ground coriander 2 tsp
ground turmeric 2 tsp
dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
ground black pepper 1 tsp
cloves 5
vegetable stock 500ml, hot
white basmati rice 300g
saffron 2 generous pinches

For the crust
puff pastry 225g
egg 1, beaten, to seal and glaze

To finish
golden sultanas 40g
pomegranate seeds of 1
yogurt 150ml

Peel the onions and roughly chop them. Peel the ginger and grate coarsely. Warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep casserole (you will use it to bake and serve the dish), add the onions and ginger and let them cook for 15-20 minutes until soft and pale gold in colour. Remove the onions from the pan.

Slice the aubergines in half lengthways, then in half lengthways again. Cut each piece into 3cm lengths. Warm the remaining oil in the pan then add the aubergines and let them cook, turning them from time to time till lightly and evenly browned.

Crack the cardamom pods and pull out the small black seeds. Crush the seeds to a coarse powder using a spice mill or pestle and mortar. Add the ground cardamom, coriander, turmeric, chilli flakes, pepper and cloves to the pan. Cook for a minute or two to toast the spices, return the onions to the pan, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Wash the rice three times in warm water then drain and transfer to a small pan to which you have a lid. Cover the rice with enough water to come 3cm above the rice, season with salt then bring to the boil. Lower the heat so the water simmers, add the saffron stamens, then cover with the lid and leave to cook for about 10 minutes, until the water has evaporated and several small, deep holes have appeared on the surface. Remove the pan from the heat and fork the grains to separate them. The saffron will stain them a soft yellow. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Remove most of the aubergines from the pan, leaving about a third of them in place. Add about a third of cooked rice to the pan, followed by another of aubergines and then another of rice until the mixtures are finished.

Roll the pastry out to fit the top of the casserole, brush the edges with beaten egg, then lower the pastry into place and press firmly to seal it.

Brush the surface of the pastry with beaten egg and decorate with any remaining pastry cut into leaves, then bake for 25-30 minutes till the pastry has risen and browned.

To make the accompanying sauce, mix the sultanas, pomegranate seeds and yogurt and set aside.

Serve at the table, breaking the pastry and digging deep into the rice and aubergines. Serve with the pomegranate accompaniment.

Roast pumpkin with peanut sauce

Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (2)

This started life as an accompaniment, but we enjoyed it so much it has become a dish in its own right. You could use butternut squash in place of the pumpkin if you prefer.

Serves 4
pumpkin 700g
carrots 4 medium
beetroot 3
smoked garlic 5 large cloves
olive oil 5 tbsp

For the chickpeas
chickpeas 2 x 400g tins
butter 50g
olive oil 2 tbsp

For the dressing
peanuts 150g
cherry tomatoes 250g
parsley 25g
balsamic vinegar 2 tsp

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and fibres then cut the flesh into 3cm thick wedges. I tend to leave the skin on, it holds the pumpkin flesh together, but you could remove it if you wish. Place them flat on baking sheet or in a shallow roasting tin.

If the carrots are slim, halve them lengthways. If they are fat then slice each one into two or three long strips. Cut each beetroot into quarters. Add the carrots and beetroot to the pumpkin, tuck in the 5 cloves of smoked garlic, trickle over the olive oil, season lightly with salt and bake for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin and beetroots are tender to the point of a knife.

To make the dressing, toast the peanuts in a dry pan over a moderate heat till golden and fragrant. Remove the garlic from the oven and squeeze the flesh into a food processor or blender, discarding the skins. Add the cherry tomatoes, toasted peanuts, parsley and the balsamic vinegar, season with salt and process to a coarse, nutty paste.

Drain the chickpeas. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan and add the chickpeas. Let the chickpeas sizzle for a few minutes till they smell sweet and nutty.

Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven, check they are truly soft, transfer to a serving plate, then scatter over the warm chickpeas, and dress lightly with the some of the paste. Any left over will keep for a few days, covered, in the fridge. Eat warm.

Brussels sprout and stilton soup

Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (3)

Pale and surprisingly mild, this an unashamedly creamy soup. The stilton flavour comes through but it is the green freshness of the lightly cooked sprouts that gets my vote. A soup for eating after a long Boxing Day walk, perhaps.

Serves 4
stilton 200g
milk 600ml
onions 2
butter 30g
brussels sprouts 500g

To finish
chestnuts 100g, vacuum-packed or tinned, sliced
butter a little

Set aside 50g of the stilton. Bring the milk to the boil, switch off the heat immediately and crumble in the remaining stilton. Cover with a lid and leave to infuse.

Peel and roughly chop the onions. Melt the butter in a large, deep pan and add the chopped onion, letting it soften over a low heat. Finely shred 300g of the brussels sprouts then add to the onion and fry gently for about 8 minutes, moving them round the pan from time to time, then add the milk and cheese mixture and bring to the boil. Check the seasoning then blitz with a blender to a smooth and creamy soup, a little at a time.

To finish, cut the remaining 200g of sprouts in quarters then fry in a little butter till lightly browned on the edges. Add the sliced chestnuts, then spoon them onto the soup once it has been ladled into bowls.

Clementine curd tarts

Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (4)

I have baked the tart cases twice, the second time dusted with icing sugar, to make them truly crisp and flaky, giving a perfect contrast to the oozing orange curd.

Makes 4
For the clementine curd
clementines 8
lemon 1
caster sugar 200g
butter 100g
eggs 4
egg yolks 2

For the tarts
puff pastry 250g

To finish
icing sugar

Finely grate the zest of the clementines, then slice the fruit in half and squeeze the juice. Squeeze the lemon too.

Put a pan of water on to boil, then place a heatproof mixing bowl in the top, so that sits securely over the water. Turn the water down to a simmer, then put the caster sugar and butter in the bowl and leave to melt. Pour in the citrus juices and add the grated zest.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and place a baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven to heat up. (It is not strictly necessary but will help your pastry to crisp up nicely.)

Break the eggs into a small bowl, then incorporate the extra yolks with a fork. Tip the eggs into the juice and sugar, stir thoroughly, then leave to warm through, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon, till the mixture shows signs of thickening. Expect this to take anything from 10-20 minutes. Stop when the curd feels a little heavier on the spoon, then leave to cool. Refrigerate for 3 or 4 hours till thick enough to use. (Homemade curd is never as thick as the commercial version. Nor should it be.)

Roll the pastry out thinly then cut out four discs about 10cm in diameter. Cut a leaf for each from the pastry trimmings. Place the discs on the hot baking sheet lined with baking parchment, then score a circle in each one, about 1cm in from the edge. Brush the rim of the pastry with beaten egg. Place the leaves among the tarts, then bake for 12-15 minutes till pale biscuit coloured.

Carefully press the centre disc of pastry in each tart with the back of a teaspoon to create a hollow then dust the tarts and the leaves with icing sugar from a sieve and return briefly to the oven or to a hot, overhead (oven) grill to crisp a little further.

Remove the tart cases from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. When the cases are cool, fill each with some of the citrus curd, storing the rest in a jar in the fridge. Add a pastry leaf to the top of each tart and dust with a little icing sugar.

A Year of Good Eating: the Kitchen Diaries III is out now, published by 4th Estate, RRP £30. Click here to order a copy for £18 at the Guardian Bookshop

Nigel Slater’s vegetarian Christmas recipes (2024)
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