HomeLifestyleFood & RecipesMarco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Marco Pierre White’s magnificent meat-free festive feast

Welcome to my vegetarian Christmas, a festive feast so delicious it will make you forget about the turkey, although ‘flexitarians’ will also be delighted because many of these dishes can be served with meat and fish. They are recipes that appeal to everybody – vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

There are a few showstoppers to serve at the table so that your family and friends can help themselves and share. There’s my succulent Artichoke Stew Barigoule, a version of a Provençal classic made famous by the late, brilliant, French chef Roger Vergé. 

If you’re after something eye-catching, there’s my Buttered Sprouts & Chestnuts, an unforgettable pick-your-own extravaganza.

Marco (pictured) said his vegetarian Christmas can make you forget about the turkey

Marco Pierre White (pictured) shared a selection of delicious meat-free recipes for feast this festive season

For a hearty alternative roast see my Aubergine Parmigiana – artfully constructed layers of aubergine fritters and mozzarella – or my Roasted Cauliflower Cheese, which brings more than a little twist to the classic. And for pure comfort food, why not stir up my Pumpkin Risotto.

If it’s tantalising trimmings you’re after, try Pommes Boulangère for an alternative to roast potatoes, or my glorious Beetroots. For Boxing Day, you can indulge your guests with a bowl of my ‘Meaty Pappardelle’ with mushrooms – it’s meat-free of course.

For a spectacular finish there’s my daughter Mirabelle’s 18-Carrot Gold Gingerbread House. It’s a compelling masterpiece and for me – the proud father – it’s the icing on the (vegetarian) cake.

Merry Christmas, Love MPW x

ASPARAGUS SPEARS WITH TRUFFLE MAYO & CHOPPED EGG

This is a dish of pure indulgence. Asparagus spears are served with a light truffle mayonnaise and a scattering of chopped hard-boiled egg. As for the frequently asked question, whether to peel or not to peel the asparagus, in my restaurants we always peel, but at home, to be frank, I don’t bother.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 8-10

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
  • About 150ml (5fl oz) rapeseed oil
  • Sea salt and ground white pepper
  • 50g (1¾oz) truffle from a jar, drained and finely chopped
  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) asparagus spears
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, shelled, finely sliced
  • 10g (¼oz) micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped)

MARCO SAYS… 

Cook the asparagus in a large pan – if yours is too small it will take a while for the water to come back to the boil once the spears have gone in, so they’ll lose their freshness.

In a bowl, briskly whisk the egg yolk with the Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and 1 dessertspoon of water to create an emulsion. Tilt the bowl and, while continuing to whisk, pour in the oil in a slow, steady trickle on the side of the bowl. Whisk in a pinch of salt and another of white pepper. Add the chopped truffle, stir and check the seasoning. Refrigerate until required.

Remove the woody part at the base of each asparagus spear like this: with the blade of a knife, tap the spear, moving from its base upwards, until there is no resistance and the blade cuts cleanly through the tender part of the spear. Discard the woody bits.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the spears and cook on a rapid boil for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking. Once the spears have cooled, and when you are almost ready to serve, place them on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper and dab dry.

Lay the asparagus spears on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and white pepper. Spoon over the mayonnaise, and be generous with it – life’s too short for small portions. Add the finely sliced hard-boiled egg and the parsley, and serve.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

PUMPKIN RISOTTO 

Serves 6

MARCO SAYS… 

Risotto should be al dente, so that as you eat you can almost sense each grain of rice. Don’t have the pan too hot – if the rice cooks too fast your risotto will be dry.

  • 1 pumpkin
  • Olive oil, for frying and drizzling
  • 2 onions, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 400g (14oz) Arborio rice, washed
  • 1 medium glass of dry white wine
  • 1.6ltr (2¾pt) vegetable stock
  • Sea salt flakes and ground white pepper
  • A few knobs of unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g (5½oz) Parmesan-style vegetarian or vegan cheese
  • A few Amaretti biscuits, crushed to crumbs with a rolling pin
  • Micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped), to garnish

Slice the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and stringy threads. Fry the seeds in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the seeds from the kernels. Set the seeds aside and discard the kernels. 

