For many people the highlight of Christmas lunch is a succulent roast turkey or similar meat but for me it has to be the vegetables. OK, so I'm vegan and we have to eat something other than nut roast (which always gets a bad press, usually from people who haven't tried it) but I think there is good reason for veg to take their rightful place in the centre of the table. After all there are so many delightful and inventive ways to cook them and add that extra special touch to your festive meal.
First up, at least in the UK, has to be Brussels sprouts which I grew for the first time this year. Traditionally disliked by children and in 2002 voted Britain's most hated vegetable, this classic winter crop has taste, texture and is full of health. Just 6 sprouts contain a complete daily dose of vitamin C! Cast away your memories of canteen-produced soggy mush – it's all in the preparation and cooking. It does take time to peel off the outer layers and chop the stalk (I find it best to mark a cross in the stalk with a kitchen knife so that it cooks as quickly as the leaves) but this can be done in advance if you leave them in a sealed bag in the fridge. Then tipping them into boiling water they should be cooked rather like pasta – 'al dente' - soft but with some bite. In just 7 or 8 minutes they will be ready, retaining their slight sweetness and wonderful taste.
Potatoes have to have pride of place in any Christmas lunch but why stick with just roasting them when they are so versatile? Add some mashed (perhaps with swede/rutabaga or sweet potato) for an extra texture that children love. Or how about a few 'new' potatoes with butter and fresh mint? And gravy of some sort is the perfect accompaniment – not thin out-of-a-packet stuff but prepared with slowly sautéed onions and thinly sliced mushrooms.
Root vegetables are of course in abundant supply in winter and my preference is always to roast them. Coating them with oil and mixing with fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme or crushed garlic, salt and black pepper – all these really bring out the taste. You can get a great range of flavours by mixing carrots with parsnip and even fresh beetroot if you don't mind everything coming out red! And I like to experiment with how I chop them too – sticks or cubes, round slices or halved – they all add something different. Try some rich canola oil or add pine nuts and a touch of cayenne pepper for a bit of a kick.
I could go on – but I think you get the picture. Let's get veg out of their traditional side-dish role and make them the star of the show! If you've got your own favourite Christmas veg then why not add a comment and share it below?