This week’s recipe is for parsnip, cranberry and nut roast, a delicious vegan alternative Christmas dinner.
An enormous amount of meat will be consumed, and discarded over the Christmas period this year. Aside from ethical considerations about the slaughter of other sentient life, there is no doubt at all that our current levels of meat consumption are contributing directly to climate change.
The government’s own Committee on Climate Change is on record as saying that the UK needs to reduce the number of sheep and cattle on our farms by up to a half because of their contribution to greenhouse gases. If the committee’s recommendation was followed, around seven million hectares of land would be released from sheep and cattle farming. This land could instead be used for reforestation or organic farming, both of which help combat climate change by absorbing CO2 through the medium of trees, plants and the soil itself.
If we are to make serious inroads into the challenge of climate change before it is too late then we have to make radical changes. The single most important change that we can each make is to our diet.
If each of us gave up meat, or at the very least reduced our meat consumption by half, there would be a significant, positive long-term impact in terms of land use in the UK and in terms of reducing carbon emissions.
It would also have an impact on our collective health: there is now incontrovertible evidence of the link between meat consumption and a range of illnesses, particularly between red meat and bowel cancer.
Why wait for the government to act when we can make a change now that would benefit the planet as well as ourselves?
Onto the recipe, then. For this delicious vegan celebration dinner you will need dariole molds or ramekins. You could cook a larger version and divide it up (in which case add longer to the cooking time in the oven), but I like the way the individual puddings look when they are turned out, with the cranberry compote sitting invitingly on the top.
You’ll probably need to make a few extra too. If your Christmas household is anything like mine, the meat eaters around the table will be unable to contain their curiosity and will ask to try it.
parsnip, cranberry and nut roast
200 g organic parsnips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
75 g organic chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
50 g ground almonds
50 g pecan kernels
50 g cashew kernels
20 g rice or corn flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150 g fresh organic cranberries
100 ml maple syrup
1. Lightly oil four dariole molds or ramekins. I like to line each mold with a thin strip of greaseproof paper, overlapping the edges of the mold. This helps ease the finished roast out of the mold at the end.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Place the cranberries in a saucepan. Add the maple syrup and place over a medium heat. Once the contents of the pan start to simmer, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the mixture is starting to resemble a fruity jam. Remove from the heat . Carefully divide the mixture between the four molds. Set to one side.
3. While the cranberries are cooking, peel and chop the parsnip into large chunks, removing any tough woody parts from the centre. Steam for 8 minutes or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the heat and set to one side to cool. Once the parsnip is cool enough to handle, use a potato ricer or masher to mash the parsnips and then place them in a mixing bowl.
4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for five minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms, garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary and sea salt and cook for a further five minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl containing the mashed parsnip.
5. Place the pecan and cashew nuts into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Tip this mixture into the mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, rice flour, smoked paprika and the soy sauce. Mix thoroughly, then divide the mixture between the four molds, carefully placing it onto the cranberries in the base of the mold.
6. Place the molds in a deep roasting tray and very gently pour boiling water into the roasting dish around the molds to a depth of about 5 cm. Carefully place the roasting dish in the pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the top of the roasts is crisp and golden. Check periodically and top up the water in the roasting tray if necessary.
7. Remove the roasting tray from the oven and, using oven gloves, carefully take the four molds out of the roasting tray. Leave to cool for 3-4 minutes, then tip each mold upside down on a plate. Tap the bottom of each mold before gently lifting it off. Serve with vegan gravy and the usual Christmas trimmings.