Blend the stringy threads to a purée. Peel the pumpkin and chop the flesh into 2cm (¾in) chunks. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan, add half the onions and sweat over a low-medium heat until softened. 

Add the pumpkin flesh, increase the heat to medium, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the pan scorching and adding more oil if needed, until tender. Set aside.

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the rest of the onion and all the garlic and sweat for a few minutes, until softened. Add the rice and stir well, working the onion and garlic through the rice. Pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced. Pour in one-quarter of the stock.

When it starts to boil, stir, and when it comes back to the boil, stir again. Continue like this, stirring when the risotto comes to the boil. The rice becomes plump as it drinks the stock, and releases its starch.

Keep adding stock, a few ladles at a time. Taste a grain of rice every now and then – if it tastes chalky, continue to cook until the chalkiness is gone.

Add the pumpkin and puréed pumpkin threads to the rice. Stir and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Remove the pan from the heat, and cover the top with knobs of butter and grated Parmesan-style cheese. 

Leave for a couple of minutes, then stir to work in the butter and cheese. Scatter with the pumpkin seeds, crushed Amaretti and parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

MARCO’S SOUS-VIDE TIPS 

A couple of my dishes use the sous-vide method, a process of sealing food in an airtight container, usually a vacuum-sealed bag, and then cooking it in a water bath to ensure even results with intense flavour, as the food cooks in its own juices. 

Sous-vide machines are no longer just for professional kitchens and are becoming more affordable, from around £100. However, there are two alternatives that achieve a similar result: 1A roasting/poaching bag you can buy online.

Simply place the ingredients in the bag, spin the bag to take the air out and create a vacuum, and tie before poaching. I’ve used this technique in some of the recipes over the following pages. 2A blanket of clingfilm. Lay a large sheet of clingfilm on a board and fold it in half; repeat with two more sheets of clingfilm, laying these on top of the first folded sheet.

Place the ingredient, eg celeriac, in the centre of the clingfilm and lift the corners so they meet above it. Squeeze the air out and spin the clingfilm, then tie it before poaching.

BEETROOTS, FIGS, DATES & WALNUTS WITH A PORT REDUCTION

Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a side or starter

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

  • 18 small beetroots
  • 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1tbsp extra for the port reduction
  • 6 figs, halved lengthways
  • 12 dates, stones removed
  • 200ml (7fl oz) ruby port
  • 100g (3½oz) vegetarian goat’s cheese, broken into crumbs
  • A small handful of walnuts, chopped
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • A small handful of micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, chopped)

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the beetroots and cook for about 20 minutes. To see if they are done, insert a small knife into a beetroot – it should have just a little resistance. Drain, scrape away the skins and halve each beetroot.

Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Lay the beetroot halves in the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the figs and cook for 2-3 minutes, tossing in the dates in the last minute just to warm them through.

Meanwhile, place the port in a pan over a medium-high heat and cook until reduced to a thick syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 1tbsp of olive oil.

Arrange the beetroots, figs and dates on a platter. Scatter with the cheese and walnuts, season, then pour the port reduction over and sprinkle with parsley to serve.

MY CAULIFLOWER CHEESE & ONION ROAST

This much-loved dish makes a perfect vegetarian main course. My version is to gently poach the cauliflower first, then bake it with fried onions for sweetness and texture.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 4

  • 1 cauliflower
  • ½ a lemon
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 150g (5½oz) vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated (see tip, right)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter, melted

For the Béchamel sauce

MARCO SAYS… 

A good vegetarian Cheddar or Emmental cheese works well in this dish, or you can try a vegetarian white Stilton, such as Long Clawson. Whatever suits your taste buds!

  • 75g (2¾oz) butter
  • 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
  • 500ml (18fl oz) milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 50ml (2fl oz) double cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sea salt flakes and white pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle simmer. Remove and discard the cauliflower’s leaves and woody base, then rub all over with the cut side of the lemon. Place in a poaching bag (see my sous-vide tips, page 41).

