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Christmas almond macaroons

We wanted to make a Christmas treat with similar flavours to stollen, lots of dried fruit, spices and yumminess. These really exceeded our expectations, they are moist, slightly chewy and full of Christmassy goodness!

The aquafaba and ground almond mix is a bit of a star, and can be made without any of the dried fruit and nuts to make a lovely soft cookie.

These almost didn’t last long enough to photograph…

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Christmas almond macaroons

makes 12 to 14


100 ml aquafaba (this should be half the amount you get from 1 400 g tin of chickpeas)
50 g caster sugar
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp mixed spice
150 g ground almonds
50 g pistachios, roughly chopped
60 g glace cherries, quartered
30 g mixed peel
50 g raisins
2 tbsp icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c and line a tray with baking paper.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat the aqua faba until it forms soft peaks. As aquafaba varies in strength, this can take anywhere 4 to 8 minutes.
Beat in the sugar until mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Next beat in the xanthan gum, salt and mixed spice.
Fold in the ground almonds, pistachios, cherries, mixed peel and raisins until well combined. The aquafaba meringue mixture will lose volume, this is correct.
Using two dessert spoons make quenelles of the mixture and drop them carefully onto the lined tray.
Bake for 20 minutes until attractively browned.
When cool, dust with the icing sugar.

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Christmas almond macaroons, just dusted with icing sugar


By A. and E.

4

Christmas Dessert – Lapsang souchong and persimmon sticky toffee cake with tahini caramel sauce

For the dessert for our Christmas meal we’ve gone for an indulgent moist cake based on the traditional sticky toffee pudding recipe. Rather than use plain tea to soak the dates though, we’ve used beautiful smokey lapsang souchong tea, and added sweet persimmon with their subtle melon-like flavour to the mixture.

Rather like an upside down cake, the tin has a layer of muscovado sugar and persimmon slices added before the batter goes in, so that when the cake is turned out it has a beautiful design of caramelised persimmon on top.

And the caramel sauce is pretty special! We used tahini in it, to add an extra layer of toasty flavour which balances the sweetness.

All in all, it’s a delicious, different end to the festive meal!

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Lapsang souchong and persimmon sticky toffee cake, with tahini caramel sauce

makes 6 – 8 servings


 

for the date, tea and persimmon sauce

2 lapsang souchong tea bags

200 ml hot water

100 g stoneless dates, chopped

1 persimmon, chopped (remove the core if it is woody)

for the cake

225 g gluten free plain flour

225 g dark muscovado sugar

225 g vegan margarine

75 g plain soy yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

A pinch of salt

for the topping

5 thin slices of persimmon, about 2 mm each. Pick the slices with the attractive star shape in the middle, caused by the core.

2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

for the tahini caramel sauce

100 g white sugar

4 tbsp tahini

100 ml soy milk


 

Preheat the oven to fan 180 degrees c and grease a 22 cm cake tin. Line the bottom of the cake tin.

Put the tea bags, water, dates and persimmon in a small saucepan on a medium low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 -15 minutes, until the persimmon is soft and the dates have broken down and thickened the sauce. Remove the tea bags and set the sauce aside to cool.

Spread the 2 tbsp of soft dark brown sugar over the bottom of the cake tin, and arrange the persimmon slices on top. They should not overlap.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar and margarine until well combined. Add the date, tea and persimmon sauce and mix well, then add the yoghurt and mix again. It will look lumpy at this stage.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt and then add to the bowl.

Mix until everything has come together to make a smooth batter.

Pour the batter carefully into the cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 40 minutes, until the cake doesn’t wobble when you carefully shake it.

To make the tahini caramel, put the remaining white sugar in a heavy based saucepan on a low heat and cook until it melts and turns lovely deep brown. Don’t stir the sugar, but if it’s melting unevenly swirl it around the pan. Remove from the heat, add the tahini and stir quickly, then add the soy milk mixing all the time. It will bubble up! Mix until the sauce is smooth and glossy.

To serve, turn the cake out onto a decorative plate so that the persimmon slices are on the top, and drizzle with some of the sauce. Serve the remaining sauce in a jug to add as you please.


 

By A. and E.

1

Christmas main – Artichoke, fennel and chestnut pie with horseradish oat pastry, tomato cranberry carrot sauce, and Christmas fries

So now it’s time for our Christmas main recipe!

