While meat-based dishes are the piece-de-resistance of any feast table during Christmas, exploring the world of vegetarian side dishes that are equally delicious, is an underrated aspect that is often overlooked. This holiday season, two chefs share recipes for plant-based dishes that are sure to make your guests with all kinds of dietary requirements happy.
When you think of a Christmas feast, the first thing that comes to mind is an opulent table groaning under the weight of a roast turkey or pig, gleaming from its time in the oven. This centrepiece, surrounded by the usual suspects of bread, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sorpotel, salads and pudding, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as holiday eating is concerned. Often times, chances are that a handful of guests who might be invited tend to steer clear of the meat for personal dietary reasons that limits their options on the feast table.
With alternative diets becoming all the fad and more people opting for plant-based diets, it is only fair to have a few vegetarian options that make them feel welcome and special. Although vegetarian elements aren’t part of a traditional feast – barring the odd sprouts or green beans, celebrating our culture’s legacy through food is something that an opportunity like this presents. Using ingredients that are underrated and in a refreshing manner can really mould the scope of your feast and extend it beyond what is typically expected of it. Slurrp caught up with two chefs, each with their distinct memories of the holiday season, to share delicious vegetarian recipes that are no less delicious than their meat counterparts, for you to try recreating at home.
Anjali Ganapathy: PigOut Coorg Kitchen
When asked about Christmas, Anjali reminisces about the time when she grew up in defence. With her father’s posting in Delhi and Secunderabad between 1986 and 1995, she shares how the spirit of community living meant every festival was a grand affair. Anjali’s fondest memory is of one of her mother’s friends, who would make the most amazing Christmas cake and roasts. “Her devil's food cake is seared in my memory. She’d flambé it with old monk and serve with cream,” she adds. In Secunderabad, Christmas was a kiddie party with Santa Claus showing up in an open-backed military truck to drive children around, after which a dinner in the military mess lawns ended with a trifle pudding.
On being asked about how the idea of Christmas evolved for her as a chef, Anjali quips that she is influenced by both, the early exposure to different cuisines across the country and her Kodava roots. “The plantations and military life, have parallels that lean into my creative side. The dining experience is made complete by finding a balance, between eating local and playing with presentation. For example, my grandmother – the inspiration behind PigOut – was cooking in earthen or cast-iron pots, and serving (food) in pretty English cutlery. I draw inspiration from these memories. And with each meal, I try to dig deeper into ways that can make the diner feel indulged with a luxurious touch, whilst enjoying the wholesomeness of a home cooked meal.”
It goes without saying that Anjali’s favourite part of Christmas is the feast. “A full table, multiple dishes, family and friends; that sense of ease, which comes when you’re around the table with loved ones. The holidays are all about great company, full tummy and a post meal snooze.” Anjali’s pick for a vegetarian side dish fit to be a part of the feast is the kaad maange curry, made using the Coorg wild mango – a small egg shaped tart-sweet fibrous fruit. She says that the curry is a fuss-free recipe, big on flavour and easy to make, making it a mouth-watering blend of roasted spices, with sweet and sour flavours. “To me, this curry is worthy of any celebratory occasion, and a strong contender to possibly swing the vote in favour of vegetarians!”
1 kg ripe kaad (wild) mangoes/can use sugar baby variety (sacre gutli) of mango as substitute
Roast and grind
Avinash Martins: Cavatina
Avinash talks about how his earliest memories of Christmas stemmed from his days as a young schoolboy where his uncles celebrated a Christmas feast once the mass was over. The Natal Jantar – as Avinash knows it – was a celebration of meats, bakes and Christmas desserts. He points out that these memories, combined with his proficiency as a chef, helps him evoke nostalgia through food in a modern format. While his favourite part of a feast is the suckling pork and the Goan-style bafat preparations, he adds that the roast is a quintessential aspect of a Christmas table.
He gets candid and shares that although vegetarian dishes weren’t necessarily part of a traditional feast, Avinash remembers enjoying roasted potatoes and eggs as an accompaniment to roast pork or turkey. This Christmas, Avinash takes a leaf from his childhood days and his core memories of Christmas as a young individual. “The idea for this dish stemmed from the monotony of tambdi bhaji as a household vegetable. My goal was to try and make this ordinary vegetable into something a lot more exciting above a wilted homestyle preparation. Taking something globally recognised such as a spanakopita and incorporating local Goan produce such as red amaranth and cashew butter gave the dish a completely new flavour profile without taking away from the delicate, buttery nature of filo pastry that we all love.”
For Cashew Butter
Avinash also shares that the spanakopitas can be shaped and stored in the freezer for up to two weeks and baked frozen, whenever needed. Make sure to store them wrapped individually in an aluminium foil to avoid them sticking to one another.