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Soy to the World ! Christmas Cooking for Visiting Vegans

Updated on October 6, 2013


One of the most common mistakes made by non-vegetarian cooks preparing a meal for vegetarians is to assume that it must include some foodstuff that is a direct substitute for the missing meat. This approach ignores the profusion of delicious recipes that come from all over the world that were designed to function entirely without a meat component.

So… if you’re worried about cooking for a vegetarian in your family during the holiday season, with this Hub I'll try to tell you what you might do and need to know before you start cooking this holiday season.

Getting Started

You can start off by finding out what type of vegetarian your guest is. For instance, if he or she is a strict vegan, then there’s a chance they will not eat food that contains honey or yeast; however, if they're a “semi” or “pseudo” vegetarian, there is a chance they will actually eat the meal as it is prepared, including the meat. And if he or she’s a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, they might eat anything with eggs and milk, but will probably avoid meat dishes.

Five questions you should ask

If you talk to the vegetarian in your family before you prepare your holiday meal, you should consider asking the following five questions:

1. Do you eat certain types of meat or none at all?

If the vegetarian in your family will eat certain meats (generally fish, chicken, and turkey), then you should consider preparing that as a side dish or asking them if they would like to bring a small dish of it for their own meal.

2. Will you use serving utensils that have been placed in dishes containing meat?

Some vegetarians experience severe gastrointestinal stress when they consume meat and grease from meat, so it is a good idea to find out whether or not they can do so ahead of time. If they can’t, you can simply put out one utensil for all non-meat dishes and ask that guests do not cross-contaminate.

3. Do you eat foods that contain milk and eggs?

As I mentioned above, lacto-ovo vegetarians will eat milk and eggs, but other sub-categories of vegetarian will not. Some won’t do it for health reasons; others won’t for ethical reasons. Whatever the case, you can get around this problem by either creating more dishes that do not contain milk and eggs or by using egg replacer, which you can find at most supermarkets, and milk replacements, such as soy milk.

4. Do you eat honey and yeast?

Some vegetarians do not eat honey and yeast for ethical reasons. If you find out that the vegetarian in your family does not eat honey and yeast ahead of time, you can either prepare alternate dishes or ask if they are willing to bring an alternate dish.

5. Would you like to bring your own main dish (to replace the turkey, ham, etc.)?

Some vegetarians eat popular meat-replacement dishes, such as “tofurkey” and “veggie burgers.” Your guest will probably be more than willing to bring her own meat-replacement dish if you ask.

Don't forget, that If you're serving wine or other alcoholic drinks, to get some which are suitable for vegans.

To reiterate, there are a number of things you should take into consideration when you cook for a vegetarian during the holiday season; however, the single most important thing you can do is actually approach the vegetarian and ask how you can accommodate them and if they would like to cook with you or bring their own dish. If you keep this in mind, your holiday meal will be a success with everyone - even the vegetarian in your family.

Menu Suggestions

To help you get started, here are some menu suggestions for you to consider but please remember there are so many recipes out there… just give them a try ! Enjoy.

  • Mushroom Wellington
  • Gratin Dauphinoise
  • Caramelized Carrots and Parsnips
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Braised Fennel
  • Large green salad (optional)
  • Fig Ice Cream (Turkish figs, dates, walnuts, pistachio nougat and dark chocolate truffles.)

Mushroom Wellington

Makes 2

This dish is time-consuming, but you can prepare it up tothe baking stage and freeze it weeks in advance. Before serving, remove the Wellington from the freezer and, after thawing, glaze the pastry with beaten egg and put it in a hot oven to bake for 45 minutes at 220C/425F/gas mark 7 until puffed and golden.


  • 680g (1lb 8oz) Onions
  • 565g (1lb 4oz) Puff Pastry
  • 450g (16oz) Chestnut Mushrooms
  • 340g (12oz) Cashew broken pieces
  • 340g (12oz) Ground Almonds
  • 170g (6oz) Fresh Breadcrumbs, white or whole meal
  • 55ml (2fl oz) Sunflower Oil
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 tbsp Sherry
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Tarragon
  • 1 Egg, beaten for glazing
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Roll out the pastry into two rectangles, 23x30.5cm (10x12 inch) each, cover and place in the fridge.

2. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion with half the crushed garlic for at least 20 minutes or until it turns a deep golden color. This is crucial, as pale onions will give an insipid mix. Remove onions from the pan and set aside, then add the mushrooms to the same pan with the rest of the garlic and half the tarragon and cook on a fairly high heat.

3. Halfway through cooking, add the soya sauce or tamari and the alcohol, if you are using it. Continue until the mushrooms are cooked through; there should be no white centre left when you cut one open. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside, reserving all the mushroom liquor (the intensely flavored liquid given out by the mushrooms).

4. In a food processor or blender, blend the cashews with the reserved mushroom liquor to a fine, smooth purée, adding a little water or even more of whichever alcohol you are using, until you have a smooth, sweet paste or pate.

5. Remove mixture from the blender and blend first the onions, then mushrooms – you can mix them up if you wish – until they are perfectly smooth.

6. Mix all the blended ingredients together in a bowl, adding the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and the remaining tarragon. The mixture should gently hold its shape when formed with the hands.

7. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Remove the pastry from the fridge.

8. Divide the mixture in two and place one lot on a sheet of pastry, shaping with your hands as you go to make a long rectangular shape about 28cm long, 7cm wide and about 5cm high.

9. With the thin point of a sharp knife, make diagonal cuts at a 45-degree angle, starting from the left hand corner of the pastry towards the pate mixture. Repeat on the other side, this time starting at the top right hand corner and cutting down towards the centre. The strips should now be about 2 cm (about 1 inch) apart.

10. Fold in the end pieces first. Then draw a strip over from the left, then one from the right, crossing them over (you can tug lightly at the strips if you need to) so the mix is snugly wrapped up. Repeat for the second wellington.

11. Either freeze at this stage or glaze generously with beaten egg. Place upon a floured tray, using two fish slices or the loose base of a tart tin to help you. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden.

12. Allow to cool for a few minutes before attempting to lift onto a serving dish. Once again you'll need the help of some implements.

13. Allow 2 perfect slices per person, cut with a very sharp serrated or electric knife.

To serve
Place the Wellington on your largest platter, surrounded by the roasted vegetables and the braised fennel. The gratin is creamy enough and the vegetables will ooze delicious juices of their own, but you can make a very quick sauce for the wellington if you wish:

Combine a few thinly sliced button mushrooms with a few wild ones. Slowly fry them in a knob of butter, seasoned with a little wine, salt, pepper and thickened with a dash of cream. Good old fashioned cranberry sauce goes very well too.

Gratin Dauphinoise

Serves 6

For this recipe, you can slice the potatoes the day before and keep them in cold water. Just drain them on the day you serve them and proceed with the recipe as set out below. You can even cook the gratin the night before and reheat it in the same oven as the wellington, covered with a piece of buttered foil or baking parchment to stop it from burning. For a really simple side, make Roast Potatoes.


  • 2lb (1kg) potatoes (waxy potatoes such as pink fir apple, russet)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 cups (50cl) whole milk
  • 5 oz (160g) French or Swiss Gruyère cheese
  • 1 pint double cream
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 360ºF (180 ºC). Slice the potatoes into thin slices (1/8 inch thick). Rinse in cold water. Drain and dry in a towel

2. Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with milk. Add salt

3. Bring to the boil starting at moderate heat for 5 minutes then low heat for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time.

4. Rub a fireproof dish with garlic and grease it well with butter. Transfer half of the potatoes in the gratin dish. Add half the cheese, double cream and pepper to the layer. Put the second half of the potatoes and cover with the cheese and double cream left.

5. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 1 hour at 360ºF (180 ºC). Gratin Dauphinoise is ready when the top is gold and brown.

Caramelized Carrots and Parsnips

Serves 6

  • 6 carrots
  • 6 parsnips
  • olive oil to coat
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4cm (1 inch) piece ginger
  • dash Tabasco
  • 1 mango, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the carrots and parsnips in halves or quarters lengthways.

2. In a bowl combine olive oil, maple syrup, ginger juice (grate the ginger then squeeze out the juice with your fingers), Tabasco, salt and pepper and the mango.

3. Put the carrots and parsnips in a roasting pan and coat with the mixture.

4. Roast for 30-40 minutes until crisp and caramelized on the outside and soft inside.

Braised Fennel

Serves 4

This dish can be made the day before and reheated slowly before serving.

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

2. Cut the fennel bulb in half and then cut away the tough core. Then cut in half again to form wedge-shaped pieces.

3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the fennel until it is golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a roasting tin or open casserole dish as it is cooked. Add the rosemary and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes to soften before sprinkling over the fennel. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Transfer to the oven and braise for 45-60 minutes. Shake the pan a couple of times during cooking to turn the fennel.

5. Remove from the oven, squeeze over a little lemon and serve immediately.

Fig Ice Cream

This recipe can be made with either double cream, half fat cream or half fat milk and you'll need an ice cream maker. If you don't have one, buy a good vanilla ice cream, gently simmer some sliced dried figs with a little orange juice, a knob of butter, a spoonful of brandy and a spoonful of sugar until the juices thicken to a syrup. Pour the warm mixture over the ice cream.


  • · 1/2 cup milk
  • · 2 egg yolks
  • · 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • · 1 quart ripe figs
  • · 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • · 1/2 cup sugar
  • · 1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Scald 1/2 cup milk and stir it slowly into 2 well-beaten egg yolks. Cook the mixture in a double boiler or in a bowl over boiling water, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat a spoon.

2. Cool and fold the custard into 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, lightly whipped.

3. Peel 1 quart ripe figs thinly and press them through a sieve.

4. Sprinkle the fig purée with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla, and add it to the custard.

5. Blend the ingredients thoroughly and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

All text copyright Arietha Bergsen


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    • Arietha profile image

      Arietha 7 years ago from Netherlands

      Edit Your Comment (open for 5 minutes)

      After trying the recipes myself, I felt confident enough to recommend them... Thanks for the compliment !

    • profile image

      MaryRenee 7 years ago

      Arietha: Awesome hub, bravo! These ideas are great, the recipies look fantastic! Thanks for another great hub! :)