With Christmas just around the corner, my family and I have been brainstorming our Christmas menu. Three out of the four of us in my immediate family are vegetarians, so on Christmas Eve we celebrate with an all-veggie dinner before facing the Turkey fest with the extended family on Christmas Day.
Back in the early days, our meals would be pretty basic: mashed potatoes, a salad and usually a store-bought Tofurky
as a veggie centrepiece. But now that all of us are older and a fair bit wiser when it comes to food, we've gotten more sophisticated. This was especially evident when we started bringing canapés into the mix.
I have to give credit to veg chef Rachel Demuth
for really amping up my veggie canapé style. Rachel runs The Vegetarian Cookery School
in Bath and without her we'd probably still be serving cheese balls and nachos every Christmas (not that there's anything wrong with cheese balls and nachos).
But perhaps one of my favourite recipes of hers is this Chestnut Mushroom, Hazelnut and Smoked Tofu Pate. The recipe isn't terribly difficult, but the result is astounding. Mushrooms and smoked tofu give it a rich earthy flavour, while the hazelnuts add complexity and make it all the more satisfying. Add a splash of brandy for a Christmassy lift. You can serve this simply with bread, or to make it more special, atop little buckwheat blinis, garnished with chives.
Chestnut Mushroom, Hazelnut and Smoked Tofu Pate
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp brandy
100g hazelnuts, roasted
250g smoked tofu, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp tamari
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Fry the red onion in the olive oil until caramelised.
2. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until they soften and change to an even dark brown colour, add the brandy and remove from the heat.
3. In a food processor, whiz up the roasted hazelnuts, then add the smoked tofu, cooked onions and mushrooms, thyme, tamari and whiz to a smooth pate. Add a splash of water if needed to get a smooth but firm consistency. Season to taste.
4. Serve with slices of toasted ciabatta. Can also be served as a dip with crudités, a sandwich filler or stir into pasta for a quick vegan meal.
6. Chestnuts can also be roasted and substituted for the hazelnuts.
Tips: To roast hazelnuts, heat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast until golden, approximately 8-10 minutes. Set the timer, as there nothing more frustrating than the aroma of roasted nuts, by which time its too late and they are burnt. Check the nuts a couple of times and stir the nuts so that they roast evenly. Leave to cool and rub off the skins between your hands.
Inspired? For more canape recipes, visit Great British Chefs collection.