Christmas always creeps up on me. I’m never quite sure how, because talk of where we will spend it start as soon as the summer ends. This year we are heading to Anglesey, the beautiful little island off the coast of north Wales where we got married last summer. Christmas dinner is almost always my domain. It has become less conventional in recent years; we are a family of vegetarians and vegans, and this year my one-year-old, Dylan, will have his first proper Christmas meal. My task is to make something that will unite us all around the table.
I always make two main dishes. This year it will be a celeriac and sweet garlic pie, which is everything I want in such a dish: flaky, cheese-spiked pastry, a lavish filling with loads of flavour, and a crisp-textured top to crown it. I will also make my Christmas galette for the vegans. The trimmings change each year, and this time I’m going for golden crusted roast sprouts, harissa and miso roast squash, all topped with a vegetarian gravy that everyone will be fighting over. The feast starts with a pickled squash, charred clementine and radicchio salad. It needs to be started the night before, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s just the thing to get tastebuds and conversations going. We’ll end with a gingerbread and cranberry tart that’s lighter than the usual Christmas offering and, I promise, all the better for it.
Charred clementine, pickled squash and radicchio salad
1 large butternut squash
100ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
A cinnamon stick
A good pinch of dried chilli
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
10 black peppercorns
200g feta cheese
8 clementines, 1 zested
2 heads radicchio
For the dressing
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 Peel and slice the squash as thinly as possible and put the slices in a large mixing bowl. Warm the vinegar in a pan with the spices, rosemary, salt and pepper until just before it comes to a boil, then pour over the squash and leave overnight.
2 On the day, set the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Put the feta on to a baking tray with a spoonful of the vinegar and spice mixture and the zest of a clementine, and roast for 40 minutes, until burnished on top.
3 Make the dressing by mixing together the balsamic, oil and lime with 3 tbsp of water until thick, then add the maple syrup and mix again.
4 Heat a griddle pan. Cut the radicchio into wedges, peel the clementines and cut them in half across the middle. Once the griddle is smoking hot, put the clementines on their flat side until they are nicely charred then set aside. Next griddle/fry the squash on both sides – you may need to do this in batches. Then griddle the radicchio on both of its flat sides.
5 Once everything is griddled, lay the clementines, radicchio and squash on a big platter and drizzle generously with the dressing. Serve just warm with good warm toast if you like.
Celeriac and sweet garlic pie
With its cheddar and winter herb pastry, this high-sided pie takes a little time, but at Christmas I think that’s OK.
For the pastry
250g plain white spelt flour
125g butter, cold, cubed
½ tsp fine sea salt
A few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
25g good cheddar, grated
1 egg yolk
50-70ml cold water
For the filling
3 medium heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
2 sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
220g crumbled Lancashire or good cheddar cheese
150g creme fraiche
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
A small bunch of parsley, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
A few splashes of Worcestershire sauce (I use a vegetarian one)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Put the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and the salt. Rub gently with your fingertips until it is like fine breadcrumbs. Stir through the herbs, lemon zest and grated cheddar.
2 Beat the egg yolk with 1 tbsp of cold water. Add to the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Add water a teaspoon at a time if needed tsp by tsp until it comes together into a smooth dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
3 For the filling, put the cloves of garlic into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain.
4 Wipe the saucepan dry. Add the garlic and olive oil and fry on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and 200ml water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
5 Add the honey, most of the rosemary and thyme (reserving the rest, with the sage) and a good pinch of salt. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark syrup.
6 Meanwhile, peel the celeriac and cut it into quarters. Set aside 300g and slice the rest into 2cm-thick pieces. Put them into a saucepan, cover with hot water and boil for 7-10 minutes.
7 Drain and tip into a big mixing bowl. Add the cheese, creme fraiche, lemon juice, mustard, parsley and eggs. Add a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper and gently fold in the garlic cloves.
8 Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Sprinkle flour on to a work surface and roll out the pastry to 3-4mm thick. Line a 20cm-diameter cake tin with the pastry, ensuring a little spills over the edges.
9 Add the filling. Grate the reserved celeriac and pile it on top. Finish with the reserved rosemary and thyme, all the sage, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown.
