Christmas feast, part three: Main courses
Christmas is a heavily food-based holiday here in Scandinavia. The entire family gathers on Christmas Eve to eat a lot of food, during a long evening. But only those foods that are considered to be a part of the Christmas tradition are allowed on the table, and more often than not that includes an entire smoked ham. So how did we combine our traditions with a vegetarian diet? Let's find out!
In Finland we grew up eating a a big smoked ham, which was the centrepiece of the dinner; a bunch of different root vegetable casseroles; smoked fish; potatoes; lots and lots of fish roe with onion and smetana; a cold beetroot-salad; pickled herring; and a bunch of different small sides that I'm probably forgetting now. Oh, and glögg. Lots and lots of glögg.
Well anyway, the point being there's a lot of food, and most of it is very traditional and we tended to eat pretty much the exact same thing every year. Now we're not against traditions by any means, they can be an important part of ones identity and culture, but sometimes it's fun to mix things up a bit.
The best scenario is when you manage to pay homage to the traditions while still re-inventing them -- which is exactly what we attempted -- you can be the judge of whether we succeeded or not :)
We're going to kick things off with something neither me nor Lotta ate at home during Christmas, but something that is always eaten in Sweden for Christmas: meatballs. A nod to our new and adopted home of Stockholm. Meatballs are, of course, decidedly not a vegetarian dish, but we wanted to make something that was similar in taste and consistency so that it would feel like home and your Swedish childhood without having to eat meat. Also a great dish to serve meat-eaters and show them how good and filling food without meat can be.
We used cheddar cheese to get that rich and fatty taste, and the dijon mustard with white peppar should replicate the flavours of a good Swedish meatball. Using crushed almonds as the "flour" adds a nice sweetness to the dish -- and we are very pleased with the end result! Try adding some fresh herbs to the mix if you want to experiment a little. Thyme or oregano would work brilliantly! Dare we say it, but we think these taste better than any meatballs made with meat that we've eaten when we were young.
We also wanted to use some of the more traditional ingredients and decided to make a potato dish and a beet dish. We added a nice christmasy and fresh touch to the potatoes by adding apples to them. The beet salad is a simple dish that really lets the beet shine, and has strong clean flavours.
Finally we wanted to add something striking and beautiful as the centrepiece of the dinner to replace the ham. Something theatrical and attention grabbing, so we went with one of our favourite things at the moment -- baked cauliflower! We sliced ours into smaller pieces, but we recommend you bake it whole if you want to have something that will stand out on the table. The orange and ginger flavour give it a fantastic freshness, which works perfectly to balance the heaviness of some of our starters and the meatballs.
But enough talking, let's start cooking -- have fun!
100g cheddar cheese
half an onion
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp crushed white pepper corns
lingonberries (frozen or fresh)
vegan crème fraîche
- Crush the almonds in a food processor
- Grate the cheddar cheese and chop the onion -- then throw both into the food processor with the almonds
- Blend everything into as fine a mixture as your food processor can handle
- Pour everything into a bowl (or just continue using your food processor if it's large enough) and mix in the rest of the ingredients
- Shape the mixture into small balls using your hands (it should be enough for at least 10 meatballs)
- Bake them in the oven at 220°C for 15-20min OR fry them in a frying pan until they're golden brown (make sure to turn them often)
- Garnish with the lingonberry crush and some thyme!
- Crush the lingonberries, together with some crème fraîche, in a bowl with a spoon
- We used a 5:1 ratio of lingonberries and crème fraîche, but you can use however much you like
Baked potato, parsnip & apple
2 medium sized apples
a twig of rosemary
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
lingonberries for garnish
- Slice the potatoes and parsnip into equally thick slices (approximately 1cm)
- Chop the onion into long strands and toss everything in a bowl with a dash of olive oil, half a teaspoon of cardamom, the rosemary leaves (rip them from the twig) and a big pinch of salt
- Spread everything evenly on a baking tray
- Bake in the oven at 200°C for 20min
- While everything else is in the oven, peel and chop the apples into equally thin slices
- Roll them in the cinnamon so they're completely covered
- After 20min throw them into the oven on top of the potatoes and parsnip
- Bake for an additional 10min
- Take everything out and garnish with some extra rosemary leaves and lingonberries
Beets, walnuts & feta
4 large beets
50 g feta cheese
fresh spinach leaves
a handful of walnuts
a handful of thyme leaves
a dash of olive oil
- Wash the beets and cut off the ends
- Boil them in water for 20min or until they're soft, make sure not to overcook them, beets are tastier if they're slightly al dente
- Pour the beets into ice-cold water and then scrub the peels off with your hands (or peel them with a peeler if you prefer)
- Slice the beets into 2cm thick slices
- Place a bed of fresh spinach leaves on a plate and place the beet slices on top
- Crumble the feta on top and crush the walnuts in your hands before you also spread them over the beets
- Sprinkle the thyme leaves, olive oil and salt all over the salad
Orange & ginger baked cauliflower
1 large head of cauliflower
1 red onion
5cm slice of ginger
the zest and juice from half an orange
- Peel the red onion and slice it into rings and place the rings on a baking tray
- Peel all the leaves off your cauliflower and place it whole with the stem down on top of the onion (we sliced it up into smaller pieces but we recommend you keep it whole for that beautiful theatrical feel!)
- Make the marinade by grating the ginger and the zest from half a large orange and mixing it with the juice from that orange and a big pinch of salt
- Spread it all over the cauliflower head with your hands, really massage it in everywhere
- Stick whole pieces of cloves into the cauliflower at even intervals (this is what we in Finland do with our Christmas ham, so this is our vegetarian version of that)
- Bake the cauliflower at 200°C for 30min
- Garnish with orange peels
I hope you enjoy our Christmas dishes as much as we did making them (and eating!). Now you have more than enough recipes for a large meal for the entire family! And don't worry, we have a recipe for dessert coming up next Sunday, so make sure not to miss that! It's going to be a strikingly purple raw cake!
Have a great week!