Panic-free Veggie Christmas Lunch

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Christmas is such a strange mix of being totally magical and completely frenetic.  Watching the kids sheer wonder and excitement of all things Christmassy really warms my heart and makes me think I can really nail this whole parenting thing after all! But on the other hand, it is SUCH a busy time of the year, I am as guilty as anyone of running myself completely ragged trying to do it all and make everything ‘perfect’.  The nativity plays, the carol concerts, the bake sales, the theatre trips, the Santa’s grottos, the extra clients to fit in before the holidays and the hosting are all LOVELY things on paper, but when you are literally smacked in the face with all of them at the exact same time, it can get a little overwhelming to say the least...and don’t even get me started on the bloody Elf on the Shelf!

So if you are the ones that are actually entertaining over the Christmas period it’s enough to send any sane and normal human being slightly doolally! So I decided to collate some of my favourite veggie side dishes that can very helpfully be prepped in advance, with minimal amount of work to do on the actual day - so that you don’t get your tinsel in a tangle!

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·     Brussel Sprouts sautéed in Marmite Butter, topped with fried Chestnuts.
·      Smokey Roasted Golden Beets on a bed of Rose Harissa & Homemade Labneh. 
·     Tangy Balsamic Red Cabbage with Juniper Berries.
·     Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Turmeric Tahini Drizzle topped with Pomegranate and Spiced Toasted Seeds. 

I love how veggies are now no longer just an after thought, but are taking more of a central role in meals.  Thanks to, in part the amazing Yotam Ottolenghi and his wondrous vegetable creations.  My 11-year-old self would have positively shuddered at the mere thought of what I am about to say next, but I bloody love brussels sprouts! These ones in particular, have the most wonderful umami flavour thanks to the marmite butter, which is a total revelation with the sautéed chestnuts. The tangy balsamic red cabbage can be made in advance and frozen, ready to be defrosted and re-heated on the day. 

Smokey Beetroot with Harissa Labneh

The smokey beets on a bed of harissa and labneh is a middle eastern inspired dish that sounds super fancy but is actually surprisingly easy to put together and the combination of flavours here work like a charm.  Both the beetroot and the roasted carrot dishes can be enjoyed either hot, warm or cold.  This is great because it gives us more flexibility in case we get the timings slightly skew-whiff....which is a distinct possibility when cooking turkey for the masses! 


NOTE – I am not giving specific amounts/measurements for the veggies because it depends on the amount of people you are cooking for, how many side dishes you are doing, or whether you are vegetarian and these are the main dishes instead.

For the Marmite Sprouts:

·     Brussel Sprouts
·     50g Butter
·     1 tsp Marmite
·     A big handful of pre-cooked Chestnuts (I used Merchant Gourmet) 

Note:  This makes extra butter that can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge to enjoy with any sautéed veggies (leeks and courgettes also work very well).

For the Braised Red Cabbage

·     2 tbsp Butter
·     3 Red Onions
·     1 Small Red Cabbage 
·     4 Garlic Cloves 
·     2 tbsp sugar (I used Xylitol)
·     2 Apples - peeled and grated
·     2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
·     100ml red wine
·     1 tbsp Juniper Berries (Optional)
·      1 heaped tbsp Cranberry Sauce (Optional)
·     Salt 
·     Fresh Black Pepper  

For the Smokey Roasted Beets

·     Beeroot
·     1 tsp Smoked Paprika
·     Olive Oil for roasting
·     1 tsp Garlic Granules
·     ½ tsp Chipotle Chilli Flakes
·     450g Greek Yogurt
·     Hariisa Paste (I used Belazu Rose Harissa)
·     Salt 
·     Fresh Black Pepper 
·     Chilli Oil to finish 

For the Roasted Carrots

·     Carrots
·     Olive Oil
·     1 tsp Turmeric Powder
·     1 tsp Smoked Paprika
·     1 tsp Garlic Granules
·     Handful of Pomegranate Seeds
·     Mixed Seeds
·     Salt 
·     Fresh Black Pepper  

For the drizzle

·     1 tbsp dried Dill
·     ½ tbsp Turmeric Powder
·     Juice and zest of 1 Lemon
·     30g Light Tahini
·     1 tsp Pomegranate Molasses or Maple Syrup
·     Water to thin as desired, 


For the Sprouts

A couple of days/the day before:

·     Blanch the sprouts - You do this by boiling them in hot water for 5 minutes and then plunging them into a big bowl of ice-cold water to stop them cooking more.  Strain the water off and pat the sprouts dry.  
·     Store in an airtight jar in the fridge until you are ready to sauté.
·     Make the butter – You do this by softening 50g butter and mixing it with 1 teaspoon of Marmite.  
·     Store in an airtight jar in the fridge – it lasts for weeks.
·     Dry fry the chestnuts – You do this by chopping a big handful of pre-cooked chestnuts. 
·     In a clean frying pan (no oil), dry fry the chopped chestnuts over a medium heat, making sure you toss the pan regularly so they don’t burn. 
·     Set aside to cool and store in an airtight jar. 

On the day:

·     Halve the sprouts and simply sauté them in some of the marmite butter until they start to brown.  
·     Add a generous handful of the chestnuts and serve immediately. 

For the Braised Cabbage

Can be made a few days before and kept in the fridge, or else made in advance and frozen.

·     Discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut into quarters and remove the hard inner stalk.
·     Finely shred the rest of the cabbage. 
·     Peel and thinly slice the garlic.
·     Peel and slice the red onions.
·     Peel, core and grate the apple.
·     In a large saucepan, heat the butter and sauté the onions until they just to brown.
·     Add the garlic for one more minute before adding the cabbage and apples.  
·     Stir well.  
·     Sprinkle over the sugar and balsamic vinegar and combine well.
·     Add the juniper berries (if using) and the red wine.
·     Bring the wine to the boil, and then put a lid on it and turn down the heat.
·     Cook it slowly for at least an hour, mixing it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick at the bottom.
·     Mix in the cranberry sauce 10 minutes before the end.
·     Season with salt and pepper to taste.
·      Once cooled, it can be frozen or put in the fridge in an airtight container for several days.
·      On the day – simply warm it up in a saucepan and serve. 

For the Roasted Beets & Labneh

The night before:

·     Mix a little salt with a pot of full fat Greek yogurt and place it in a muslin or linen cloth. 
·     Then place the yogurt cloth in a sieve with a bowl underneath it to let all of the liquid drain off. 
·     Leave in the fridge over night (or for at least 5 hours) and wake up to creamy dreamy perfection! 

On the day:

·     Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.
·     Wash and cut the beetroot into cubes.
·     On a roasting tray, toss the beets with olive oil and sprinkle with some garlic granules, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and chipotle chilli flakes. 
·     Combine well.
·     Roast for 30 minutes. 
·     To serve - spread the labneh out on a plate, add a few spoonfuls oRose Harissa, top with roasted beets and a drizzle of chilli oil. 

For the Roasted Carrots

A few days before:

·     Make the drizzle – combine all of the ingredients for the drizzle and use ice-cold water to thin as desired.  
·     Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. 

On the day:

·     Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.
·     Wash and slice the carrots lengthways.
·     On a roasting tray, drizzle the carrots with some olive oil, toss with turmeric and smoked paprika, salt & pepper. 
·     Roast for half an hour or until just starting to brown.
·     Add a mixture of seeds for the last 10 minutes of roasting, and combine well.
·     When the carrots are ready, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds to serve.