Are you sick of cookies yet? All I seem to be seeing on people's blogs lately are cookies. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing the recipes, but I just don't have a sweet enough tooth to be particularly excited by them. I was offered a cupcake at a party last night, and when I declined the girl looked horrified and told me I was absolutely mad for turning down free cake. Aside from the fact that I don't generally accept cake from strangers, I just don't get that excited by sugar (apart from chocolate, but that really deserves a food group all of its own). However, she later went on to say that she often says 'hashtag lol' in actual, face-to-face conversation, so I think that pretty much discredits anything she has ever said.
Aaaanyway, I thought I'd share another vegetarian Christmas dish today, just in case you're a bit fed up of sugar. If my veggie en croute wasn't your thing, perhaps you'll prefer this lentil loaf.
This loaf is entirely vegan, but it's so firm and substantial that you won't miss the meat for a second. This is another recipe where I, as a vegetarian, would describe the texture as quite meaty, but my meat-eating boyfriend said that wasn't quite accurate, so I'll leave it up to you to decide. It was really filling, and one or two slices are plenty, so this loaf would be great to feed a crowd.
I love the way you get little dots of colour through the loaf - cubes of orange carrot, flecks of fresh green parsley, and just a touch of purple from the red onion. If you want to mix this up a bit with different herbs or some additional vegetables, go ahead! Make it your own.
Obviously, any meal of this type isn't complete without a smothering of gravy - vegan, of course. It helps to keep the loaf moist, gives the vegetables a bit of extra flavour, and really ties the meal together.
I've just realised that I served my veggie en croute with skin-on mashed potato and broccoli as well. I swear I do sometimes eat other vegetables too; I just like these because they're so easy to whip up. If you want, you can go the whole hog (the whole tofu?) and have this loaf with roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots, green beans, sprouts, and everything else that a Christmas dinner wouldn't be complete without.
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
¼tsp ground cumin
¼tsp medium curry powder
¼tsp cayenne chilli pepper
150g red lentils
900ml vegetable stock
½tsp dried oregano
½tsp dried thyme
~100g rolled oats
3tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a saucepan, and cook the red onion, garlic and carrot over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the next 4 ingredients (the 4 spices), and cook, stirring constantly, for a further 1-2 minutes.
Add the lentils and stock, and season well with black pepper and the dried herbs. Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Stir regularly. Add the fresh parsley, and stir in as many oats as you need to bring the mixture to the correct consistency (you may need slightly more or less than the 100g suggested). It should be moist, but sturdy enough to hold its shape solidly rather than filling the container. Mix well.
Lightly grease a baking dish or loaf tin, and spoon in the lentil mixture. Spread out until smooth.
Bake at 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F) for 30-40 minutes, and then gently turn out onto a baking tray. If needed, grill (broil) for a few minutes to crisp up the top. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, before carefully slicing.