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Centring plants on the Christmas table

News | Published  23 November 2023

Christmas is a time of celebration and indulgence, but plants can often be sidelined. We spoke to Annabelle Randles (known as The Flexitarian online) about her experience growing up in France and how she centres plants on her festive table.

My earliest recollections of Christmas are filled with memories of family gatherings, presents, and food (lots of food). In France, celebrations typically extend from December 24th to December 25th and my mum would outdo herself by preparing a multitude of dishes featuring French “delicacies” such snail, pigeon, quail, foie gras, turkey, ham, bacon and so on. When it came to the holiday season, the more meat … the better. Vegetables were pretty much an afterthought. Fast forward to 2023 and things could not be more different. 

Today, Christmas is very much of a plant-centric affair in our house. For many years now, we have made a conscious effort to have a “less meat” Christmas to help reduce our festive footprint, support animal welfare, and by extension be kinder on our wallet and waistline. It has been a transformative experience where the emphasis is on how much more plant-based dishes and choice there is for everyone.

It is estimated that in the UK alone almost 10 million turkeys are consumed each Christmas. The majority will have been raised in overcrowded intensive farms with little regards to their welfare.This is as far as I can imagine from the spirit of kindness and compassion associated with the holiday season.

I lost my appetite for meat some years ago and nowadays I very much enjoy cooking a plant-centric feast that everyone can enjoy together. It does take a little bit of planning, but I like getting creative exploring different flavours and combinations. I have three main rules: keep it colourful, local and seasonal.

Here are some of my favourite things to prepare:

Creative starters and nibbles:

  • Canapés are always a crowd-pleaser in our house and vegetarian pâté makes a very tasty alternative to foie gras. 
  • Meat-free sausage rolls can be prepared ahead.
  • Crudités and dips make a healthy and refreshing addition.
  • Try mushroom tartlets or vol-au-vents for an easy yet impressive party nibble.
  • Bruschettas are really versatile and can be whipped up at the last minute.

Meat-free main dishes: 

  • A vegetarian pithivier or Wellington pie always make an indulgent and attractive meat-free centrepiece. You can save time by buying ready-made pastry. 
  • Nut roasts and lentil loaves are always popular and can be prepared ahead. 
  • Terrines layered with vegetables make an eye-catching main option.
  • If you are looking for the extra wow factor, why not make a veggie wreath filled with vegetables and herbs?

Side dishes: 

  • Skip the meat-based trimmings and serve extra vegetables instead

“If you need that extra depth of flavour, try adding a dash of soy sauce, smoked paprika, or liquid smoke.”

  • Fill up the table with lots of plant-based side dishes. Roasted vegetables are always popular at this time of the year but for something different try quinoa or barley salad, shaved Brussels sprouts, slaws, hasselback butternut squash or potatoes.
  • Homemade cranberry sauce is a must as it pairs well with so many different foods.

Gravy:

  • Prepare a delicious gravy to compliment your dishes. I like to use porcini mushrooms, vegetable stock, shallots and a dash of (dairy-free) cream.

This recipe below was originally published in Annabelle Randles' (The Flexitarian) Less Meat, More Plants cookbook.


Contribution by:

The Flexitarian
Annabelle Randles
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Annabelle is passionate about food and the environment. She hopes her vegan and vegetarian recipes and eco tips will inspire you to embrace "more of" a plant-based diet and green lifestyle.