Add a pinch of salt, seal the bag and poach for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions until lightly golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper, season with salt and set aside. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Remove the poaching bag and leave the cauliflower to cool.

Then slice it crossways to create four or five ‘steaks’, keeping the order as you slice. Place the ‘base’ steak on a board and season with salt. Add grated cheese and then a spoonful of onions. Place another steak on top and repeat the process with each layer until you have ‘reconstructed’ the cauliflower.

Brush the top and sides with egg and secure with cocktail sticks. Place any excess fried onions and cheese in an ovenproof dish and put the cauliflower on top. Spoon the melted butter over and roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden.

To make the Béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes. Pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking to combine. Add nutmeg to taste. Pour in the cream, add the bay, and season with sea salt and white pepper. Cook, stirring with a whisk, for 10 minutes until the sauce is smooth, then taste to check that the flour has cooked out.

Bring the cauliflower to the table and pour the hot Béchamel sauce over the top. Add an extra pinch of salt – in life, always season hard – and serve.

ARTICHOKE STEW BARIGOULE

This dish is a Provençal classic, made famous by that great French chef, the late Roger Vergé. Hollywood stars visiting the Cannes Film Festival always found time for a meal at his three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Moulin de Mougins, where Artichokes Barigoule was often on the menu.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 6

  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 10ml (¼fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 10g (¼oz) unsalted butter
  • 18 globe artichokes
  • Lemon juice
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, finely sliced
  • 2 onions, finely sliced in strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs, plus extra to garnish
  • 175ml (6fl oz) dry white wine
  • 200ml (7fl oz) vegetable stock
  • Sea salt flakes

In a food processor, blend the basil leaves with the olive oil and butter. Set aside. Peel the artichokes, so you are left with the heart of the artichoke and the stem. Remove the woody base of each heart, or ‘choke’, so that you are left with the stem and top half of the heart. To prevent discolouration, keep the artichokes in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice. I talk you through this in my BBC Maestro course (see page 50).

Heat a little olive oil in a large flameproof casserole set over a medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme, and sweat them down, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. 

Add the artichokes to the pan, then pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced, to remove the wine’s acidity and bring out its sweetness. When you can no longer smell the acidity of the wine, it’s time to add the stock, so pour in the stock and add a couple of pinches of salt. 

When the stock comes back to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a cartouche (see end of my Tomato Sauce recipe, far right). Simmer for 20 minutes.

To check if the artichokes are cooked, insert the tip of a knife – there should be no resistance. Add the basil butter you made earlier to the stew and swirl the pan so that the butter melts and emulsifies. Season with a generous pinch of sea salt and extra thyme. Bring the casserole dish straight to the table or transfer to a large platter, if you prefer.

STUFFED COURGETTES PROVENCAL

At this time of year, it’s nice to have a taste of the south of France. These small courgettes, stuffed and baked, will take you there. If using passata, you should add to the filling 2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and chopped to a purée.

Serves 6 as a starter

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

  • 1 aubergine
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 3 small, round courgettes, halved (from larger supermarkets)
  • 60ml (2¼fl oz) tomato sauce (see my recipe far right, or use shopbought tomato passata)
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 black pitted olives, finely chopped
  • 60g (2¼oz) Italian-style vegetarian hard cheese
  • A small handful of micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, chopped), to garnish

Peel the aubergine, coarsely chop the flesh and place it in a microwave-proof bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of pinches of salt. Tightly wrap in microwaveproof clingfilm. Microwave for 8 minutes, then leave the aubergine in the wrapped bowl for at least 20 minutes to cool. Finely chop the cooled flesh; taste and add more lemon juice and seasoning if needed. Return it to the bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/ gas 7. Slice the base from the courgette halves so they can stand upright on a baking tray. Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and leave a hollow for the filling. 

To the bowl of aubergine, add the tomato sauce (or passata with garlic, see intro, left) and basil. Mix well, taste and adjust with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Stand the courgette halves upright on a baking tray and spoon the filling into the hollows – run a finger around the edges to remove excess filling. Scatter the chopped olives over the filling and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and serve, garnished with parsley.

