from Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier
with notes and recipes from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (Bloomsbury) Photography Charlotte Bland
I devised this dish a few years ago to create a great Christmas centrepiece for vegetarians and vegans. It looks celebratory and tastes of all the festive flavours. Served with the lovely vegan gravy that follows, it is also a dish which omnivores will enjoy, and so it makes for a wonderfully inclusive feast. A stuffing can also be served on the side, for a full-on vegan celebration.
1 medium sweet-fleshed squash, about 2kg (Crown Prince works particularly well)
About 4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed
2 medium onions, quartered
About 350g parsnips, peeled and cut into pointy chunks
2 eating apples, cored and cut into chunky eighths
150g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
3 chicory bulbs, quartered lengthways
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper
For the spice mix:
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
Zest of the orange
For the Brussels ‘slaw’ (optional)
150g Brussels sprouts, trimmed of any tired outer leaves
To finish and serve
50g pumpkin seeds, toasted
Vegan gravy (see recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Slice the top quarter or third off the squash and set it aside. Scoop out the seeds from the ‘bowl’ that’s left and scoop out or trim some of the flesh around the inside of the opening to make it wider. Cut away the peel from the top then cut the flesh from this piece into chunks; save these with the trim from the bowl.
Brush the inside of the squash with a little oil, season well with salt and pepper and add half the bashed garlic cloves. Place the squash on a baking tray and roast for 1–1½ hours, until the flesh is tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the spice mix. Toast the fennel and coriander seeds in a dry pan for a minute or two until fragrant, let cool slightly then crush to a coarse powder, using a pestle and mortar. Add the paprika, chilli flakes and chopped rosemary. Finely grate the zest of the orange and add this too. Season with some salt and pepper and mix well.
Put the reserved squash into a large roasting dish, along with the squash pieces. Add the onions, parsnips and the rest of the garlic. Add 2 tbsp oil and toss the veg in it, then add the spice mix and stir well so that the veg is well coated with spices. Put into the oven (above the squash if that fits) and roast for 20 minutes, until starting to colour. (If the squash is cooked before the rest of the roasted veg, cover it with foil to keep it warm.)
If you are serving the slaw, prepare it while the veg are roasting. Slice the Brussels sprouts very thinly and put them into a bowl. Trickle over a little oil and give them a squeeze each of lemon and clementine juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss together well, breaking up the sprout leaves a bit as you go. Put to one side.
Slice the zested orange into 8 wedges. Take the roasting tray from the oven and add the apples, orange wedges, chestnuts, chicory and lemon juice. Stir, so that all the ingredients get a coating of spice. Return to the oven for 30 minutes or until everything is tender and starting to turn golden. Remove the roasted orange wedges and set aside.
When the squash is tender, place it on a warmed large serving platter and heap the roasted veg, chestnuts and apples into it. (Any spare veg can be served on the side.)
Scatter the toasted pumpkin seeds over the top of the filled squash. Serve with the roasted orange wedges for squeezing over, and the slaw on the side if serving. Pour the vegan gravy into a jug to pass around.
A great vegan feast deserves a great vegan gravy, and here it is. The rich umami flavours come from the mushrooms, and the thorough browning of all the veg, plus a cunning tweak with a dash of coffee and soy. As it can be made in advance and kept chilled for up to a week, or frozen, it’s a great thing to tick off your list ahead of the big day. Hugh
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
About 100g large chestnut or open cap mushrooms, roughly chopped
200ml red wine
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, halved lengthways and thickly sliced
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
About 1 tsp plain flour
About 500ml hot light vegetable stock (or water)
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig of thyme
1 tbsp strong coffee (espresso or similar)
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
Sea salt & black pepper
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide, heavy pan over a high heat. Add the mushrooms and fry ‘hard’ for 7-8 minutes, without stirring to start with to develop some colour, then stir them from time to time. They will release some liquid; keep cooking until this is evaporated and the mushrooms are well reduced. Loosen any bits sticking to the base of the pan with a wooden spatula from time to time. Keep going until the mushrooms are thoroughly browned and caramelised then tip them into a bowl. Add a splash of the wine to the pan, scraping to deglaze it, then add this liquor to the mushrooms.
Give the pan a wipe and add the remaining 1 tbsp oil, then the onion, carrot and celery. Sizzle pretty hard until the veg are well browned. Add another splash of wine, giving the pan a good stir-and-scrape with a spatula. Now add a sprinkling of flour and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock, remaining wine and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6-7 minutes until the veg are just tender. Add the coffee and tamari/soy and return the mushrooms to the pan. Take off the heat, discard the herbs and tip the contents of the pan into a blender. Blitz to a smooth gravy, adding a little extra stock if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste if required.
Serve straight away or cool and chill until needed. It may separate a bit on cooling, but will come back together if you give it a whisk as you reheat it.