TThis is my fifth vegan Christmas dinner and I worry every year that it will be impossible. The fear is growing: How do you make something special and happy enough to deserve a place on your Christmas table? Something that works for generations, but also next to other dishes (and doesn’t scare the cook)? I don’t know if I succeeded, but personally there is nothing better than seeing a large roasted pumpkin with a treasure on the festive table. I’m happy to share this one with you: my Christmas pumpkin filled with a delicious, zesty mix of nuts, herbs and mushrooms.
The Christmas pumpkin
This recipe that requires a food processor deserves the very best pumpkin you can get. I love cute, beautiful Delica pumpkins and Crown Princes, neither of which are cheap, but if there was ever time to splash around …
preparation 10 mins
Cook 1 hour 45 minutes
1 Delica pumpkin, about 1.6kg
1½ teaspoons of fine sea salt, plus an extra pinch to flavor the inside of the pumpkin
150g mixed nuts (Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
750g mixed mushrooms, cleaned
4 tbsp olive oil
14 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs of thyme, Leaves stripped
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 small leeks (250g), trimmed and finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
Use a small serrated knife to cut a lid off the pumpkin and drill a hole big enough for your hand. With your hand like a bear’s claw scoop out the seeds and thread-like pieces (put in the compost). Rub some salt into the pumpkin, then set it aside.
Put the nuts in a food processor and grind to dust – but keep an eye out, otherwise they will turn into nut butter – then tip into a bowl. Break the mushrooms into pieces, place in the food processor, chop into lentil-sized pieces and let rise on site see you later.
Transfer the oil to a large pan over medium heat and, once hot, add the sage and thyme leaves. As soon as they start to crackle, stir in the onion and leek and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes until they are soft and start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for three minutes until the raw smell disappears.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they lose their moisture. Add the measured salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ground nuts and cook for six to eight minutes, stirring regularly so the mixture doesn’t stick. Remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Heat the oven to 200 ° C (180 ° C convection) / 390 F / Gas 6 and lay out a sheet (I use a reusable baking sheet). Spoon the mixture into the pumpkin and press down on each spoon to avoid gaps (you may have too much filling, but that’s better than not having enough), then flip the lid open. Rub the skin of the pumpkin with oil, wrap tightly in foil, place on the baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes, until the tip of a sharp knife easily slides through it.
Take the pumpkin out of the oven, unpack it (possibly leave the foil at the bottom of the pumpkin) and carefully place it on a nice serving plate. Cut into large wedges and serve with a cabbage and apple salad.
Fiona Beckett’s drink match You could have white (Chardonnay, I suggest) or red with Meera’s pumpkin and coleslaw combo, but I’d go for a pinot noir. Morrisons has a really good one Chilean single vineyard Pinot (£ 10, 13%) in its The Best range, which is suitable for vegans. Or, if you’re not a vegan, The Wine Society has a delicious one Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019 (£ 14.95, 13.5%) in its Exhibition range which is great value for a California red of this quality.