POMMES BOULANGÈRE

This hearty dish is one of the first I learnt as an apprentice chef at the Hotel St George in Harrogate. It’s a combination of finely sliced potatoes, caramelised onions and butter, which adds the richness we associate with good comfort food.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 6

  • Clarified butter (or ghee), for frying, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • Sea salt
  • 1.2kg (2lb 10oz) waxy potatoes
  • Approx 1ltr (1¾pt) vegetable stock
  • Bay or thyme
  • A few knobs of butter, melted

First, caramelise the onions. Melt the clarified butter or ghee in a large casserole dish. Add the onions, season with sea salt and stir as they caramelise. Spread them across the base of the pan so they cook evenly and quickly. Transfer to a plate, then tilt to drain the excess butter into a separate bowl. Set both aside.

Peel the potatoes and then, with a sharp knife or mandolin, thinly slice the potatoes and lay on a clean tea towel. Don’t wash the slices – their starch is the ‘cement’ of this dish, holding it together. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3.

Butter a casserole dish and pour in a little of the vegetable stock. Line the base of the casserole with the potato slices overlapping, like fish scales. Season with salt, then add a second layer, pushing gently down on the potatoes to compact them.

Add a layer of onions, spreading them evenly, then spoon over a little stock. Repeat the layering, adding one layer of onions for every 2 layers of potatoes. Pour in a little stock as you go. Finish with a layer of potatoes, then brush all over with the drained-off excess butter.

Season lightly and pour the remaining stock over the top and garnish with the herbs. Cover with a sheet of lightly buttered kitchen foil. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, removing the foil for the final 15 minutes to brown the top. Glaze the top with melted butter and season with sea salt. Loosely cover with foil, and leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

MY HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE

It’s worth investing time to make your own tomato sauce. It can be stored in batches in the fridge for 4 days or frozen in bags ready to add to other dishes, such as my Aubergine Parmigiana Showstopper (page 49) or Stuffed Courgettes (below left) to make cooking quicker and easier.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Makes about 2 litres

  • 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) good-quality tinned chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan 130°C/gas 2. Heat the oil in a lidded ovenproof pan or casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the thyme and bay leaf and stir. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.

Let the tomatoes slowly release their liquid, then increase the heat. Taste, taste, taste. Notice how the acidity of the tomatoes slowly evaporates as their natural sweetness takes over. 

When you’re happy with the sweetness of the sauce, add the tinned tomatoes, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Cover with a cartouche of baking parchment (see directions below). 

Then wrap the lid of the saucepan in kitchen foil and place the wrapped lid on top of the pan. This way, what happens in the pan stays in the pan. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour.

Carefully pass the tomato sauce through a strainer into a jug, using the back of a ladle to push the liquid through and discarding the dry husks left behind. Season to taste. Use immediately or store as required.

HOW TO MAKE A CARTOUCHE

Take a square of greaseproof paper the size of your pan. Fold in half into a triangle, then fold in the same way three more times to get a narrow triangle. Snip off the point and trim the end so you have a circle that fits inside your pan.

MIRABELLE’S ‘18-CARROT GOLD’ GINGERBREAD CAKE

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

‘Carrot cake is one of my favourite bakes and sits perfectly with my dad’s vegetarian feast,’ says Marco’s daughter Mirabelle. ‘To elevate it to “18-carrot gold” showstopper status – not that I’m competing with my dad – I’ve added touches of gold leaf. The cake is a sandwich of two layers, with a buttercream filling and frosting. I have used two 20cm springform cake tins, but you can add extra tiers.

Serves 12

For the sponges

MIRABELLE SAYS… 

If you want to add ‘glass’ windows to your creation, use vegetarian leaf gelatine sheets, stuck onto the back of the baked and cooled gingerbread with royal icing.

