How to create a perfect 4 course vegetarian Christmas dinner

PUBLISHED: 09:47 22 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:22 21 October 2015

Christmas crostini, Butternut bells, Smoky leek and hazelnut tart, Raspberry frangipane tarts

Christmas crostini, Butternut bells, Smoky leek and hazelnut tart, Raspberry frangipane tarts


Break with tradition and enjoy a meat–free feast. Alex Connell from the Vegetarian Society’s Cordon Vert Cookery School in Altrincham shows how

Cordon Vert ChristmasCordon Vert Christmas

Christmas food. For most of us, this means turkey or maybe a goose. For Alex Connell, it means chestnut and mushroom bourguignon pie. The 46-year-old’s favourite yuletide dinner is as much as part of Christmas Day as turkey and cranberry sauce is to everyone else. As Alex, principal tutor at Cordon Vert Cookery School in Altrincham, has proved to friends and family during his 25 vegetarian years, that special meal on December 25th does not have to include meat. There are plenty of tasty, meat-free options.

Alex, from Sale, said: ‘It is a bit of a cliché but nut roasts are a really good option. There are so many different flavours you can make. Feta cheese works really well as does garlic, onion, cranberries, cashew nuts with apricot and halloumi cheese.

‘Filo pastry is also fantastic as you can put sweet or savoury fillings in them. We’ve worked on a few new recipes for this Christmas including some butternut squash bells stuffed with Puy lentils and lots of flavour and there is a delicious hazelnut tart.’

Alex’s love of cooking stems from preparing meals for his family with mum, Felicity, as a teenager. In his twenties he became vegetarian for ethical reasons. Since then he has been enjoying meat-free feasts during the festive season.

He said: ‘Turkey can be quite bland. But if you are used to having turkey and all the trimmings and are going to have a vegetarian Christmas then it’s worth doing some planning.

‘It’s a good idea to just go for it. Think about things you might want for Boxing Day and into New Year. Many people use the turkey for leftovers but if you’re having vegetarian you won’t have this so think of alternatives. Nut roast is great because you can have it the next day on a butty, just like you would with turkey. You can also make an amazing bubble and squeak from leftover vegetables.’

The cookery school holds various courses in the run up to Christmas to help people get prepared, including vegetarian party food, dinners for Christmas Day and lessons on how to make chocolate truffles.

But what will Alex be enjoying this Christmas Day? He said: ‘Probably chestnut and mushroom bourguignon pie again. I really do like it, it’s very tasty. But I am tempted to try the new recipes like the butternut squash bells and hazelnut tart. I’m spoilt for choice.’


Christmas crostini

Serves 4-6



• 60ml/4tbsp olive oil

• 15ml/1tbsp orange flavoured olive oil

• 15ml/1tbsp white wine or balsamic vinegar

• 6 black olives, stoned and chopped

• 2-3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, 
deseeded and drained

• 5ml/1tsp fresh thyme, chopped

• 1 clove of garlic, peeled but left whole

• 1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded 
and cut into strips

• ½ long baguette, cut into 6mm / ¼ inch • slices

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• A few fresh chives



Brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and grill lightly on both sides until golden brown. (Alternatively, place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven 
at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 10-15 minutes).

Finely chop the tomatoes and mix together with the olives, thyme, orange flavoured 
olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Rub the peeled garlic onto the top side of each slice of toasted bread.

Arrange the tomato mixture on the top and decorate with criss-crossed strips of roasted red pepper and chives.



Butternut bells

Serves 4-6



• 2-3 small butternut squash, each one approximately 650g

• 300g tinned Puy lentils, drained and rinsed

• 100g pine nuts

• 100g walnuts, roughly chopped

• 20g dried apricots, roughly chopped

• 15g raisins

• 4 cloves garlic, crushed

• 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

• 2 tbsp lemon juice

• 1 tsp sage, roughly chopped

• 1 red onion, finely chopped

• 1 tbsp olive oil

• ½ tsp smoked paprika

• ½ tsp vegan stock powder mixed with 100ml boiling water

• Salt and pepper, to taste

For the garnish:

• 1 raw beetroot, peeled and cut into very small cubes (approximately 2mm)

• 1 tsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped

• 1 tsp fresh sage, roughly chopped

• ½ tsp smoked paprika



Preheat oven to 180C.

