I’m so vegetarian a flock of turkeys sense it at Christmas.
I live in the countryside and one Christmas Day a family of turkeys walked up the driveway and spent the day in the backyard.
Christmas is a time people are particularly incredulous about what I’m going to eat if things like turkey or ham are off the menu.
To many Kiwis vegetables are the sideshow, not the star act, but they rock my world.
I hope to give you insight into the world of vegetarians at Christmas.
To help inspire you I’ve also interviewed the executive chef of Heritage Hotel Jinu Abraham.
The Heritage has recognised vegetarians and vegans have been missing out on when dining out. It treats them like kings and queens with their own menu and even a vegan high tea that would impress anyone.
I’m obsessed with food, in a healthy way, so I’m always pumped about Christmas lunch.
The kind of food I’ve enjoyed on Christmas Day has included a trio of small tarts served with homegrown vege like freshly dug potatoes and carrots.
Inside the tarts were: A spicy lentil mix with a mashed roasted pumpkin topping; caramelised onion and blue cheese; and a minty feta pea puree.
Right now I’m on the hunt for ideas for this Christmas.
A banquet themed around Italian or Middle Eastern cuisines is one possibility for me.
I’m rather tempted by tomato tart tartins from November’s Cuisine that could easily be turned into a main with a gorgeous salad on the side.
But I’ve also been lured by a recipe for risotto using beetroot as the main ingredient and topped with walnut and feta.
Heritage Hotel’s Jinu Abraham also had risotto on his mind as an option when I asked him for ideas for a vegetarian Christmas.
Other suggestions included a chickpea tagine or fennel, roasted and stuffed and stood on its base in a pool of an eggplant based caponata sauce.
His idea of a mushroom tart with polenta mash and grilled artichoke served in a soffritto sauce (gently fried onion, carrot and celery) flavoured with sweet paprika really got my mouth watering.
Mr Abraham says with so many beautiful vegetables in season, a trip around markets like Clevedon, Matakana and Takapuna should prove inspiration enough.
Vegetarians and vegans are an after-thought at many restaurants but it’s important to carefully compose each dish, he says.
Building flavour is key and if you’re not relying on meat for that it’s a very creative process, Mr Abraham says.
Flavour can be added with stock, olive oil or spice or it can be the way you cook the vegetable, for example roasting. He says he’s learnt a lot over the past three years by talking with vegetarians and vegans and sourcing new products. The key, he says, is to create a complete dish and add a modern twist.