  • 310g (10½oz) self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp nutmeg
  • ½tsp ground cloves
  • ½tsp allspice
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 370g (12¾oz) granulated sugar
  • 250ml (9fl oz) vegetable oil
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 375g (13oz) carrots, finely grated
  • 115g (4oz) crushed pineapple
  • 40g (1½oz) dried apricots, chopped
  • 30g (1oz) pecans, chopped (optional)

For the buttercream filling

  • 200g (7oz) icing sugar
  • 100g (3½oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, diced, plus extra for greasing

For the frosting

  • 230g (8oz) cream cheese
  • 170g (6oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, diced
  • 200g (7oz) icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C /gas 3½. In a large bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, cloves, allspice and  baking soda. Put to one side. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry, then fold in the carrots, crushed pineapple, apricots and, if using, the chopped pecans.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Butter the edges of 2 x 20cm round tins and dust the edges with flour. Line the bases with baking parchment. Divide the cake mixture between the tins, and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the middle of each sponge – if it comes out clean, they’re ready.

Leave the sponges until cool to the touch, then remove from the tins and place on a rack to cool completely. Before icing, level both with a bread knife so they’re flat on top and easy to sandwich together.

To make the buttercream filling for between the layers, beat the sifted sugar with the butter until smooth. To make the frosting for the outside of the cake, in a large bowl mix the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar until well incorporated, then whisk in a food processor for about 5 minutes. Chill for at least 1  hour to set. 

To assemble, spread the buttercream filling on one sponge and lay the other sponge on top to create a sandwich. Use more buttercream filling to coat the entire cake with a thin layer to encase all the crumbs. Chill the cake for 30 minutes to set, then cover the sides and top with a layer of the chilled cream cheese frosting.

HOW TO MAKE MY GINGERBREAD HOUSE

You can leave your carrot cake deliciously simple or create a festive gingerbread house, as Mirabelle has done with her three-tiered cake.

 For the gingerbread

  • Sturdy cardboard
  • 450g (1lb) plain flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 115g (4oz) brown sugar
  • 100g (3½oz) golden syrup
  • 115g (4oz) butter, chilled, diced
  • 1 medium-sized egg

 

 For the decoration

  • 400g pot of royal icing
  • Piping bag with a small round nozzle
  • Fairy lights (optional)
  • Edible gold leaf and edible glitter (optional)

 

 

MIRABELLE SAYS… 

For a three-tier cake, double the sponge quantity and increase the filling and frosting by 1.5. For the second tier use a 15cm tin, and a 10cm tin for the third. Use cake boards and dowels to layer.

Make your template out of card, with a design of your own or from the internet. The 16 houses were at least 10cm wide, with larger ones on the bottom tier. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. 

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. In a pan and over a low-medium heat melt the sugar, syrup and butter until incorporated. Pour the hot ingredients into the dry and mix, then mix in the egg.

Roll out the dough onto baking paper to a thickness of a £1 coin, and cut out your shapes, also cutting out window and door holes. Slide onto baking trays lined with parchment, bake for 15 minutes or until golden, then leave to cool on the trays.

Warm the royal icing a little by placing the pot in a bowl of hot water, then pour into the piping bag. Pipe decorations as you like. If you are using fairy lights, carefully wrap them around the tiers before placing the houses around the cake, pressing gently onto the frosting. Decorate with gold leaf and edible glitter as desired.

MARCO’S PRUNE COCKTAIL

This has a wonderfully festive flavour. It makes plenty of the Armagnac-soaked prunes so you can halve the recipe for those if you wish – but any leftovers would be fabulous as a topping for rice pudding!

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Makes 6

For the Armagnac prunes

  • 250g (9oz) prunes (I like Agen prunes)
  • 85g (3oz) caster sugar
  • 250ml (9fl oz) Armagnac or Cognac

To make the prunes (do this at least a day ahead), put them in a heatproof, airtight container. In a pan, bring the sugar and Armagnac to the boil, then pour over the prunes. 

Cool slightly, seal the container and keep in a cool place until needed. To make the cocktail, place one of the soaked prunes in each of six glasses. Add 1tsp of the prune syrup to each glass and top up with Champagne.

