Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Bite-Sized Christmas, 2011

My parent's tree, somewhat more impressive than our mini version

I always find the aftermath of Christmas to be slightly odd. There is a quietness, even slothfulness, in how I visualise the last few days of December. Once I found this quite difficult (I'm not really a sloth by nature) but now I don't really mind the lull, and find it makes a nice contrast between the busyness prior to Christmas and the 'newness' of the New Year when January rolls around.

Moving back a step, though, Christmas day itself was a good day. Mr Bite and I tend to separate to our respective families for the main lunch, as neither of our families is really big enough to cope with the absence of one family member. Similarly, neither family is well suited to having a dinner instead of lunch (or a Christmas Eve celebration instead of Christmas Day).

Given this, we have hit on the system of having the morning to ourselves at home, separating to our respective families around midday, and reconvening in the evening. This year I went to his family on Christmas evening, whilst he came to visit mine on Christmas Eve.

In my family, Christmas day traditionally starts with stockings, then breakfast, then 'tree' presents, then lunch. Arriving after 12pm means that the first two items in that list happen at my own house, and lunch started after 1.30pm. This suits me fine, a later meal allowing me to build up sufficient appetite for the occasion!

Our main Christmas meal has followed a similar pattern for as long as I can remember. The dishes follow a traditional theme, with the exception of a starter salad, which is more typically Australian;

To start-
  • Salad with mango, avocado, prawns and a creamy dill dressing

The main-
  • Roast turkey with gravy and/or cranberry sauce, and stuffing
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Brocolli and cauliflower in cheese sauce
  • Baby carrots
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chipolata sausages, the only time of year I ate them as a child

After a decent pause, dessert-

As soon as I was old enough to express taste preferences, I had my starter salad without avocado and dressing; my broccoli and cauliflower without cheese sauce; skipped the brussels sprouts; and skipped the Christmas pudding / mince pies / Christmas cake aspects of dessert. I also dropped the sausages towards the end of my teen years.

This year, of course, things were somewhat different!

After ending up with an amazing array of vegetarian and vegan Christmas meal choices, I settled on three as my contributions to Christmas lunch: 

All had the advantage of being able to be made in advance, and I also served the quinoa dish cold, thus minimising re-heating work on the day.

Picking a nut roast was hard, given how many choices there were, but I was so glad I settled on the purple option. The novelty of using beetroot and the interesting flavouring components (marmite, smoked paprika) were what sold it to me in the end. 

I used 2 beetroot and 2 carrots instead of the recommended 1 of each, and had to settle on regular varieties rather than heirloom ones (which I have never been able to find). Thus, my final product was less purple than Johanna's. It was still colourful enough to entertain me. I increased the flavouring components slightly to counter the extra vegetables, and probably could have done so to an even greater extent, but didn't change anything else.

I was delighted with how this turned out. Not having had nut roast before, I wasn't sure what to expect and was concerned it might be stodgy and dense. However, I really enjoyed both the texture and flavour. For lack of another comparison, I found it like a particularly good veggie burger. Slightly sweet, slightly crunchy from the nuts, with a mix of enjoyable flavours.

My only fault in the roast was one I brought about myself, in that I under-cooked it by about 10 minutes when I made it, thinking that would prevent burning when it was re-heated at my parent's. However, I think that contributed to the centre being very slightly soft. This didn't detract from the eating experience, but did make it slightly harder to cut. Next time I would bake it for the full time initially and just cover with foil to prevent excess crispiness on re-heating.

With the side dishes, the cinnamon sweet potato chickpea salad was incredibly easy. It was also incredibly delicious. I can see myself making this for work lunches on a regular basis.

This is also a good dish to make in advance, because it can go back in the oven to re-heat quite happily - although I think serving it cold would also work.

The quinoa dish was one I expected to like more than I did. Something about the flavours didn't quite work for me, although I didn't actively dislike the dish either. I usually like fruit in quinoa (and rice) dishes, but perhaps this particular combination just wasn't to my tastes.

