Sous vide at home: vegetarian Christmas masterclass

by Great British Chefs

After some showstopping veggie starters, mains and sides for this year’s Christmas dinner? With the power of sous vide, Chantelle Nicholson shows us how easy it can be to serve up a festive vegetarian feast.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

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.

The Christmas main course is arguably the trickiest dish to make for vegetarians, but it doesn’t need to be. Chantelle’s sous vide mushrooms with celeriac two ways makes the most of winter’s bounty, and certainly looks the part too. A butter-based thyme, garlic and madeira reduction brings everything together, but it’s the combination of the slow-cooked mushrooms, roasted celeriac purée and celeriac remoulade that really show off some cheffy skills. After an hour in the water bath at 70°C, the mushrooms are incredibly tender and flavourful, and a quick blast under the grill gives them a bit of bite. Sat on a bed of purée and topped with a spoonful of remoulade, they’re an ideal vegetarian main.

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, Christmas side dishes can be given the sous vide treatment too. Brussels sprouts are the most iconic, but years of overcooking the little brassicas have earned them a bad reputation over the year. Using the sous vide to cook them in miso-infused butter alongside tender sprout tops, roasted cashews and a little tarragon, however, transforms them into the hero of any Christmas dinner. They retain their pleasing crunch, avoiding that unpleasant mushiness that comes with boiling them, while the miso gives the whole dish an unmistakable umami flavour that complements both meat and other vegetables on the table.

So there you have it – with the help of a vacuum sealer, water bath and tips from one of London’s top chefs, cooking a standout vegetarian Christmas dinner couldn’t be simpler. Steaming and boiling vegetables results in loss of flavour, roasting can lead to burning and frying takes up valuable hob space. But with sous vide, you can simply pop the vegetables in the water, set the timer and get on with something else.