Illustration by Marcelina Jagielka

Christmas dinner is the best part of Christmas day. There. I said it. No ifs, no buts for me: it just simply is. As you might be preparing Oxmas dinners this week and next, some inspiration might come in handy. Christmas dinner doesn’t just have to be turkey and stuffing. It can be non-traditional and unexpected and still be festive. 

As the cook for a vegan family, I have a key responsibility in creating the centrepiece for the big lunch. Previously, we resorted to shop-bought nut roasts, which are sadly often dry and tasteless, although with the increased awareness of plant-based diets, these have improved in recent years. One option I have tried making in recent years is a butternut galette, comprised of a chestnut and pistachio breadcrumb base, topped with caramelised butternut squash and a lime-and-avocado smash. It looked brilliant upon assembly in my kitchen: less so after the ten minute walk to my Grandparents’ house (where we eat Christmas dinner)!

The best option I have found so far is a Wellington. This provides the drama and majesty of a turkey, but is – in my opinion – much easier to achieve. I opted for a butternut squash Wellington, because of my brother’s (now reformed) hatred of mushrooms, which are the more traditional filling. I roasted the squash the day before in a Marmite glaze (yes, Marmite) for a layer of umami goodness. Then on the day, I assembled the Wellington by putting down a sheet of puff pastry, followed by a layer of wilted spinach and walnuts, then the squash, forming the body, and encased it in another sheet of puff pastry. I forked the edges of the beast to ensure a spectacular finish, and roasted it in the oven until golden-brown. This fared a lot better on the walk to my Grandparents, and only required heating up in the oven once we got there.

image taken by author

With the centrepiece out of the way, we can finally focus on the sides. An argument is made that sides are the best part of Christmas dinner, and I would have to agree … I have always been a sucker for roast potatoes, especially when done with copious amounts of sea salt and fresh rosemary. Parsnips and carrots are essential, half-burnt but still delicious. And sprouts: of course, the sprouts! 

But my runaway favourite has to be the stuffing. Never have I been so in love with stuffing as during 2021’s Christmas dinner. I think I ate more of that than any other dish on offer. It was so crisp on the outside, so soft and salty and moreish on the inside. Perhaps they are the English falafel? It would certainly explain my love for them. 

Not just one showstopper is present at Christmas dinner, however. For this special meal, two are required. When the pudding comes out, this is when we all find our second stomachs. You get to the end of the main course, and you say “of course not! I simply couldn’t!” and then you dive into the sweet goodness of whatever you opt for. In recent years, I have been in the habit of making a Christmas cake in September, then storing it in the cellar, eagerly awaiting the big day. My Mum isn’t a fan of cooked fruit like raisins or sultanas, so I’ve never made a true Christmas pudding. But this cake is made with dates and chocolates (her two favourite things) so it is a sure-fire hit with the whole family. 

This is just an account of my family’s Christmas food habits. It may be slightly untraditional, but it still adheres to the form one would expect of a Christmas dinner. It brings my family together, and so too should your Oxmas dinner bring friends to the table.