Christmas is a time when most of us overindulge, be it in food, drink, or the excessive playing of board games. Excessive it may be, but that doesn’t mean your Christmas feast can’t be cruelty-free.
Animal Liberation NSW estimates that 5 million turkeys are factory farmed in Australia each year. These birds are kept in appalling conditions before being slaughtered at just 10-12 weeks of age. Infant turkeys spend their short lives in cramped and overcrowded sheds, suffering various health issues and horrific living conditions because of the intensity of the farming that is designed to make them grow bigger and faster than is natural.
Australians consume 1kg of turkey per person, per year, and most of this is during the festive period. Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving, love, and compassion. It doesn’t really feel in the spirit of things to be carving up the carcass of a poor bird who never got the chance to see daylight, let alone grow up.
For me, a roast dinner was (and is) all about the trimmings. Who needs turkey when you’ve got crispy roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy. Since switching to a vegan lifestyle I’ve done a fair bit of experimenting with concocting my perfect roast, and so in the spirit of kindness and compassion, I’d like to share my thoughts on how you can have a delicious Christmas feast without harming anything other than the elastic in your waistband.
Firstly, here’s what I like to see on my plate:
A good roast is a fair bit of work but it’s definitely worth it for the end result. And although there are a lot of dishes to prepare, the key to a successful roast dinner is all about the timing. For that reason I like to keep a list handy so that I know exactly what time everything needs to go in the oven, and which dishes I need to prepare first. It’s always good to have a sous-chef on hand. Mine comes in the form of Andy whose job is to prepare the nut roast. Delegating a few dishes will make the process faster, meaning you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your delicious roast.
I always start with the roast potatoes because they take the longest to cook. If you don’t have an extra hand in the kitchen then you might want to whip up your nutroast first. Roast potatoes should be fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. A lot of people will use duck or goose fat to achieve this but that’s obviously a no-go for this vegan feast. Instead, I use a Jamie Oliver recipe that uses oil to create a fabulous crispiness. Combo 1 is a vegan friendly option and the one that we always use.
Once the potatoes are underway I then prepare the cauliflower cheese. It won’t go in the oven straight away but it’s good to have it prepped and ready. This is a tried and tested recipe from the Vedge, and it’s delicious. This recipe calls for some vegan parmesan cheese. We normally have some in the fridge but if you need to make it then here is a great recipe from Minimalist Baker.
At this point I normally start prepping the gravy while Andy works on the nutroast. The gravy is another Jamie Oliver recipe and one of my absolute favourites. I often make a double batch so that I can freeze half and use it again for chips and gravy.
As I mentioned above, if you’re handling the roast on your own then you’ll probably want to make this before you get everything cooking. This is a simple recipe from the Vegan Society but just be aware that you don’t need as much water as stated in the recipe. Andy recommends just adding a little bit of water at a time until you get a sticky consistency.
Everyone has their own preference for how they like their sprouts but personally I like them oven roasted so that they’re just a little bit crispy. This is a basic guide for oven roasting your sprouts.
Bread sauce is a very English dish and even then it’s not all that common. But I love it, and no roast is complete without it. It is what is – a sauce made of bread and milk. You can make this from scratch or you can use a packet mix. The packet mixes are really good but not always easy to find in Australia. I get bread sauce care packages sent from England but I’ve seen them available in selected Coles stores, and speciality shops that sell British food. I’ve found that almond milk is the best option for this recipe.
I’ll confess that I’m lazy when it comes to stuffing. I know I could make it from scratch but I was raised on Paxo and I love it. Again, Paxo is English but you can definitely get this in Coles. I like to create little stuffing balls to encourage a crispy outer shell and a soft centre. I simply line them up on a baking tray ready to go in the oven.
Who doesn’t love cranberry sauce? It’s the sweet compliment to the perfect mouthful of all the above. I always just buy this in a jar and then it sits in our fridge awaiting its next roast-related outing.
As I said, timing is key. I have a list stuck to the fridge that tells me exactly what time everything needs to go in the oven. The roast potatoes kick things off and then it’s a countdown to dinner:
Roast potatoes – 30 mins
Roast potatoes – 45 mins
Sprouts – 40 mins
Stuffing – 40 mins
Nutroast – 30 mins
Cauliflower cheese – 20 mins
And there we have it. That’s my formula for a pretty spectacular roast dinner. With a glass of wine in one hand and a list tacked to the fridge, nothing can go wrong!