Vegetarians can end up having a bit of a tough time at Christmas. While carnivores are spoilt for choice – turkey, rib of beef, ham and salmon are usually the crux of any festive menu – non-meat eaters can become an afterthought, with hastily prepared nut roasts or even just a few extra roast potatoes on the plate deemed adequate.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. More and more vegetables are being treated as they should, thrust into the spotlight instead of playing second fiddle to their meaty counterparts. But it can be hard to think of what to cook for occasions that are so rooted in tradition like Christmas. Luckily, Chantelle Nicholson – chef-patron of Tredwell’s in London – is here to help. Her menus are always full of options for vegetarians, vegans and those following special diets, so she knows as well as anyone how many different vegetarian dishes can be cooked during the festive period. And if there’s one piece of equipment that turns a good dish into something great, it’s a sous vide – locking in all the nutrients and flavour of vegetables, cooking them to perfection and removing any stress and hassle that comes with cooking at Christmas.
Chantelle begins with a starter of a butternut squash terrine – something that looks Michelin-starred but is simple to make and can even be prepared in advance with a sous vide. Thin slices of the squash are layered with a rosemary-infused brown butter, before being sealed in a vacuum bag and cooked in an 80°C water bath for an hour. The terrine is then chilled down for six hours, ready to be reheated in a pan with more delicious butter until golden-brown and caramelised on the outside. A dollop of Vacherin is placed on top (any soft cheese made with vegetarian rennet can be used as an alternative) with a few sliced and grated chestnuts scattered over the plate for a festive, seasonal touch. Vegetarian or otherwise, this is a great little fuss-free starter.