Individually wrap the butternut squash in foil and bake them in the oven for around 50 minutes (depending on the size) or until soft. Set aside and allow to cool down.

While the butternut squash are cooling, start to make the filling. Gently fry the onion in the oil for 5 minutes, then add all the other ingredients for the filling and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste. Once finished, set aside.

Once the squash are cool, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds along with a little of the flesh.

Add the filling mixture to the squash and bake for a further 10 minutes.

To serve: garnish with beetroot, herbs and paprika


Smoky leek and hazelnut tart

Serves 6


For the tart:

• 500g Jus-Rol ready-made shortcrust pastry

• 300ml milk or soya milk

• 150g vegetarian Wensleydale with cranberry cheese

• 100g tinned roasted peppers, sliced

• 100g hazelnuts, gently roasted then chopped

• 20g butter or 20ml olive oil

• 4 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced

• 4 spring onions, thinly sliced

• 3 cloves garlic, crushed

• 2 tsp plain white flour

• 1 onion, finely sliced

• 1 small pinch clove powder

• 1 tbsp harissa paste

• 1 tbsp cranberry sauce

• ½ tsp vegetarian or vegan stock powder

• ¼ tsp smoked paprika

• Salt and pepper, to taste

For the garnish:

• 1 tsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped,  

• ¼ red pepper, finely chopped,  

•  ¼ tsp smoked paprika



Preheat oven to 180C.

Line a greased 28cm x 2cm deep, loose-bottomed flan dish with greaseproof paper (if you don’t have this size dish it will still work well with a different one, or you could make individual tartlets instead). Roll out the pastry and carefully line the dish, then trim off any excess pastry. Prick the pastry with a fork.

Cover the pastry with parchment paper, then add ceramic baking beans (alternatively use dried pulses or uncooked rice). Place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then bake for another 10 minutes. Then take it out of the oven and leave to cool.

While the pastry is cooking, gently sauté the leeks in 10g butter or 10ml oil*. After 5 minutes add the garlic and spring onions and fry for 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper then set to one side.

To make the cheese sauce: gently fry the onion in 10g butter or 10ml oil* for 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and continue to stir for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk or soya milk*, a little at a time. The sauce should get thicker as the milk is heated. Add the stock powder and a pinch of clove powder. Cook gently for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add 100g of the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, fold into the cooked leeks. Season as required then set to one side.

Time to assemble the tart! Spread the harissa paste onto the pastry base then add the peppers and cranberry sauce. Top with one-third of the nuts.

Carefully add the leek mixture to the pastry case, then top with the remaining cheese. At this point the tart can be chilled (or frozen) and reheated as required.

Bake in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Mix the remaining nuts with a little smoked paprika, then season with salt and pepper. Remove the tart from the oven, scatter the mixture onto the top of the tart and then bake in the oven for another 5 minutes.

To serve: garnish with a little parsley red pepper and smoked paprika. Allow to cool slightly before cutting






Raspberry frangipane tarts

Serves 4


• 210g frozen ready-rolled puff pastry

• 150g frozen raspberries

• 125g white marzipan cut into thin slices

• 25g lemon flavour biscuits crumbs

• 20g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

• 4 tbsp brandy (optional)

• 1 tsp cinnamon powder

• ½ tsp lemon rind, finely grated

To serve

• Custard or cream



Pre-heat oven to Gas 6/200C. Roll the pastry out very lightly to make a 27.5cm square and then cut out four circles approx 13cm diameter. Place each one in a small 12cm loose bottom tartlet tin/or Yorkshire pudding tins so that a little of the pastry comes up the side.

Mix the lemon rind, biscuit crumbs and, keeping a border of 1cm around the edge of the pastry, sprinkle a heaped teaspoon over the base. Then cover with marzipan slices and place 14 or 15 raspberries upright on top.

Drizzle 1 tbsp brandy over the fruit on each tart, place on a heated baking tray and bake for approx 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and rises around the edges.

Shake a little cinnamon powder over the raspberries and sprinkle with flaked almonds.





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