Wanja Wohoro is a self-taught singer and freelance writer. She is a practising vegan and is giving us her guide to having a veggie Christmas
I had my first vegetarian Christmas three years ago at the tender age of 21. I spent hours on the days leading up to the Big Day scrolling and scrolling through endless recipe websites trying to find a satisfying equivalent to my previously nyama-centric Christmas dinners. I found it challenging wading through unfamiliar festive food territories without direction.
With a limited budget and no access to meat substitutes, it can seem like an impossible task to make anything truly special. There are so many demands when cooking for larger groups, trying to satisfy many tastes and even dietary requirements, but I have come to relish this task. Being a vegetarian in this season is the perfect opportunity to show people that plant-based food can be decadent, delicious and desirable to even the most ardent sceptics.
Here are a few tips I have picked up in the last few years that have helped me come up with a Christmas meal that works for plant and meat eaters alike:
Pick A Cuisine: This is almost always where I start when trying to organise a menu. It helps when trying to figure out what flavours, textures and ingredients you’re craving and how they work together. Coming from a household that does a fairly classic roast during Christmas, I tend to lean towards Italian and traditional western dishes when it comes to thinking about a vegetarian Christmas meal – but it doesn’t have to be this way! This year I am aiming to think further out of the box. Why not make a huge Thai curry filled with all your favourite things? Or perhaps enchiladas or other Mexican dishes that work well as both sides and centrepiece dishes, and can be easily made vegetarian.
Pick A Centrepiece Dish: An enormous leg of ham pierced with aromatic cloves sits at the centre of Christmas dinner in my parent’s household, as it has for many years. I am a big believer in showing off and glitzing things up when it comes to holiday events. Last year I made a large vegetarian meatloaf with gravy. It was delicious and definitely drew a few curious carnivore eyes to my meal. Try to find one central dish to wow your guests and family members such as the roasted stuffed butternut squash recipe below. Additionally, revolve your side dishes around this focal point as it will help inspire your choices.
Pick Your Sides: The more the merrier! Christmas is about a little extra decadence so don’t hold back. If you’re torn between two vegetable side dishes or starches, why not do both? We all know Christmas leftovers are one of the best things about the holidays. Whether it be sticky and sweet roasted pumpkin, or creamy garlic and tahini pasta; explore recipes that you don’t usually have time for on your busy weeknights.
We thankfully live in an age where any recipe that we can possibly imagine is accessible online. However, it can be difficult to know the quality of some of these recipes, and whether the end result will actually taste as good as the pretty pictures suggest. Below is a list of my personal favourite websites for tasty vegetarian and vegan food. Try something new this holiday. Surprise yourself and your family with how creative and delicious vegetarian food can be. Nourish your body and satisfy your cravings this Christmas with a menu that is both healthy and hearty.
Check out one of Wanja’s favourite recipes in our recipe section.
Favourite Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Websites