Vegetarian Christmas recipes from Gaia's Kitchen (2024)

Since 1991 Schumacher College in Devon has built a reputation for its organic cuisine, which participants on courses help to prepare. Six years ago the college published its cookbook, Gaia's Kitchen which collected together the most popular recipes used during the first 10 years. These are some of our festive recipes.

Cheese, cashew and walnut roast

This delicious, succulent, nut roast has left many carnivores wondering why they bother. It is an excellent substitute for turkey at Christmas or roast beef on a regular Sunday. Serve it with plenty of seasonal vegetables and lashings of rich sherry sauce (recipe below).

Serves at least six.

175g (6oz) onion, finely diced
175g (6oz) chopped mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red pepper, finely diced
2-3 sticks celery, finely diced
1 tbsp mixed herbs

250g (9oz) cooked brown rice (about 100g/3½oz before cooking)
110g (4oz) walnuts, finely chopped
110g (4oz) cashew pieces
5 medium eggs
175g (6oz) cottage cheese
340g (12oz) grated cheese (including cheddar, smoked cheddar and red Leicester)
50ml (2 fl oz) chopped fresh herbs (including parsley, rosemary and thyme)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

1. Sauté the onion and celery in olive oil until they begin to go transparent.

2. Add the mushrooms, garlic, red pepper, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook until mixture is soft, stirring regularly to avoid burning.

3. Combine the cooked ingredients with all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

4. Line a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment. The simplest way to do this is to use two pieces that will cross over on the base of the tin - a narrow one for the length of the tin and a wide one for the width. Fill to, at most, 7cm (3 inches) deep. Fold over paper, to help prevent drying out. If the mixture is too deep, the outside may get rather leathery before the inside is properly set. Avoid using ordinary, old-fashioned greaseproof paper as it lacks the non-stick properties of silicone parchment and this is a very sticky mixture. If you have to use it, make sure it is generously buttered.

5. Bake at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) for 1-1½ hours until firm. A knife inserted will come out wet but relatively clean showing that the eggs have set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for five to 10 minutes before turning out and serving. Garnish with roughly chopped parsley. Carve into generous slices. Can also be served cold.

Note: For a dairy-free version you can omit the cheese, and also the eggs if necessary. Instead add 250g of crumbled tofu to the mixture.

Sherry sauce

A rich vegetarian gravy to accompany nut roast, freshly cooked local veggies and roast potatoes. You should be able to find yeast flakes available at your local health food store, but they can be left out if necessary.

Serves six to eight.

600ml (1 pint) stock
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
4 tbsp plain white flour
1 tsp dried marjoram
50ml (2 fl oz) sunflower oil
20g (¾ oz) butter
2 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
50ml (2 fl oz ) medium sherry
2 cloves crushed garlic
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the nutritional yeast flakes, dried marjoram and flour in a saucepan large enough to hold the total volume of liquid in the recipe (about 1litre). Turn the heat on and stir these dry ingredients briefly with a wooden spoon until they get hot and begin to give off a nutty, toasty smell.

2. Add the oil and butter and continue to cook, stirring regularly, for two minutes.

3. Whisk in the stock and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. If stock is not available, add water and season with additional vegetable stock powder/cubes after you have added the soy sauce or tamari (other wise it may be too salty). The water your carrots have been boiled in will make a good stock if you can get your timing right.

3. Add the soy/tamari, mustard, garlic and pepper and sherry. Cook for a further two minutes. Thin if necessary. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot.

Note: For a wheat-free version cornflour or arrowroot can be used as a substitute for white flour.

Almond sesame biscuits

Vegetarian Christmas recipes from Gaia's Kitchen (1)

So that you can have biscuits whenever you want you can make up more of the mixture than you need and save half. The reserved half can be rolled into 5cm logs, wrapped in clingfilm or butter paper and frozen or refrigerated. When required the logs can be de-frosted and, while still cold, sliced into ½ cm rounds with a bread knife. A very useful standby when unexpected guests arrive to wish you a happy new year!

Grinding the whole almonds with their skins on gives extra roughage and a fresher almond taste. The appearance of the biscuits can be varied with the shapes you cut and with what you put on top - a single almond (whole or blanched), or a dense freckling of seeds. For marzipan lovers, a few drops of pure natural almond essence/oil can be added to the mixture to intensify the flavour.

Makes 30 biscuits.

200g (7oz) unbleached plain flour
50g (2oz) almonds, ground
100g (3½oz) muscovado sugar
1 egg yolk
125g (4½oz) butter
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp tahini
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Milk to brush the biscuits
Almonds, sesame seeds, and/or sunflower seeds for decoration
A few drops of natural almond essence/oil (optional)

1. Measure all dry ingredients into a bowl. The muscovado sugar should be delumped by hand or run through a coarse sieve. If you are grinding your own almonds, weigh them whole, then use in a coffee orspice grinder, or food processor, not a goblet liquidiser.

2. Slice butter into dry ingredients and leave in a warm place to soften if necessary. Lightly rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until you achieve a breadcrumb-like consistency.

3. Add the egg and tahini and stir together with a wooden spoon until you can press the mixture into a firm yet pliable dough with your hands. Add more egg or a drop of oil if necessary.

4. Line your baking tray with parchment or oil with sunflower oil.

5. Lightly flour a flat, clean, surface. It is probably easiest to roll out a grapefruit-sized ball of dough at a time. Use a floured rolling pin, and press the dough together at the edges with your fingers where it splits. Roll out thinly (about ½ cm) and use a pastry cutter to cut into rounds, stars, Christmas trees or other shapes. Dip the cutters in flour if they start to stick. Line up biscuits on an your prepared baking tray leaving a little gap between each of about 1cm.

6. Brush biscuits sparingly with milk then either press a whole almond into the centre of each biscuit, or take a little saucer of sesame seeds and press the inverted biscuit into them, milk side down, to give a nice even, well-glued coating. The same can be done with sunflower seeds.

8. Bake biscuits at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) for 15-20 minutes - though it's advisable to check them for even cooking after 10 minutes and move the tray around if necessary. They should be golden brown when cooked with a slightly more foxy shade at the edges. Allow them to cool for several minutes before removing from the trays. When completely cold, these biscuits will store well in an airtight tin.

· Gaia's Kitchen is available from bookshops for £12.95. You can buy a copy from the Guardian Bookshop.

Vegetarian Christmas recipes from Gaia's Kitchen (2024)


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