• Try making this mango and coconut ice-cream log for a plant-based dessert option this Christmas. (Audrey Fitzjohn)Source: Audrey Fitzjohn
Roast alternatives, festive grazing platters and mango and coconut ice-cream logs — consider these plant-based dishes for your holiday menu.
Lee Tran Lam

17 Dec 2020 - 12:41 PM  UPDATED 17 Dec 2020 - 12:41 PM

Barbecued prawns, roast ham and extravagant pavlovas made from many cracked eggs: that's what an Australian Christmas looks like, right? Well, not if you skip animal products.

But a plant-based Christmas that's big on flavour and that delivers on the food-coma promise of the holidays is still possible even if you're lactose intolerant, avoiding certain foods for religious reasons or on a fully vegan diet.

Here are some great ideas you'll find by thumbing through today's vegan Christmas cookbooks.

An easy seafood alternative worth trying

The official start of the holiday season seems to be when we hear news reports about how the seafood markets are overrun with people loading up on prawns, oysters and fish.

Things may be a little different this year because of physical distancing requirements, but a seafood alternative is still something worth seeking out for your vegan Christmas table.

The cookbook Easy Vegan Christmas by Australian blogger Liz Miu offers an excellent suggestion: oyster mushrooms that you crumb and fry with lemon wedges with a vegan tartare sauce. Many of her recipes are either gluten free or easily adapted for coeliac or gluten-intolerant diners. Her crumbed mushrooms can be coeliac friendly if they're made with gluten-free flour or panko breadcrumbs. 

Make a grazing platter with vegan cheese and dips

Not into charcuterie? You can still cater to guests' grazing sensibilities (and their love of lazily hovering over elaborate table spreads) by presenting boards of deli-style offerings.

Miu's book has a detailed selection on how to create the ultimate grazing platter with tips on presentation ("scatter your board with edible flowers, sprigs of rosemary or mint") and food-selection (choose sturdy, dip-friendly crackers!). It also has recipes for vegan cheeses, including one flavoured with dill and cranberry, and party dips such as cashew nut pesto. 

"Scatter your board with edible flowers, sprigs of rosemary or mint."

Another cookbook called Vegan Christmas by Audrey Fitzjohn, a stylist based in France, has platter-compatible ideas too, such as a Christmas 'cheese' made from blended nuts, coconut oil and miso, and which is festively studded with dried cranberries and crushed pecans.

Roast this instead of turkey or ham

A big oven-hogging bird or pig might be the typical image of Christmas feasting, but a vegan alternative can be just as hearty and lead to seconds and Boxing Day leftovers as well.

Miu suggests a maple-glazed nut roast, which you can serve with her five-minute miso gravy. A mushroom Wellington is a popular vegan-friendly centrepiece dish. Vegan Christmas offers a version you can finish in just over an hour. However, another version comprises a more elaborate two-day process because "the filling and the duxelles (l'il mushroom bits) need to cool completely before assembly", although she helpfully breaks it down with a visual explainer for the key steps. 

Make comfort side dishes the rule

At her Sydney vegan deli, Suzy Spoon sells a highly popular vegan protein roast. It takes four of her employees just to meet the production demand for this item.

But Spoon also has a digital cookbook that offers Christmas-friendly ideas that'd go very well with that roast and work for any vegan holiday menu, in fact.

Try her recipe for balsamic-glazed roast vegetables or potato pavé — stacks of thinly sliced potato, 'glued' together with vegan cheese and baked for two hours in aluminium foil until the potato is crispy golden.

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Get festive with Christmas firs and logs

Audrey Fitzjohn's cookbook has clever riffs on the holiday theme. One recipe is her 'festive fir', which features vegan puff pastry cut into the shape of a Christmas tree and stuffed with a mixture of olives, capers, garlic, lemon, basil and artichoke hearts. Vegan Christmas also features a section on yuletide logs.

There's a "super-easy" chocolate version that requires 20 minutes of prep and an overnight stay in the fridge to set it, a more decadent and ginger-spiced speculaas yule log, a panna cotta alternative made with almond and chestnut cream, as well as a summer-friendly mango and coconut log which involves ice cream drizzled with mango coulis.

Go all out on desserts

Icelandic teacher Steinunn Steinarsdottir runs vegan blog A Bite of Kindness in London, where she's currently based. Her free Christmas cookbook of vegan desserts is full of sweet ideas such as risalamande, a chilled rice pudding that's traditionally offered at Christmas time in Denmark, and a three-ingredient Christmas ice cream that you top with pistachios and caramel sauce.

For a showstopper that's perfect for an Australian summer, try Miu's pavlova that's made without a single cracked egg.

Her substitute ingredient is aquafaba, the leftover brine from canned legumes, such as chickpeas. If you need some training for her mega dessert (or prefer a scaled-down version), try out her pavlova "nests", a variation she's featured on Instagram.

In her post, Miu shares some important insider intel about aquafaba: "I find cheaper beans often have better aquafaba so there's a hot tip for ya!!"

It's a handy thing to know while keeping your Christmas menu budget in check, and another good reason to give a vegan pav a try these holidays.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @leetranlam and Instagram @leetranlam.

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