I've been experimenting a bit with options for our Christmas dinner and I've decided on this rather delicious dish!
Plus it looks great too and is sure to impress your guests!
We tend to have lots of options and a Christmas table full to overflowing with festive fare but we all love cooking and have the time to spare but food is a priority in our house.
The saying there are those who live to eat and those who eat to live and we definitely fall into the first category! We love food!
So back to this really simple but elegant dish. The most difficult part is cutting holes in the butternut squash! I have a really good plain round cookie cutter which worked really well. I also tried a fluted option which although more difficult to cut through, left a lovely flower shaped hole, although the hole is filled with stuffing mix so just go with the plain option!
Cut slices about an inch thick and buy a butternut squash with a long neck end so you can cut a good few slices out!
I decided also to try the stuffing mix with portobello mushrooms and it worked really well and was simpler and quicker since the mushrooms don't need pre cooking prior to adding the stuffing and you don't have to cut a hole in them! You just give them a wipe with a damp cloth, put them on a lightly greased baking tray and spoon generous amount of stuffing mix and a wee drizzle of oil then bake them for around 20 minutes or so!
Doesn't get much easier than that!
Okay so the stuffing has a lovely festive flavour from the cranberries, chestnuts and herbs. If you can't find chestnuts then you can replace them with walnuts or hazelnuts. I used Merchant Gourmet vacuum packed cooked chestnuts from Waitrose.
Another time saving tip is to use a can of cooked lentils! Then its simply a matter of frying an onion, garlic, herbs then adding the other ingredients and heating it through.
I am going to make up my stuffing mix and freeze it so I'll be good to go on Christmas day.
If you have fresh sage, rosemary or thyme in the garden then add a good chopped spoonful of all of them. Alternatively you can use dried herbs.
I served a slice of squash and a big mushroom with a delicious gluten free, extremely healthy mushroom gravy, which is made with cooked brown rice, mushrooms, stock, herbs, garlic, tamari or balsamic vinegar and optional nutritional yeast flakes!
All you do is simmer the mushrooms, stock and cooked rice for 10 minutes then add herbs, garlic and seasoning and blend the lot into a delicious vegan gravy. No faffing around with lumpy flour and butter for me!!
FESTIVE STUFFED SQUASH
Ingredients to serve 6
VEGAN MUSHROOM GRAVY
So this week before all the true frantic madness of Christmas begins, I am sharing a few new recipes which are all worthy of a place at your Festive table, whether you are catering for meat lovers, vegetarians or vegans.
This mushroom, walnut and lentil pate is absolutely delicious and actually tastes quite meaty so I'm sure everyone will love it.
I am a massive fan of mushrooms, lentils and nuts so this is my idea of an ideal starter. Served with some thinly sliced sourdough or delicious crackers (recipe coming soon!)
This will surely impress your guests! It can be made a few days in advance and will happily sit in the fridge until you need it. This also works well stirred into a mushroom risotto or as a topping for a baked potato or a pizza!
I've made this a few times and played around with the recipe a bit. The original recipe from the wonderful Dearbhla Reynolds book The Cultured Club uses fermented mushrooms, which adds another layer of flavour and nutrition but since most folks won't have time to ferment the mushrooms first then this adapted recipe is equally delicious and the addition of seaweed flakes adds that unique umami flavour.
You have the option of setting the pate in a small loaf tin, which looks rather wonderful and can then be served in slices.
Other options are to set the pate in small individual ramekin dishes or just put it into a serving dish and serve dollops rather than slices!
It's whatever suits your needs best and makes life easier! If you are catering for gluten free then you would need to leave the breadcrumbs out or use gluten free ones.
I always have a supply of breadcrumbs in the freezer, which are very handy and a great way to use up any slightly stale bread.
Button mushrooms, portabello, chestnut or shitake mushrooms will all work well or indeed a mixture! Their are always better if they are organic .
Fiesta relates to the wonderful colours of all the veggies. Eat the rainbow for vibrant good health and this paella has all the colours, as you can see from my vibrant photo!
We have made it twice since the retreat and it is delicious. You can vary the veggies according to what you have available and your personal tastes. We have used cubed aubergine instead of fennel, mushrooms could easily replace artichokes, since they are a bit of an acquired taste but I rather like them!
You can add frozen peas or sweetcorn instead of the beans and/or fennel and just leave the artichokes out if you don't like them.
Flavour is provided by smoked and sweet paprika, two of my favourite spices! Oh and turmeric for amazing health benefits and colour and garlic just because it adds amazing flavour and is natures antibiotic! Great to include loads of it as we move into colder weather, and who wants to succumb to colds and flu, most definitely not me!
It is essential when making paella to use the right kind of rice! You need short grain white rice or paella rice, most supermarkets stock it. It's different to risotto rice which is stickier and not what you want. Gloopy paella is not great!
A top tip don't stir your paella, its not like risotto! This is a good thing which makes this a perfect dinner party dish! No standing over a hot stove while your guests are knocking back the wine! There is actually wine in this so a great reason to crack open a bottle and have a wee glass while you are prepping all your veggies!
Serves 4 to 6
Well since the vegan cooking retreat in Wales, I have discovered a love of smoky flavoured food!
Smoky flavours are big in Mexican food and we had a whole spread of chilli, bean, dishes to eat our way through! It wasn't difficult, the food was all delicious!
The main ingredient to impart a smoky flavour is smoked paprika, quite different to sweet paprika or normal paprika. It generally comes in a wee square tin and is a lovely deep red colour. A little goes a long way! This is a store cupboard essential in our house.
Jenna spent a few months in Mexico last year and just loved all the vibrant food. Chillies are a big part of the cuisine and there are so many varieties, some of them extremely hot! I am a total chilli wimp and really can't handle hot food, unless I have some cooling yoghurt or a big jug of cold water!
Anyway, back to these delicious and so simple big portobello mushrooms with a lovely smoky marinade.
These literally take 5 minutes to prepare, then they are cooked in the oven, no faffing about with hot frying pans! I like to make life as simple as possible and will always choose to oven bake rather than fry foods in oil. Oven baked is healthier too so another reason to use this method.
I love mushrooms of all varieties but the big portobello mushrooms are fabulous sliced and marinated, they almost taste meaty so make a great alternative to animal protein.
Mushrooms are a great source of protein, fibre, iron, zinc, selenium, folate, B vitamins and are low in carbohydrates so are always a healthy choice.
So back to this extremely simple recipe! I kind of made it up and it worked so well I've made it a few times! Great when you need a meal in a hurry and this tastes and looks good enough to serve up at a dinner party!
I have served them on a bed of sweet potato mash and also on a pea & mint puree, both delicious drizzled with any extra marinade.
You can use a mixture of mushrooms, you will need around 500g or around 6 big portobello mushrooms for 4 people. They do tend to shrink a bit when cooked!
I really hope you give this a go, its so easy and tastes delicious! You can impress your friends and family with a healthy meat free main!
So here is the very simple recipe.....
Smoky Portobello Mushrooms
......your health in your hands.....
🍃 Health educator🍃