With the announcement of bird flu causing potential turkey shortages and price increases, perhaps it a chance to try something new this year. Christmas is all about traditions, from putting up the Christmas tree; watching heart-warming festive films with a cup of hot chocolate, or leaving a carrot and some mulled wine for Santa’s visit on Christmas eve. However, maybe it’s time for some of these rituals to be tweaked; particularly when it comes to that all important Christmas meal. Turkey is renowned for its dry texture and lack of flavour. Or maybe like me, this is your first Christmas as a vegetarian/ vegan and you want a festive alternative. Ella Pilson suggests alternatives to turkey at Christmas.
Back in time, boars, peacocks and pheasants would have adorned the Christmas table. Turkeys only being introduced in England in the 1520s. I’m not saying you have to go all Henry VIII but why not try a different meat? Chicken is a common favourite, being similar to Turkey in look, taste and texture- but much more succulent. It can be made Christmassy with your favourite festive spices and herbs. Whether it’s stuffed, honey glazed or clementine infused. This ‘crispy sage and lemon roast chicken’ sounds like you’re on to a winner. Like Turkey, it is versatile being able to cater for one or larger family gatherings.
Alternatively, perhaps you prefer some rich red meat; making sure to add those Christmas flavourings; such as ‘roast pork belly with citrus and star anise’ or ‘mulled-wine glazed ham’. Likewise, if you’re a beef-eater this ‘smoky rib of beef with lemon and poppy seed roots’ or ‘pomegranate- glazed roast beef’ sound particularly juicy. This “Spiced Roast Duck with clementines and a maple and mustard glaze” also sounds like a real show-stopper. Perhaps, something a bit simpler, using those classic crowd-pleaser combos such as pork and apple. Or something a bit fishy. Whilst this seems a bit unconventional at Christmas; it is a good alternative for the health conscious and any pescatarians. From “Baked Salmon fillet with pickled cranberries , parsley and pistachios” to ‘Salmon Kedgeree pie’ or ‘roast trout and new potatoes’ with herb butter.
You can create some really mouth-watering veggie dishes, incorporating seasonal vegetables and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to create that Christmassy feel
Personally, I am biased to this choice. I think this is an amazing opportunity to find a new dish whilst also being more environmentally friendly. A plant-based diet decreasing greenhouse emissions by 70%! What’s more- you can make these ahead easily, making it a much more calming and relaxing day than worrying about turkey timings!
Most obvious for plant-based eaters is a nut roast. Personally, I love nuts so this will probably be my direction and means I don’t miss out on my mum’s roast potatoes! This ‘mushroom nut roast tart with pesto’ sounds particularly appetising. But for some a roast just doesn’t do it. You can create some really mouth-watering veggie dishes, incorporating seasonal vegetables and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to create that Christmassy feel. Such as a vegetable wellington– buttery pastry filled with your choice of vegetable. Also, this ‘vegan mushroom hotpot’ and ‘beetroot and red onion tarte tatin’ sound particularly warming and rich. What’s more some of these can make really eye-catching show pieces such as this ‘Jewelled squash, chestnut and mushroom wreath’ or ‘vegan rainbow pie’ making that first slice extra-special. If anything, this can be a great way to use up left-over Christmas vegetables after the big day. This “Leek, Mushroom and goat’s cheese strudel” sounds like a cheese-lovers paradise. Plant-based also allows for more versatility, using traditional Christmas flavours in a new way, if you’re a pasta-maniac this ‘parsnip gnocchi’ sounds particularly inviting.
I have also found red cabbage to be tasty and underestimated side dish
Perhaps, if you are a stickler for change you could enhance the Christmas turkey with some new flavour-packed side-dishes. If you do decide to go plant-based you also don’t have to miss out on those family favourites like pigs in blankets, “Plant Kitchen” and other brands branching out to include a veggie substitute. Or, innovative substitutes such as ‘Pigs in Maple Parsnip Blankets’. But for those who would just like to embellish the traditional turkey, there is still some pretty mouth-watering side-dishes. From Mary Berry’s stuffing to one of my personal favourites- creamy cauliflower cheese. Recently, I have also found red cabbage to be tasty and underestimated side dish. Cost-efficient and really easy to make, be sure to add it to your Christmas shopping list. They key is to let it slow- cook. Simply, shred, plonk in a saucepan add vegetable stock, onion, and maybe a bit of apple if you’re feeling fancy. Let it reduce and simmer then add all those aromatic spices-cinnamon and allspice. Also, jazz up the brussels, such as this “Roast Sprouts with Walnuts and Pomegranate’ or for something a bit simpler ‘Sprouts with Crispy Bacon’.
Thus, you shouldn’t feel the need to continue the turkey ritual, go with your families preferences; get creative and start your own tradition! Hopefully I have persuaded you of some of the gains in going meat-free. If not, at least some tasty alternatives to the boring old dry turkey.
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