Eyeing up Christmas recipes is one of my favourite activities, so as soon as I heard about this book by Gaz Oakley, I knew that I needed it. But truthfully, I don’t really approve of changes to my Christmas meals. I know what I like, and I’m a bit wary of any radical additions or extractions from our festive traditions. So I’m not sure how many of these dishes I’ll make actually at Christmas, but I was very excited to try them! Here’s what I’ve made so far from the different sections of the book.
The eagle-eyed among you may notice that I transformed the sweet potato waffles with sauteed mushrooms into pancakes, as I don’t have a waffle iron. No tweaks were needed to the recipe, the batter was already perfect pancake consistency. I omitted the maple syrup as I was worried it would turn out too sweet, and I think I made the right choice – I also added some garlic to the mushrooms to keep it good and savoury. The recipe should have made 2 waffles, but I got six fat little pancakes out of it, and they were delicious! We actually had this for dinner rather than breakfast, and I think they would work either way – though it was a pretty hearty meal, and I try not to go too big for Christmas breakfast, so I wouldn’t serve them on the day itself. Definitely tasty though!
Party food and light bites:
The parsnip and vanilla soup proved a little divisive. I used vanilla essence instead of the recommended paste, and though I added just a splash the soup ended up a bit too sweet for Dr HH. I was expecting to have a similar response, but actually I didn’t think the sweetness was a problem, but the flavours weren’t quite balanced correctly. Either way, we won’t be revisiting this one.
I’m a big fan of Welsh rarebit, aka fancy cheese on toast. The cheese sauce was easy to make and really flavoursome, and the caramelised onions were a nice touch. I’ll definitely revisit this recipe.
The recipe for fish finger sliders also includes bread buns and mayo, but I stuck to just the fish fingers themselves due to laziness. They were nice and simple to make, and the texture was great, but they didn’t taste particularly fishy, despite the nori placed on the tofu. Next time I’d pulse some dill and possibly even more nori into the breadcrumbs to up the ante a bit.
I believe this was the first vegan quiche I’ve ever made, and it was the biggest success of the book! First of all, there was nooch in the pastry – what a brilliant idea! And secondly, the filling was just delicious too. I used smoked tempeh instead of the recommended homemade bacon, and I’m happy with that shortcut. I thought this was going to be a really stressful ordeal, but it was actually really easy and I’ll certainly be making it again. It was so good!
Well, this is obviously the most important section of the book, but I haven’t had a chance to get stuck into it yet – I’ve been trying to get my hands on some of the ingredients. This section will feature more heavily in Part Two of this review.
All the trimmings:
Is there any better side dish than cauliflower cheese? Well, truthfully I made this herb-crusted cauliflower and leek cheese as a main instead of a side, and it was autumnal perfection. There are leeks as well as cauliflower, the cheese sauce is delicious, and the crumbs on top give it a great texture. I don’t really like tampering with our classic Christmas sides, but I would certainly make an exception for this delightful concoction.
I almost never make curries, because why make curry for a man who was raised on it? But I gave this Christmas korma a go, and I’m glad of it – even Dr HH didn’t have a bad word to say about it. We used a really weird shop bought seitan rather than homemade leftovers, and it had a very strange texture, but otherwise the curry was lovely.
Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are probably the only thing I really miss since going vegan, and they are inherently Christmassy, so I was very excited to try the chocolate orange raw cheesecake. It was easier to make than I expected, though I was very concerned that both layers were extremely thin and liquid when I added them to the cake. It firmed up just fine though, if a bit creamier than a cheesecake usually is. The nutty base was absolutely delicious, and the orange layer was lovely, but the chocolate was really lost – I’d recommend adding a good bit more cocoa powder than the recipe called for.
We don’t have many cookie cutters with us in Prague, so the Christmas cookies had to be either Star Wars or dinosaur themed. Dino it was! Even with these fiddly and quite delicate shapes, the biscuits held really well – I think only one of them broke in transit. They were tasty and crisp, and really really good.
Dr HH has recently become a homemade Bounty bar enthusiast, so he took the helm for these coconut Bounties. He reported that this recipe was better than the one he was using before, and made for a creamier filling. The chocolate didn’t end up very smooth, but we’ve put that down to human error rather than the recipe.
It’s been a very exciting book thus far! One thing I wasn’t very keen on was that the writer repeatedly uses quotation marks to show that these are definitely veganised dishes: “fish” fingers, chocolate “cheesecake”, etc. Personally I don’t think that’s necessary. I like a bit more patter before each recipe as well, especially in something like a Christmas book where he could have really personalised it. But the recipes have been great, and I’m excited to see how I get on with the centre pieces in November – wish me luck making seitan for the first time ever!