Meat-Free Feast

Expand your palate with these veg-centric dishes this festive season.

It’s not a festive feast without a turkey or a ham, right? Well, a growing number of Australians and New Zealanders would disagree. According to Roy Morgan Research in both Australia and New Zealand, the percentage of population identifying as vegetarian is on the rise. And more and more athletes are embracing vegetarianism and veganism, like ultra runner Scott Jurek and Australian Olympian Morgan Mitchell. So this festive season, take a page out of Mark Bittman’s updated cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, for your holiday dinner fare.

“What encourages me is that the idea of eating meatless meals – the understanding that this is a healthy thing to do and worth aspiring to – has become mainstream,” says Bittman, a four-time New York City Marathoner.

These dishes pack a nutritional punch and prove that a meat-free meal can be just as festive and filling as having the bird, stuffing and sides.



Stuffed Pumpkin with Quinoa, Corn and Tomatoes

This dish is full of potassium and vitamin A, thanks to delicious pumpkin. Mix it up and try different varieties of pumpkin.




1 butternut pumpkin (or pumpkin of your choice)

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup quinoa

1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes

1 cup fresh corn kernels

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced


Heat oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half lengthways; remove and reserve seeds. Spoon out flesh to make room for the stuffing along the length of the pumpkin.
Cook quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until water is just below the surface of the quinoa. Turn heat off, cover, and let stand until remaining water is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.

While the quinoa is on, fry pumpkin seeds on medium heat with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, corn, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste for 10 minutes. Add fried ingredients to quinoa.

Pack quinoa mixture into pumpkin halves, and press the halves back together. Brush pumpkin interior and sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap pumpkin in tinfoil and bake for two hours, or until tender and cooked through. Once ready to serve, carve pumpkin into thick slices and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and trimmings.


Cranberry Relish with Orange and Ginger

Stir in 1/2 cup raisins or pomegranate seeds for added fibre, and chopped walnuts or pecans for healthy fat.




1 large orange

4 cups frozen cranberries, thawed

1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste

1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger, or to taste


Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the entire zest of orange; set aside. Cut away and discard thick white pitch. Cut orange segments away from their membranes. Combine orange flesh, zest, cranberries, and sugar in a food processor. Process until chunky. Stir in ginger. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving for best flavours.


Chilled Carrot-Coconut Soup

Coconut milk is loaded with iron, calcium and medium-chain fats, which may help maintain weight.




2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 spring onions, white and green parts separated and chopped

3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, bruised*, and cut into 5cm lengths

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger

1 Tbsp. chopped garlic

1 or more small fresh Thai or jalapeno chilies, chopped

450g carrots, chopped

1 pinch salt

2 400ml tins coconut milk plus a little water

2 limes: 1 zested and juiced, 1 quartered for serving

1 tsp. sugar (optional)

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander for garnish

ice water for thinning soup


Pour oil into large pot over medium heat. When hot, add white parts of the spring onions, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chillies. Cook, stirring and turning occasionally with a spatula, until garlic is golden and spring onion and chillies begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add carrots and a large pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Add coconut milk, lime zest and juice, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove lemongrass, then puree in pot with an immersion blender. Chill soup for at least six hours or overnight. When ready to serve, thin soup with ice water, garnish with coriander and green parts of spring onions, and serve with lime wedges.

*Bring out the flavour by hitting each stalk with the blunt edge of a knife.


Apple Bourbon Pie

Apples – high in quercetin, which may improve heart health – pair well with ingredients that emphasise their warmth, like booze.




1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

1.5kg firm, sweet apples, like Pink Lady apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into half-centimetre wedges

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Premade pie crust, top and bottom layers (available in the freezer section)

2 Tbsp. bourbon*

2 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces (optional)

Dairy or non-dairy milk as needed


Heat oven to 220°C. Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in small bowl. Mix together apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Add dry ingredients to apples and toss to coat.

Layer apple mixture in pie shell, pouring in excess juices, then sprinkle with bourbon and dot with butter, if using. Cover with top crust, and crimp edges of both crusts together.

Place pie on a baking sheet and brush top lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut two or three 5cm-long slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 180°C and bake another 25 minutes. Then tent the edges of crust with foil to prevent burning. Bake until pie is golden brown (5 to 15 minutes more). Cool before serving. Top with cream, if desired.

*For a booze-free alternative, use apple juice instead of bourbon.

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