Meat-free Christmas
 

Many of us now have people close to us who have chosen to cut out or reduce meat and other animal products from their daily food intake.  In fact, according to the BBC, over a quarter of evening meals in this country are vegetarian, and the number of vegans in Britain has risen by 360% over the last ten years.   

With 12 percent of us now following vegetarian or vegan diets it is fully worth ensuring that you have some delicious veggie and vegan recipes up your sleeve if you’re hosting family and friends this Christmas.  To help you out, we’ve asked former restaurant chef and vegetarian and vegan cookery expert Keri Astill-Frew to share her favourite meat-free Christmas recipes, all featuring the delicious and versatile ingredient that is watercress.

Did you know?

Portobello mushroom Wellingtons with red wine gravy

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This recipe utilises watercress in place of the traditional spinach, which is commonly used to line the inside of any type of Wellington.  I find that the watercress provides a much better flavour, in fact, you could substitute watercress for spinach in this way for any recipe you like, as it wilts and cooks in exactly the same way.  I have included a method for a vegan puff pastry if you would like to have a go at making this at home, however the vast majority of shop-bought pastry is suitable for vegans.  Just make sure you check the ingredients on the packet before using!

Ingredients

For the pastry: (Or buy vegan-friendly puff pastry, I use Jus-Rol)

  • 125g strong plain flour

  • Pinch salt

  • 125g vegetable baking fat, room temperature but not too soft (can be found in most supermarkets)

  • Around 75ml cold water

  • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar

  • To glaze: 1 tbsp almond milk, 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vegetable oil

For the filling:

  • 4 x Portobello mushrooms

  • 3 x red onions, diced

  • 2 sprigs thyme

  • 150g watercress

  • 2 tsp wasabi mustard (link)

  • Vegetable oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the gravy:

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped into wedges with the skin left on

  • 1 small carrot, roughly chopped

  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tsp plain flour

  • 2 tsp blackcurrant jam

  • 150ml red wine

  • 150ml good quality vegetable stock

  • 1 tsp black treacle

 

Method

Pastry

First make the pastry.  Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, then dice up the butter and add.  Rub the butter into the flour a little, enough that you can still see some chunks of the butter throughout the flour.  Add in two thirds of the water and mix together until a soft but not sticky dough is formed.  Add more water if needed.  Cover the dough with cling-film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently.  Form into a rectangle shape then roll out the rectangle until it is three times the length, rolling in one direction only and being careful not to over work.  You should still be able to see streaks of vegetable fat.  Fold one third of the pastry into the centre, then repeat with the other side so that the thirds all overlap.  Turn the pastry 90 degrees then roll out and fold in the same way again.  Refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes before repeating this process.  The pastry then must be refrigerated for a further 30 minutes before using.

Wellington

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While your pastry rests in the fridge, prepare the Wellington filling.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Place the mushrooms on a baking tray, drizzle them with a little oil and season with salt and pepper.  Pick the leaves from the thyme sprigs and scatter these over the mushrooms.  Place in the oven for 8 minutes, so that the mushrooms are just about cooked through.  Remove from the oven and allow to drain on some paper towel; they should release quite a lot of liquid as they cool down.

Next place a frying pan on a medium heat with a splash of oil.  Once the oil is hot add in the diced onion along with a pinch of salt.  Fry for a couple of minutes, then turn down the heat to low.  Continue to cook for at least 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them and stirring occasionally so they don’t burn or catch on the bottom of the pan.  Once cooked the onions should be completely soft and caramelised on the outside.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the onions from the pan into a bowl.  Refrigerate until cool.

Wipe out the pan with some kitchen paper and return it to a low heat.  Add in a splash of oil then fry the watercress from around a minute , or until wilted.  Tip into a bowl and season, then refrigerate along with the onions and mushrooms.

Once your filling ingredients are completely chilled you can start to assemble your Wellingtons.  It’s important that they are completely cold, otherwise the pastry will not keep its shape.  Prepare a flat baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.  Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it into a rectangle on a floured surface.   The thickness should be slightly thinner than a pound coin.

Cut the rectangle in half down the middle.  You need to make sure you have enough space to add in the filling, fold the pastry over and crimp the edges.  Place the pastry onto your prepared baking sheet. 

Take your mustard and use a pastry brush to cover the pastry pieces with a thin layer, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge where the pastry will be sealed.  Next take your wilted watercress and, before using, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  This will help prevent the pastry from becoming soggy.  Once you have squeezed out as much liquid as you can, take half the watercress and use it to cover half of each piece of pastry, leaving one side free as this will be folded over the top.  Repeat with the caramelised onions.

Next place a roasted mushroom on top.  Add the remaining watercress and spinach on top, then place on a second mushroom before folding over the pastry, being careful to keep all the filling inside.  Trim off any excess pastry then crimp the edges with a fork.

