Christmas recipes: Festive vegetables

Delectable dishes of carrots, parsnips and sprouts add colour, flavour and texture to make your Christmas feast sparkle. Claire Thomson presents six seasonal recipes

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A blazing bird or a hulking rib of beef, more roast potatoes than necessary, a glass of wine, and all is well with Christmas lunch.

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Except, that is, for the vegetables.

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Cider-cured gammon is the perfect addition to any boxing day feast (Photo by: rawpixel via Getty Images)

This is where I am happy for tradition to take a back seat. Boiled sprouts and carrots and plain roasted parsnips have long meant these seasonal stalwarts are sidekicks to the main event. But shown a little festive glamour, vegetables can shine.

The dishes presented here are not too quirky to cause offence – Christmas and convention are bedfellows after all – but tantalising enough for any vegetarians or even, vegetable-loving meat-eaters to demolish on the day.

I am happiest in the kitchen when faced with a pile of seasonal vegetables in tiptop condition. These recipes strike a balance in the time they take to prepare – low and slow like the carrots, or a day in advance like the pickles. As with most cooking, I am a firm believer that not all dishes taste best served scalding hot. Relieve the pressure and prepare and serve the carrots and parsnip gratin warm, leaving you to cook the sprouts at the last minute. Easy.

Here are the best Christmas vegetable recipes to add sparkle to your Christmas feast

Malted carrots with sunflower seeds

Cooked here with the malt extract, the carrots turn sticky and fudgy with a mellow malted flavour to flatter the sweetness of the carrots and the nuttiness of sunflower seeds.

Malted carrots (Photo by: Jason Ingram)
These malted carrots are sweet and nutty (Photo by: Jason Ingram)

Pan-fried brussels sprouts with sage, brown butter & grated chestnuts 

Pan-frying sprouts over a high heat caramelises the natural sugars in these tiny little brassica. With no sogginess from boiling, sprouts have never tasted so good. Brown butter is magic on almost everything, especially here with the chestnuts and sprouts.

Brussels sprouts with a chestnut twist (Photo by: Jason Ingram)
Brussels sprouts with a chestnut twist (Photo by: Jason Ingram)

Parsnips baked with pearled spelt, radicchio, crème fraîche & walnuts

Spelt is an ancient grain with a nutty attractive flavour. These plump cooked grains flatter the sweet cooked parsnip, bitter radicchio and the walnuts. Adding grains to gratin dishes can give ballast and easily swell a dish to feed more mouths.

Parsnips baked with pearled spelt
Liven up this traditional vegetable with spelt and walnuts (Photo by: Jason Ingram)

Stuffed squash with fennel and barley 

Squash is particularly delicious in the winter months when the days are cold. It’s earthy flavour, combined with the fennel and barley, makes it the perfect seasonal addition to the Christmas dinner table.

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Stuffed Squash
This recipe works well with the onion squash variety, but you whatever is available (Photo by: Andrew Montgomery)

Prunes wrapped in bacon with grainy mustard

Although these aren’t vegetables, they are the perfect accompaniment to any Christmas dinner. The combination of hot, sweet, sticky prunes spiked with mustard and wrapped with crisp salty bacon is amazing. Serve these roast dinner sidekicks alongside the rest of the vegetables for complete festive variety.

Bacon wrapped prunes (Photo by: Jason Ingram)
Accompany your Christmas veg with these mustard spiked prunes (Photo by: Jason Ingram)