Pleasures to share
"Now that it is no longer a given that everyone around the Christmas table will be a fan of turkey, pork or ham, what is cooking for the guests who would rather have plants on their plates?
There's no need to hunt down recipes for nut roast - the trick is to combine a mix of dishes that bring people together, not set them apart, Adelaide-based chef Simon Bryant says.
"It's knowing how to assemble an inclusive meal that works for everyone," says the author of Simon Bryant's Vegies, a collection of inspired recipes that would convert the most committed vegiephobe.
When Bryant feeds his friends, he likes to serve food by grouping each meat dish with a vegetable-based dish - this means the vegetable dish can then work both as an accompaniment to the meat as well as a dish for those guests who prefer to stick with veg. "You just plonk a lot of dishes down and everyone helps themselves. It's about breaking down barriers and not singling people out because of their preferences," says Bryant, who is not keen on slapping labels like "vegetarian" on food. He thinks there are just two types of food - good food and bad food.
"When you group dishes on the table you just need to think about what flavours work together. Turkey marries really well with a stuffing made of sourdough breadcrumbs, celery, walnuts and sage, for instance, but you don't have to serve it inside the bird - you can serve it beside the bird as a separate dish that everyone can enjoy."
Roast pork goes well with fruit with sharp flavours, he adds, suggesting fresh berries with feta, roast almonds, pieces of torn sourdough, a bunch each of mint and coriander all tossed together with balsamic vinegar or aged sweet red vinegar.
His warm potato salad is a new twist on a Christmas favourite and made more substantial by combining cooked potatoes with chickpeas sauteed with spring onions and chaat masala (an Indian spice mix), baby spinach and coriander.
"Last Christmas, when my father came out from the UK, I cooked a goose but there were so many other dishes on the table that no-one noticed I didn't eat any of the meat," says Bryant. "I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat meat when I cook for myself at home - but I'd never enforce vegetarian food on anyone."
Paula Goodyer is a Walkley award-winning health writer.
For more recipe ideas, including some from Simon Bryant as well as other chefs and cooks including Kylie Kwong and Janella Purcell, check out the recently launched Meat Free Monday website at MeatFreeMondays.com.au.
Simon Bryant's Vegies is published by Penguin, RRP $50
Sunday Star Times