Combine your glaze ingredients together, then brush all over the Wellingtons.  Refrigerate them for 10 minutes, then re-glaze.  Place back in the fridge and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.  Score very lightly with a sharp knife and then place into a preheated oven at 190°C for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked on the bottom.  Leave to rest for 4-5 minutes before serving.

Gravy

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While the Wellingtons cook, start your red wine gravy.  Place a saucepan over a medium-high heat and add in 1 tbsp of oil.  Once the oil is hot add in the onions, carrot and celery as well as the bay leaf.  Fry for around 10 minutes, or until the veg has started to caramelise on the outside.  Remove the bay leaf, then add in the blackcurrant jam and stir through.  Cook for one minute, being careful that the jam doesn’t burn, then add in the flour.  Cook for a further minute, stirring continuously.  Next pour in the red wine bit by bit.  Stir thoroughly, ensuring that any caramelised bits of veg or jam are scraped off the bottom so that you get the maximum flavour possible. 

Once the wine is fully incorporate add in the vegetable stock and black treacle, then simmer on low for 10 minutes.  To finish, strain the sauce through a sieve, using a wooden spoon to push through the liquid and extract as much flavour as possible from the veg.  The sauce can now be refrigerated and kept for up to 3 days in the fridge or frozen for month.  If you are planning on using the sauce straight away just keep it in a pan to one side and reheat when needed.

 

 


Charcoal profiteroles with watercress cream cheese filling

Make your own savoury version of Heston’s Waitrose charcoal profiteroles and save yourself a packet this Christmas while impressing your guests with your culinary flair.  The charcoal powder is readily available from Amazon but you could just leave it out and make plain choux pastry if you’re prefer.  If you do buy powdered charcoal, make sure it is food grade.

 These beauties are a real twist on a classic.

These beauties are a real twist on a classic.

INSERT VIDEO HERE

Ingredients

  • 45g plain flour

  • 3g activated charcoal powder (available from Amazon)

  • 75g water

  • 40g butter

  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

  • Small pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 125g cream cheese

  • 15g watercress, finely chopped

  • 1 heaped tsp horseradish cream

  • 1 tsp lemon zest

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C.  Whisk together the flour and charcoal.  Place the salt, water and butter into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Ensure the butter is fully melted, then remove from the heat and add the flour and charcoal.  Beat vigorously until a smooth dough is formed, then return the pan to the heat.

Cook the dough for 3-4 minutes while you use a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it moving round the pan.  Stop cooking once the dough is glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan easily.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat the dough on high until it has fully cooled.  You can use a hand mixer for this but you will be standing in your kitchen for quite a long time while the mix cools down! 

Once your dough is cool, add in you beaten eggs, slowly.  You may not need to add all of the egg.  You are looking for a smooth, pipe-able consistency that will hold its shape once piped or spooned onto a baking tray.

Prepare a flat baking tray with a silicone baking mat, or use greaseproof paper if you do not have a mat to hand.  Pour the choux batter into a piping bag and cut off the end to create a small hole through which to pipe.  Pipe circles of batter onto the tray that are roughly 3cm I diameter, making sure you leave at least 5cm gap between each one.  Remember that the profiteroles are for canapes so you want them to be bite-size once cooked.  If you do not have a piping bag you can spoon the batter onto the tray instead.

Place the tray into your pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes depending on how crisp you would like your profiteroles to be and how large they are.  Personally I like them a tiny bit soft in the middle!  It’s very important that you do not open your oven until 20 minutes have elapsed, otherwise you risk your profiteroles collapsing.

Remove the profiteroles from the oven and allow to cool completely while you make your filling.  Finely chop your watercress, stalks and all, and add into a mixing bowl.  Add in your cream cheese, lemon zest, and horseradish, and mix thoroughly.   You may want to add a little more horseradish depending on your taste. 

Once your profiteroles have cooled, take a small serrated knife and carefully cut them in half crossways.  Spoon your filling into a piping bag and fill the bottom half of each profiterole with the cheese and watercress mixture before placing the lid on top.  Serve immediately.

 

Tip: Once your profiteroles have cooled they can be kept in an air-tight container for 24 hours before filling and serving. 

 

Cheesy watercress stars

These tasty little stars are a great way of getting the kids into the kitchen at Christmas time, plus you can arrange them in any way you like to make a beautiful party food display.  Perfect for canapes or as part of a Boxing Day spread.

To make this recipe suitable for vegan make sure you use a vegan-friendly puff pastry (I use Jus-Rol) and swap the cheese for a dairy-free version such as Violife.

 

 Keri has arranged her stars in the shape of a beautiful Christmas tree, but you can try any design you like!

Keri has arranged her stars in the shape of a beautiful Christmas tree, but you can try any design you like!

