So January challenges us to go ‘Veganuary’… which sounds perfect – as most of us are in need of a detox; fed up of eating endless variations of turkey leftovers, brie and whatever sandwiches to finish off the cheese hamper, inward groans as we visualise ourselves on an embarrassing, sweaty comeback to the treadmill while piling that dollop of double cream on another minced pie.
Yes- the appeal of ditching the stodge and upping the veg feels good indeed. But would it feel the same if you decided to forgo what the majority are digging into during the festive dinner and go completely plant- based? Are Christmas veggies only there to represent ‘the trimmings’, accompanying the real stars of the show – turkey, duck, lamb or anything else considered a Christmas meat tradition. What is the alternative? And will it hit the spot in the same way?
I answered my own question a couple of years ago. After successfully staying plant-based from January 2017 – I decided to take the plunge and do Christmas that year following suite.
What concerned my first world problem brain was – would I be able to still have Christmas stuffing (such a fave) and what would this look like? What about pigs in blankets? Would gravy be bland without the cooked turkey extract?
I hit the regular supermarkets and saw very little in the form of alternatives (apart from the own brand nut roasts which always look a bit sad, fully knowing know they aren’t as sexy looking as turkey). Which then got me thinking – I would have to make this all about the veggies.
I wanted to treat my trimmings as the stars and make them as sexy as turkey. I thought back to my Christmases in Italia. A common star of the show there (depending on the region) is often a lasagne or timballo – a gorgeously oven baked layered pie- with either pasta (as we all know and love) or with rice or even potato... I remember spending Christmases in Italy when the prized pie was brought out, everyone’s eyes undressing each layer and simultaneously kicking themselves for eating way too much ‘primo’ .
I put two and two together and came up with making myself a plant-based, layered timballo with one layer of parsnip mixed with sweet red and sweet white potato and then chestnut, almond butter and greens/shredded sprouts running through as a contrasting layer. I even added coconut cheese as one of my layers to induce that creamy, salty coziness as I bit in. Ok perhaps too much detail.
I made my own gram flour stuffing balls, almond-based gravy and did have a naughty bite of a Yorkshire pudding (progress takes time they say...) All in all however, I happily experimented by putting all my favourite Christmas vegetables and childhood tastes into one dish, which was easy to make yet still had ‘turkey appeal’ as a main. Funnily enough, it didn’t last for days on end (because everybody ate most of it) I didn’t touch meat, didn’t miss it and most importantly enjoyed the benefits of only digesting plant-based protein during the big dinner which left a lot of room for much, much more chocolate than I had anticipated..
Christmas dinner 2017 was therefore a success, it mostly worked because I acknowledged I didn’t want to be eating a sad packet of ready-made veggie trimmings or nut roast to go plant based, I did have festive food FOMO and I wanted that turkey-esq feeling without the meat – so that is what I created. I felt much better for it and proved to myself that it can be done, with simple ingredients and a dollop of creativity. I guess I have to thank Italy for my inspo that year and myself for having a go.
If you fancy trying out the timballo recipe this year – let us know and we will post it!