Okay, so essentially it’s pie and chips (hey, we’re northern after all…), but ramped up with new and interesting flavours and wow it’s a great meal, even if we do say so ourselves!

The traditional Christmas dinner vegetable accompaniments with a vegan gravy are always delicious, but this year we really wanted to go for something different, and totally celebratory!

The pie itself has a delicious herby creamy filling full of vegetables and chestnuts, with a pastry made with toasted oats and fresh horseradish. The little kick that the horseradish brings is so good, and works beautifully with the filling.

The sauce was a revelation, it sort of evolved as we went along… The cranberries were a last minute purchase, but they really bring something to the sauce. It’s definitely one we’ll make again, it’d be great with pasta but it’s also lovely as a ketchup type of thing for dipping.

And the Christmas fries! We wanted potato and parsnip to feature in the recipe, but thought what fun it would be to do something different than the usual roasted version. So Alex hit on the idea of making them into shoestring fries, and they’re seriously delicious! We’ve added sweet potato too, and also fine green beans which fry up beautifully, the skins blister and the flavour is intensified.

Then because you have to have brussel sprouts with Christmas dinner we’ve simply steamed them and served them on the sauce, a really tasty combination.

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Christmas fries! With artichoke, fennel and chestnut pie, tomato cranberry carrot sauce, and brussel sprouts

serves 4


 

for the pastry

200 g gluten free flour

80 g gram flour (chickpea and split pea flour)

100 g gluten free oats

200 g vegetable fat (we use trex)

1 tsp xanthan gum

2 tbsp fresh horseradish, thinly grated (carefully, it’s very pungent!)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cold water

for the filling

150 g tinned artichokes, drained and quartered (about 1/2 a 400 g tin)

1/2 head of fennel, chopped

1/2 tbsp oil

45 g cooked chestnuts, quartered

300 ml soy milk

1 1/2 tbsp cornflour, slaked in a little cold water

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

for the tomato cranberry carrot sauce

1 400 g tin of plum tomatoes

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp tamari

1/4 tsp gluten free yeast extract

a sprig of rosemary

40 g fresh cranberries

a little water to thin the sauce if you like, maybe 100 ml

for the Christmas fries

1 large potato, cut into matchsticks and dried in kitchen paper

1 medium sweet potato, cut into matchsticks

1 medium parsnip, cut into matchsticks

150 g fine green beans

oil for deep frying

salt

to serve

200 g brussel sprouts, or as many as you like


 

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees c.

In a large roasting tin toss the fennel and carrots with the oil, but keep them separate as they are for different parts of the meal. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, and then remove the fennel, it should be cooked through and browned in places. Stir the carrots and return to the oven for a further 40 minutes, they should be browned, very soft and reduced in size by around 1/2. The flavour will be very intensely carroty which is what you’re looking for.

While the vegetables are cooking get on with the pastry and filling for the pies. In a dry pan toast the oats for a few minutes, stirring often, until they smell toasty. Cool a little. The pastry is best made in a food processor, this keeps the pungent fresh horseradish under control! Whizz the toasted oats until they have broken down. Add the gluten free flour, gram flour, xanthan gum, horseradish and salt to the processor and pulse to combine. Next add the vegetable fat and pulse again until it all looks, well, lumpy! Add the water a little at a time until the pastry forms a ball.

To make the filling, heat the soy milk until it’s just simmering and whisk in the cornflour to thicken. Add the herbs and salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring often. Mix through the artichokes, fennel and chestnuts and cool a little.

Transfer the pastry to a clean surface and roll out carefully (it’s quite a soft dough), using a little flour if needed. Line the pie dishes, ours are 12 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep. We used enamel pie dishes, and to be honest it was pretty difficult to get the pies out, when we make them again we’ll use disposable foil dishes.

Roll and cut lids to fit your pie dishes. Fill the dishes with filling and top with the lids, pressing around the edge to seal. Cut a little hole in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake ( at 190 degrees c) for 40 minutes.

Next the sauce! Put the roasted carrots, tinned tomatoes, cranberries, tamari, yeast extract and rosemary in a saucepan on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the cranberries are soft and the sauce is thick. Remove the rosemary and blend the sauce using an immersion blender. If you want to be cheffy, pass the sauce through a fine sieve to give a velvety texture. Thin with water to your desired consistency, we kept ours quite thick. Reheat in the saucepan when you need it.

