The flavors of Thanksgiving and Christmas are special to Gaz Oakley.
He's the vegan chef from England who runs the popular @avantgardevegan Instagram account and YouTube channel. Earlier this year, he published his first cookbook, "Vegan 100," and he's already back with a second: "Vegan Christmas: Over 70 Amazing Recipes for the Festive Season" (Quadrille Publishing, $19.99).
Oakley will be in Austin this weekend for an event at BookPeople at 2 p.m. Nov. 3, but we talked a few weeks ago about why he wanted to make a holiday book and how cooks can incorporate more vegan dishes into their holiday meals.
"So many vegans struggle at Christmas," Oakley says. "I'm trying to get as many people as possible to eat less meat and to make it less sticky and awkward if you're a vegan already."
Those beloved "Christmas flavors," he says, could also be applied to Thanksgiving: Rosemary, sage, chestnuts, cranberries, dried apricots, pecans and walnuts.
You don't need chicken broth to make a stuffing filled with cranberries, rosemary, sage and pecans, and if you know how to use nutritional yeast and some of the other ingredients featured in Oakley's book, you don't need cheese and butter to make the mashed potatoes taste good, either.
Adjusting your family's favorite traditional holiday foods to become vegan only works some of the time. Sometimes, you need a totally new approach, especially with the main dishes, such as a "beef" Wellington or a "no-turkey" roast wrapped in "bacon." He has even developed a vegan Yorkshire pudding.
When he's hosting a holiday dinner, Oakley breaks out an amuse bouche to warm up guests' palates and then serves a four-course meal, complete with a vegan cheese for dessert. The vegan cheeses that you can buy in the store are improving in taste and texture, he says, but it's not difficult to make them at home. The richness of, say, a macadamia nut cheese helps satiate people who are used to the umami flavors of meat.
Umami-rich ingredients, such as miso paste, dried mushrooms, soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste, are key to creating many of Oakley's savory main dishes, but if you're not up to making a dish like the roast below, here are half a dozen other vegan holiday dishes to bring to whatever table you'll be joining this holiday season.
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Stuffing Drop Biscuits
Stuffed “No-Turkey” Wrapped in Gaz’s Streaky “Bacon”
This is technical to make but so rewarding when you slice into it. I believe this recipe is powerful enough to help reduce the amount of people having meat on their dinner tables at Christmas — the flavors are incredible! If you have a soy allergy, use 1 3/4 ounce extra chickpeas instead of the tofu. Use soy-free miso or leave it out.
— Gaz Oakley
FOR THE “TURKEY” WET INGREDIENTS
1 cup soy or oat milk
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
Olive oil, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped, sautéed until soft
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped, sautéed until soft
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces firm tofu, patted dry
3 tablespoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
FOR THE BROTH
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups white wine
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion, quartered
Handful of dried mushrooms
1 bay leaf
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
FOR THE RUB
4 tablespoons mixed dried herbs
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
FOR THE STUFFING
1 quantity sweet potato and chestnut stuffing (see below), skipping the final step
FOR THE “BACON” WRAPPING
3 tablespoons cranberry and orange sauce (see below)
8 slices of streaky “bacon” (see below)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
First up, you will need to make the seitan “turkey”: combine all the wet ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Mix the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour and nutritional yeast together in a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer (with the dough hook attached), then add the wet ingredients and mix until it forms a dough. Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes by hand or do this in your mixer on medium speed. This is the most important part of the recipe — if you don’t knead it properly you will be left with horrible spongy seitan. Be very firm!
Once kneaded, the dough should be quite firm and elastic. Use a rolling pin to bash and roll the dough into a rough rectangle around 1/2-inch thick. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Add the broth ingredients to a large roasting tray. Cut a piece of cheesecloth slightly larger than the seitan dough rectangle.
Mix the rub ingredients together in a small bowl, then sprinkle it over the dough. Cover the seitan well in the spice mix as this stops it sticking. Place the dough spice-side down onto the muslin.
Spoon the stuffing across the middle of the dough and roll it up around the stuffing, molding the edges together. Wrap the dough in the muslin as tightly as possible. Twist the ends, then tie them tightly with cook’s string. Make sure your dough is a nice cylindrical shape.
