On a wing & a prayer -my first Veggie Christmas Dinner

To be honest I haven't been the sole chef in residence for too many Christmas dinners -my Mum always does ours, although the role of comis chef does seem to get bigger as the years go on. The Christmas dinners I have cooked have usually been with friends, before we all go our separate ways for the festive season. One of my dinners this year was to be shared with a vegetarian. It can be difficult for carnivores to even conceive of a Christmas dinner without any meat. but I do like a culinary challenge. I pondered a variety of dishes and perused a selection of veggie cookbooks, in the end we decided to try a dish from Hugh Fearnleys new veggie cookbook. A warming gratin of sweet potato with a layer of peanut butter and lime -sounds odd? Yes, I think that's why I wanted to try it out.....

For the starter I made a simple, tasty salad with buffalo mozzarella and pomegranate -it's usually made with fresh figs but for the life of me I couldn't lay my hands on them. Buffalo mozzarella is more expensive than cows milk mozzarella, but hey it's Christmas & it's the real deal -plus you can eat the cheaper version the rest of the year, not to mention that the taste and texture are oh, so much more interesting!

Buffalo Mozzarella & Pomegranate Salad

  • Tear up your ball of buffalo mozzarella into bite sized pieces
  • Cut your pomegranate in half and using a wooden spoon bash the skin side of the fruit, whilst holding it over a large bowl -keep bashing until you have enough seeds OR if using fresh figs (dry figs will not be of any use!) quarter them
  • Make a dressing with 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil - season with fresh black pepper and sea salt
  • Place some salad leaves -just a few, and lots of fresh basil leaves in a bowl 
  • Quarter a couple of cherry tomatoes, add to leaves
  • Scatter over the mozzarella and  fruit and pour over your dressing -serve immediately

Second up were these super simple toasts you can top them with whatever takes your fancy, I just couldn't resist the wild mushrooms at the organic market and the artichokes at the deli....

Wild Mushroom  & Artichoke Toasts

  • Clean any dirt from your mushrooms and roughly chop them 
  • Cut a few slices from a nice loaf of bread -either grill them gently or pop them into the oven on a tray until dry and crisp
  • In a frying pan over a medium heat place a large nob of butter
  • Take a few sprigs of thyme and 'scratch'off the fragrant leaves, place in the pan
  • When the butter and thyme have had a little dance, place the mushrooms in and sauté
  • Take your toasted bread, rub with a clove of garlic and  drizzle generously with olive oil
  • Top some of your toast with the mushrooms and some with chopped artichokes -serve immediately

Sweet Potato & Peanut Gratin-serves 4/5

  • Turn your oven on 180'C/Gas 5
  • Peel about 5 medium sized sweet potatos' and slice to about the same thickness as 1 euro coins
  • In a large bowl place 250mls single cream, 3 chopped cloves of garlic and 1-2 red chillies or 1/2 tsps of chili flakes (depending on how hot you like things), season with salt and pepper
  • Put the slices in the bowl with a tbsp of sunflower oil and coat them
  • In a greased gratin dish place half of the sweet potato -flat
  • In a separate bowl place 150g of crunchy peanut butter (no sugar peanut butter), the zest and juice of one lime and 1tbsp of sunflower oil -whip them up
  • Blob the peanut butter mixture onto the layer of sweet potato and then add the rest of the potato
  • Add any remaining cream into the dish
  • Alternatively you could mix up the cream, chili, garlic, lime, sunflower oil, salt, pepper and peanut butter to coat all of the slices in one go
  • Pop into the oven covered in foil for the first 20 mins -after this remove foil and continue to cook for 30 mins
  • Serve with a bitter leafed salad 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM6xVQwIOYQ  The Simpsons, Homer & Bart tease Lisa about not eating meat.....