Makes 20

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 320g ready rolled puff pastry

  • 80g grated cheddar or dairy free cheddar

  • 40g watercress, finely chopped

  • Flour for dusting

 

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Unroll the pastry and sprinkle  most of the cheese over one half as well as most of the watercress.  Fold the bare side of the pastry over the cheesy half and press down around the edges to seal in the cheese and watercress.

Lightly flour the work surface and place the pastry on top.  Roll out the pastry to about double the size.  Sprinkle the rolled out pastry with the rest of the cheese and chopped watercress, spreading as evenly as possible.  Try to keep a little bit of cheese and watercress back so that you can re-roll any trim once the stars have been cut out.

Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper, then take a star shaped cookie cutter and cut the pastry into as many stars as possible.  You could use any shaped cutter you like for this!  Once you have cut out as many as you can, squash the leftover pastry into a ball and then roll out again, sprinkling with a little more cheese and watercress and cutting out the remaining stars.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden on top.  Once removed from the oven the stars can be served immediately or kept in an air tight container for up to three days.

 

 

 

Roasted winter squash with watercress crisps

Show your veggie and vegan guests some extra love by cooking up a special side of roasted vegetables just for them, or make enough for the whole family if you don’t want anyone to miss out!  This recipes uses brown butter (also known as beurre noisette) to give a rich flavour to the squash, which can be replaced with hazelnut oil to make the recipe vegan.


 The little watercress crisps add a delicious texture and flavour to this special side dish.

The little watercress crisps add a delicious texture and flavour to this special side dish.

Serves 6 as a side dish

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Prep time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter or hazelnut oil

  • 2 butternut squash, peeled

  • 24 watercress leaves picked from stalks

  • Salt and pepper

  • 50ml rapeseed oil

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma.  Be careful not to overdo it or the butter will burn.  Skip this step if you are using hazelnut oil instead.

Cut in half and deseed the squash, then cut into slices 2cm thick.

On a baking tray, drizzle the squash with the brown butter, season with plenty of salt and pepper, and toss to coat thoroughly.  Roast for about 25 minutes, turning half way through.  The squash should be tender and golden around the edges.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a small saucepan.  Fry the watercress leaves in two separate batches until crisp and remove using a slatted spoon.  Place on kitchen towel to drain.

To serve, pile the squash on a serving dish and scatter with the watercress crisps.

 

 

 

Chestnut and beetroot Wellingtons

 These vegan-friendly Wellingtons would make a picture-perfect addition to your Christmas dinner table.

These vegan-friendly Wellingtons would make a picture-perfect addition to your Christmas dinner table.

Serves 6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes plus 1 hour chill time 

Ingredients

  • 2 raw beetroot, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks

  • 100g whole cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped

  • ½ a butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks

  • 1 red onion cut into wedges

  • 4 cloves garlic unpeeled

  • 6 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp picked thyme leaves, plus extra to finish

  • 1 tbsp sumac, plus extra to finish

  • 250g cooked puy lentils

  • 2 x 320g ready-rolled puff pastry (suitable for vegans)

  • 2 tbsp almond milk

 

For the pesto:

  • 100g watercress

  • 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted

  • Juice of half a lemon

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C.  Place the beetroot, squash, onion and garlic in a roasting tin with 2 tbsp of olive oil.   Scatter over the sumac and thyme and some salt and pepper and toss until the vegetables are well coated.   

Roast for 45 minutes or until the vegetable are tender.  Remove the garlic cloves and squeeze out the insides.  Add half back to the tray along with the lentils and chopped chestnuts.  Mix thoroughly then leave to cool completely.

While the mixture is cooling, make the pesto.  Place the rest of the garlic, lemon juice, watercress, olive oil and pine nuts into a food processor and blend into a thick pesto.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Place the sheets of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut each sheet into three to create six sections for the six individual wellingtons.  Spread the pesto on one half of each piece of pastry, leaving the other half free of filling so that you can fold it over the top later.  Ensure that you leave a gap all around the edge of the pastry so that you can stick the edges together.

Divide the roasted veg mix between the six pieces, placing on top of the pesto.  Brush all the way round the edges of each piece of pastry with almond milk, then fold the plain half of the pastry over the filling.  Use a fork to crimp around the edges and seal in the filling, ensuring that no air is trapped inside.  Once the edges are crimped, use a sharp knife to trim them back into a neat rectangle shape.  Poke a small hole in the top of each wellington to allow any steam to escape during cooking.

Place the six individual wellingtons on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, cover with clingfilm and chill for at least one hour or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.  Brush the top of each wellington with a little more almond milk and sprinkle with sumac.  Bake for 30 minutes or until piping hot and crisp and golden on the outside.  Scatter over the some thyme leaves and sea salt and serve.