Place the “No-Turkey” wrap into the roasting tray with the broth ingredients then cover the tray with foil. Place the tray into the oven for 2 hours. Turn the seitan over halfway through cooking and add additional stock if needed. Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to lift the “turkey” out of the broth and, when cool enough to handle, carefully remove the muslin. The “turkey” can now be wrapped in clingfilm and placed into the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Reserve the broth liquid as it makes a great gravy.
An hour before you want to serve, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I like to wrap the “turkey” in my “bacon” but you can bake it without if you prefer. Place the “turkey” into a baking tray, spoon over a couple of tablespoons of cranberry sauce to help the “bacon“ stick, then neatly lay over the rashers. Secure it with string, if necessary. Brush with the maple syrup to glaze. Bake for 25 minutes, then slice and serve with all the trimmings. Serves 8.
Sweet Potato and Chestnut Stuffing
Stuffing is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas dinner. I love this recipe, it has all the Christmassy flavors you could want. It tastes amazing when stuffed inside my “No-turkey” centerpiece. If you are using this to stuff the “turkey” roast skip the final step.
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 leek, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 1/2 ounces sweet potato, peeled, cubed and steamed
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 1/2 ounces vacuum-packed chestnuts, chopped
1 cup canned chickpeas or butterbeans
Zest of 1 lemon
First, heat the oven to 350 degrees and then line a medium-sized baking dish with parchment paper.
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leek, garlic, herbs, cinnamon and cooked sweet potato and sauté until the leek has softened and the potato has browned. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. Turn the heat off and, using an old-fashioned potato masher, lightly mash the mix. Break down any large chunks of sweet potato and the chickpeas or butterbeans.
Spoon the mixture into the lined baking dish and press it in to compact the mixture. Place the dish onto a baking tray and slide it into the oven to bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Once it’s cooked, allow the stuffing to cool before taking it out of the dish and peeling off the paper. Serves 6.
The most incredible vegan “bacon” you will taste. It’s definitely worth all the effort, and is a key element in my No-turkey recipes
FOR THE “BACON” WET INGREDIENTS
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
2 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon miso paste
4 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 red onion, finely chopped and sautéed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped and sautéed
1 1/2 cup canned chickpeas , drained
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
4 tablespoons chickpea flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
FOR THE “STREAK” WET INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup firm tofu
1/2 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1 tsp onion salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Place all the wet ingredients for the “bacon” into a food processor and blitz together.
Combine all the dry ingredients for the “bacon” in a large mixing bowl, add the blitzed wet ingredients and mix together to form a dough, then tip the dough out on to a clean work surface.
Knead well for 12 minutes, either by hand or in an electric stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. It’s really important that you knead the dough properly – if you don’t your finished “bacon” will be soft and spongy. After 12 minutes of kneading, set the dough aside to rest at room temperature.
Blitz together all the wet ingredients for the “streak”. Combine all the dry ingredients for the “streak” in a large clean mixing bowl, add the blitzed wet ingredients and mix together to form a dough, then tip it out on to a clean work surface. Knead by hand, or use a stand mixer, for 4 to 6 minutes.
Roll and bash the “bacon” dough using a rolling pin until it’s approximately 8 inches by 12 inches. Do the same with the “streak” dough, then lay the streak dough on top of the “bacon” dough and cut the doughs in half. Place one half on top of the other and roll/ bash the doughs together until you have a rectangle about 1 1/2-inch thick.
Generously sprinkle sea salt over the dough rectangle and set aside. Set a large saucepan of water over a medium heat to simmer. Wrap the dough tightly in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Make sure it is well sealed, then lower the wrapped dough into the water to simmer for 2 hours, flipping over half way through cooking.
After 2 hours remove the “bacon” from the water and leave until cool enough to handle. Unwrap the “bacon”, transfer to a plate and put it in the fridge to cool completely (about 4 hours). Once chilled, slice the “bacon” to the thickness of your choice. You can eat it cold or pan fry, grill or bake it until golden and crisp. It keeps in the fridge for around a week and can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Cranberry and Orange Sauce
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small cinnamon stick
1 Braeburn apple, grated
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
To sterilize your jars, place them in a large saucepan filled with cold water, place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes then turn off the heat. Carefully remove the jars from the water when you’re ready to fill them.
Heat all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat with the lid on. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove the jars from the hot water, spoon the sauce into the hot jars and seal. The sauce will keep for 4 weeks in the fridge.
— Recipes from "Vegan Christmas: Over 70 Amazing Recipes for the Festive Season" by Gaz Oakley (Quadrille Publishing, $19.99)