To make the fries, heat the oil to 160 degrees c and drop the vegetables in. We used an electric deep fryer, but it’s a very small one so it took a few batches! Keep them warm in the oven as they’re done if you’re doing the same. The potato, sweet potato, parsnips and green beans all take 4 minutes to cook through. We tried the green beans fried from raw, and steamed in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then dried on kitchen paper. We preferred the steamed version, but both are good. Salt the fries.

Steam or boil the brussel sprouts just before serving. We steamed ours for 3 minutes in the microwave.

To serve, carefully turn the pies out and plate the sauce, fries and sprouts as you see fit.

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Okay, so we were a little silly with plating the sprouts and sauce…


 

By A. and E.

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas day starter – Golden beetroot parcels filled with mushroom tarragon mousse, rocket sauce and salted walnut praline

Christmas food, hooray!

We’ve been thinking recently about an interesting, exciting menu for the main meal of the festivities, and today we finally got a chance to cook some of it! As well as this elegant, immensely tasty starter we’ve got main and dessert recipes to come over the next few days…

And so to the golden beetroot parcels! The sweet, earthy beetroot is filled with a mushroom and tarragon mousse, which contrasts beautifully with the peppery bright rocket sauce. The salted walnut praline topping adds crunch and a gorgeous toasty flavour.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but many of them can be done in advance, and the parcels themselves keep happily for 24 hours in the fridge once assembled.

If you wanted to cut down the prep time, you could use pre cooked purple beetroot, and a vegan sour cream for the filling.

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Christmas day starter

to serve 4


 

for the beetroot

400 g golden beetroot, around 5 beetroots

for the praline

30 g walnuts, chopped

40 g sugar

1/4 tsp salt

for the mousse

150 g mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tbsp oil

2 tsp tamari

200 ml plain unsweetened soy yoghurt, strained for at least 24 hours

60 g firm silken tofu

30 g coconut oil, melted but not too hot

1/2 tsp dried tarragon

salt and pepper

for the rocket sauce

60 g rocket

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

50 ml cold water


 

First cook the golden beetroots. Bring around 1 litre of water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. Wash the beetroots but don’t trim the roots off and be careful not to break the skin. This ensures that the colour stays in the beetroot and doesn’t end up in the water! Simmer the beetroots for around 1 hour, until they feel tender to the touch and the skin looks slightly bubbled. Cool the beetroots, and then peel them and slice thinly, no more than 2 mm per slice, preferably 1 mm. You should have 9 slices for each terrine. Leave the slices to drain on kitchen paper.

While the beetroots are cooking make the praline.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Heat a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat. Toast the walnuts, stirring often for 3 – 4 minutes until they smell toasty and fragrant. Tip out onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the sugar and salt. Cook the sugar until it’s melted and turned a lovely rich golden brown, around 5 minutes. Don’t mix the sugar or it will crystallise, swirl it around the pan if it’s melting unevenly. When the sugar has reached the right colour, tip it quickly over the walnuts, covering as many of the nuts as possible. Leave to cool and harden.

Next make the filling. Heat the oil in a saute pan and cook the mushrooms and tamari until juicy. The liquid should have evaporated, you don’t want to add extra to the filling.

Put the strained soy yoghurt, tofu, coconut oil and tarragon in a food processor, and blitz until well combined.

Remove the blade from the processor and mix the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste through the creamy mixture.

Cover the praline with more baking paper, tucking some under the edges, and break it up into little pieces using a rolling pin.

Now assemble the parcels!

Line the ramekins with cling film, leaving a good amount hanging over the edge. Pick a suitably sized slice of beetroot to form the top of the parcel and lay it in the bottom of the ramekin. Next line the inside edge of the ramekin with more beetroot slices, overlapping them slightly. You should use 5.

Add the filling, almost to the top of the ramekin, and top with a final 3 slices of beetroot. Repeat with the other 3 ramekins. Gather the clingfilm over the top and place in the fridge to chill and set, for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, make the sauce. Put the rocket in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Drain immediately, run under cold water and squeeze dry. Blitz the rocket, olive oil, lemon juice, water and salt and pepper together to make a loose puree.

To serve, turn each parcel out into the middle of a plate, and top with a spoonful of praline.

Dot the sauce prettily around the parcels.


 

By A. and E.