10 Remove from the oven, leave to cool a little, then take it out of the tin. Lay a few herbs on top and serve warm.
Roast vegetable and winter herb gravy
2 red onions
2 sticks of celery
2 garlic cloves in their skins
2 sprigs of rosemary, bay and thyme
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp flour
500ml dry cider
1 litre vegetable stock
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Roughly chop the vegetables and put them into a large baking tray with the herbs. Season, drizzle over a little olive oil, and roast for 45 minutes or until sweet, soft and golden.
2 Remove the vegetables from the oven, allow to cool a little and use a potato masher to mash them all up.
3 Put the tray of mashed vegetables on the hob. Add the flour and stir it in for a couple of minutes. Add the cider and the stock and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to mix in all the good sticky bits from the tray.
4 Sieve the gravy and keep in the fridge until needed. Reheat with a little extra hot water or vegetable stock.
Miso roast squash and potatoes with almonds and kale
This recipe saves a lot of work, as squash, potatoes and greens can be cooked together in one tray. The chilli, miso and lemon combo is a great foil for some of the richer seasonal dishes.
500g small potatoes, scrubbed clean
700g butternut or other squash
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white miso
2 tbsp harissa
Juice of 1 lemon
100g kale, de-stemmed and shredded
100g toasted almonds
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut the potatoes into halves or quarters no larger than your thumb.
2 Cut the squash in half lengthways (no need to peel), use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then cut into 2cm slices.
3 In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, miso, harissa and lemon juice.
4 Put the potatoes and squash on to a baking tray with half the harissa mixture. Toss well, using your hands, to make sure everything is coated. Roast for 40-45 minutes until everything is cooked through and browning at the edges. Turn everything once or twice to make sure it browns evenly, and keep a close eye on it as it can burn in a flash.
5 Add the shredded kale and roast for a final 10 minutes. It should crisp up a little. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon over the remaining dressing and scatter with the toasted almonds.
Golden crusted brussels sprouts
This dish has had many devoted sprout haters reaching for a second helping.
250ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1kg brussels sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
100g gruyere cheese, to serve
1 Set the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Heat the vinegar and spices in a pan until warm, but don’t boil.
2 Trim the stems of the sprouts, remove any raggedy outer leaves, and cut each in half. Put them into a bowl and pour the hot pickling liquid over. Leave to sit for at least 1 hour and up to 4. Drain the sprouts, discarding the pickling liquid, and put them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil and a couple of pinches of salt.
3 Heat a large heavy baking tray on the hob, add a little more olive oil, then put the sprouts into the tray, ideally cut-side down, but no need to be too precious. Cook on the hob for a minute or two to start the browning. Cover the tray with foil, transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
4 Remove from the oven, turn the sprouts over with a spatula and put them back for a further 10 minutes. They are ready when they are tender inside, and crisp and golden on the outside. Finish with a few grinds of pepper and a dusting of grated gruyere.
Gingerbread and cranberry tart (accidentally vegan)
This tart is lighter than a lot of Christmas desserts – after a big, rich meal I don’t want a heavy, stodgy pudding. I serve it with coconut yoghurt whipped up with some vanilla seeds so my whole family can eat it, but it would be equally good with cream or custard.
For the oat and pecan crust
140g rolled oats
60g pecans, chopped
90g runny honey or blackstrap molasses
100g coconut oil or melted butter
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
A good pinch of salt
75g wholemeal flour
For the cranberry filling
2 pears, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tbsp chia seeds
100ml apple juice or water
300g fresh cranberries
100g light brown sugar or coconut sugar
60g coconut oil, melted
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 clementine, zest only
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put all of the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix.
2 Grease a 24cm loose-bottomed tart tin with a little coconut oil and press the crust mix evenly into the bottom. There’s no need to push it up the sides. Put the pear slices in a single layer on top of the crust.
3 Combine the chia seeds with 100ml of apple juice or water and set aside until they come together to form a gel.
4 Mix the cranberries with the remaining ingredients, stir until well combined, then add the chia mixture. Pour the cranberry filling on top of the crust and pear layer and spread evenly. Bake for 35-45 minutes.
5 Allow the tart to cool completely before removing it from the tin. Serve with coconut yoghurt or whipped cream.
- Anna Jones is a chef, writer and author of A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook (Fourth Estate); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food