I found it slightly too sweet but also slightly lacking in depth - I think perhaps it needed some more savoury components to round it out. Generally I add dried fruit to quinoa cooked in vegetable stock, whereas this had cinnamon and maple as the base flavours.

It did photograph beautifully though, and it was suitably Christmassy.

In the main, my family stuck to their traditional Christmas fare, but my Mum tried some of each of the vegetarian dishes and reported liking all. The sweet potato and chickpea dish was also tried by most people, given that it was easy to take a small amount, and was well liked.

All in all, I was happy with the dishes and will definitely be making the nut roast and sweet potato and chickpea dishes again. I left the table feeling very satisfied, and found pairing the plain vegetables from my Mum's selection with these vegetarian dishes made for a perfect Christmas meal.

I was, as always, also left feeling lucky to have family to celebrate with on Christmas, to be healthy enough to do so, and to have those I care about healthy too. It was a Merry Christmas and I hope yours was too!


  1. I made that sweet potato chickpea salad for an Easter potluck last year.. it is quite good! I haven't made it since, though.
    My boyfriend and I spend Christmas eve with my parents (my family has always celebrated in the evening on Christmas eve) and stayed the night at his parents for Chirstmas day. It works out quite nice as our parents live about 5 minutes away from each other and we live about 30 minutes North of them.

    Today was odd... it somewhat felt like we are still in holiday mode as neither of us are working or in school, but it's also Monday and there are things to be done.

  2. Merry Christmas beautiful! (I feel like I've said this several times of late :P) Well done to you for creating vegan options! I'm not really allowed to be strictly vegan, so I usually have some turkey but pass on the ham at our very-traditional lunch. I'm still yet to try a nut roast, but this does sound wonderful!

    P.S. You know the issue with the quinoa salad, right? The mandarin :P
    P.P.S. Actually, I totally do eat mandarins. I'm such a liar.

  3. Love the wavy patterns on the nut roast and am very excited that you made one. I think the purple one is a good one for Christmas - though it is a bit chunky and not a great one to cut - mine that I use for christmas has a lot of breadcrumbs which I think makes it easier to cut. I cook mine for about 60 minutes and take it to my mum's where she reheats it in the oven - in my experience, you are better at overcooking than undercooking nut roasts - a bit of gravy or sauce can help with a dry one. And vegan ones tend to have softer centres.

    We have done well in having an exchange of recipes for Christmas day - I will post about the cranberry rolls soon. Your christmas sounds lovely and thoughtful - glad your dishes worked - my experience of christmas as a vegetarian was that the first christmas it felt a bit odd but gradually it has been part of the changes in the family christmas dinner. I like all the green on the table - is the table linen a tradition or do you have different ones each year

  4. I know exactly what you mean about the lull between Christmas and New Years and now I find myself a bit at a loose end, except when I'm waiting on poor hubby x

  5. Merry Christmas - your holiday looks like it was delicious!

  6. Clearly the sweet potato dish works for all manner of occasions :)

    I like that your boyfriend and you have a good routine worked out. Close distances help too! I hope you enjoyed your celebrations.

  7. Thank you Hannah :) And whilst I too like mandarins, I think they could well have had something to do with the quinoa salad not working!

  8. Thanks for your nut roast tops Johanna - I do think that overcooking might be wiser than undercooking. Mind you, this was pretty good as it was and I didn't feel the need for gravy (although did have some cranberry sauce!). I'm really thrilled you had the cranberry rolls at your end too - about to go catch up on your posts.

    The green table mats have been around since I was about 2 I think! A tradition in the sense that we haven't got any other Christmassy things, so they come out every year :P

  9. I hope he's healing! That probably isn't the sort of time filler you really wanted...

  10. Thank you - I hope yours was too!

  11. Good to hear that you enjoyed your first nut roast and had an enjoyable Christmas! I have had trouble with them being a little soft in the centre at times and increased the baking time over what the recipe stated. I must try this purple nut roast one day...

  12. I think increasing the baking time might be sensible - next time I'll be doing the same. And yes, try this! It's good.


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