 

 The Wellingtons are delicious served with Keri’s vegan red wine gravy. Find a recipe for the gravy included in the Portobello Mushroom recipe above.

The Wellingtons are delicious served with Keri’s vegan red wine gravy. Find a recipe for the gravy included in the Portobello Mushroom recipe above.

 

Veggie or vegan quiche with watercress, peas and tomatoes

Boxing day buffets can be a struggle for those who are catering for a mixture of meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, so I’ve created these meat-free quiche recipes with that in mind.  I’ve written a vegetarian and a vegan version of this recipe so there really should be something suitable for everyone here.  Believe it or not, thanks to the miracle that is chick peas, it is possible to make a completely vegan quiche!    A chickpea flour mix replaces the eggs and cream in the vegan version, which  utilises a couple of non-traditional ingredients to get as close to the ‘eggy’ flavour of quiche as possible.  These ingredients, nutritional yeast and black salt, are not essential to for the recipe to work, but it’s definitely worth getting hold of them if you really want to get some flavour into your vegan quiche.  The beautiful flavour of watercress complements both recipes perfectly.

Vegan Version

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  • 1 block shortcrust pastry (can be home made, or use Jus-Rol)

  • 100g chickpea flour/gram flour

  • 600ml water

  • 1 vegetable stock cube

  • ½ tsp black salt (optional)

  • Large handful watercress, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve

  • 50g frozen peas, defrosted

  • 50g firm tofu, broken up into pieces

  • 4 tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped (or 2 tsp dried rosemary)

  • Zest of half a lemon

  • Salt and pepper

  • 15g nutritional yeast

  • ½ tsp turmeric

  • Rice or baking beads (for blind baking the pastry)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable spread, melted

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large round tart tin with a circle of greaseproof paper in the base.  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a one pound coin then drape it over the quiche tin.  Press the pastry into the base of the tin and trim the edges.  Take a fork and make several pricks in the pastry base.

Take some cling film and lay a length of it flat on the table.  Take another length and lay it at 90 degrees to the first piece, forming a cross shape.  Take the two pieces of clingfilm together and line the inside of the pastry case with them before filling the case with rice or baking beans.

Place the pastry case into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the visible edges of the pastry have started to colour.  Remove from the oven and take out the clingfilm and rice/beans, being careful not to get any grains of rice stuck to the pastry. 

Next prepare the fillings by whisking together the chickpea flour and half the water along with a good pinch of salt.  Set aside.  Pour the remaining water into a saucepan and add the vegetable stock, nutritional yeast, rosemary, lemon zest and black salt (if using).  Bring to the boil.

Once the liquid has boiled, slowly pour in the chickpea flour mixture, stirring continuously.  Once everything is combines lower the heat and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.  The mixture should thicken and become glossy.  Add in the peas, watercress, and tofu, and stir well. 

Pour the mixture into the baked pastry case and smooth the top over with a spatula.  Top with the sliced tomatoes then place the quiche into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the melted vegetable spread before returning to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Finally remove the quiche from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving alongside some more watercress. 

 

Veggie Version

  • 1 block shortcrust pastry (can be home made, or shop-bought)

  • 5 eggs, beaten

  • 150ml whole milk

  • 150ml double cream

  • 100g mature cheddar, grated

  • 150g chevre goat’s cheese

  • Large handful watercress, roughly chopped, plus extra for serving

  • 1 sprig Rosemary, finely chopped

  • Zest of half a lemon

  • 50g frozen peas, defrosted

  • 4 tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • Salt and pepper

  • Rice or baking beads (for blind baking the pastry)

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large round tart tin with a circle of greaseproof paper in the base.  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a one pound coin then drape it over the quiche tin.  Press the pastry into the base of the tin and trim the edges.  Take a fork and make several pricks in the pastry base.

Take some  clingfilm and lay a length of it flat on the table.  Take another length and lay it at 90 degrees to the first piece, forming a cross shape.  Take the two pieces of clingfilm together and line the inside of the pastry case with them before filling the case with rice or baking beans.

Place the pastry case into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the visible edges of the pastry have started to colour.  Remove from the oven and take out the clingfilm and rice/beans, being careful not to get any grains of rice stuck to the pastry. 

Next prepare the filling by whisking together the cream, eggs and milk along with the rosemary and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper and mix in the watercress, peas and grated cheese.

Crumble to goat’s cheese evenly over the pastry base and then pour over the filling.  Top with the sliced tomatoes, then bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until the quiche is just set in the middle.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.





 Vegetarian chef Keri Astill-Frew

Vegetarian chef Keri Astill-Frew

As well as working as a development chef for The Watercress Company, Keri Astill-Frew is the owner of V. Dorset, an award-winning vegetarian and vegan catering business based in Poole, Dorset. Visit V. Dorset’s website to find out more about the services they can offer, or follow @v.dorset on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the latest news.

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