ITALIAN-STYLE POACHED PEAR TUTTI FRUTTI

Mostarda di frutta mista (also known as mostarda di Cremona) is fruits such as peaches and pears preserved in a syrup that has a mustard tang. This is delicious with cheese – or ham, for meat-eaters.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 4-6

  • 4 pears
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Sugar
  • 4 endives
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20g (¾oz) clarified butter (or ghee)
  • About 100g (3½oz) mostarda di frutta (available online or from Italian delicatessens), finely chopped, plus syrup from the jar

Bring a large pan of water to a gentle simmer. Peel the pears, and remove the base from each pear but leave the stem. Rub with lemon juice (this will prevent discolouration) and place them in a poaching bag (see my sous-vide tips on page 41). Add a squeeze of lemon and 3 pinches of sugar – to accentuate the pears’ sweetness – then seal the bag.

Rub the endives with the lemon and place in a poaching bag. Add a generous pinch of salt, sugar and a squeeze of lemon to balance the natural bitterness of the endives. 

Place both sealed bags in the water and poach for 40-45 minutes – when gently squeezed they should have a slight indentation.

Once poached, remove the endives and pears from the bag. The endive juices can be discarded but reserve the flavoured pear juice. Dip your fingers in olive oil and then reshape the endive, applying a little pressure.

Over a low-medium heat, melt the clarified butter in a pan. Lay the pears in the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes to caramelise. Add the endives and continue to cook them to gently caramelise, turning as necessary. 

Brush them with mostarda syrup and spoon over the finely chopped fruit. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and the remaining pear juice, and season with salt.

THE BEST EVER STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

When done properly, this is one of the great British desserts and is a perfect alternative to Christmas pudding.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 8-12

  • 250g (9oz) dates, pitted
  • 250ml (9fl oz) water
  • 220g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g (3½oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g (9oz) demerara sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g (1½oz) chopped dates
  • Vanilla ice-cream, cream or custard, to serve

For the toffee sauce

  • 250g (9oz) butter
  • 250g (9oz) demerara sugar
  • 250ml (9fl oz) double cream
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Place the dates and water into a pan and bring to boil. Remove from the heat and cool. Blend the boiled dates to a purée. Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, beat until softened, then beat in the demerara sugar.

Mix in the eggs one at a time, adding the flour a bit at a time as you go. Add the cooled date purée and the chopped dates and stir. Butter a traybake tin and pour the mixture into it. Bake for about 25-30 minutes – if the surface ripples when you tap it, it needs another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the demerara sugar, stir and cook on a low medium heat until smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the cream, stir and continue to cook, then stir in the lemon juice.

To serve, cut the sponge into squares, pour the caramel sauce over and serve with some vanilla ice-cream, cream or custard.

PICK-YOUR-OWN BUTTERED SPROUTS & CHESTNUTS

When I was creating these recipes, I was told, ‘Marco, I know some people think they’re boring, but we need to include a sprout dish.’ This is my response. A whole branch of sprouts, with chestnuts attached. Boring it isn’t! You’ll need about 30 cocktail sticks.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves at least 8

  • Sea salt
  • 1 branch of sprouts (on the stalk, from larger supermarkets)
  • About 30 pre-cooked chestnuts
  • 50g (1¾oz) clarified butter or ghee (or 3tbsp olive oil)
  • 5 seconds of Marco’s imagination!

MARCO SAYS… 

You may need to cut the branch in two, to fit your pan and oven. The sprouts can be blanched and studded with chestnuts well in advance, and then roasted before serving.

Bring to the boil a large saucepan – your largest! – of water, seasoned with salt. Meanwhile tie string around the end of the sprout branch. Put the sprout branch in the boiling water, so that the string hangs over the edge of the pan.

Cook the sprouts for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size, until tender. Use the string to lift the branch from the pan, and leave the sprouts to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. 

Put on some music and take about 30 cocktail sticks. Push one end of each stick into the chestnuts and the other end of the sticks into the sprouts – now the chestnuts are attached to the sprouts.

Melt the clarified butter and brush it over the chestnuts and sprouts. Place in a roasting tin and roast for 5-10 minutes.

Serve on a board on the table (or prop it up as we’ve done in the photo), so that everyone can help themselves – it’s pick-your-own with a difference!   

A ‘MEATY PAPPARDELLE’ WITH RAGU OF MUSHROOMS

Everyone who tries this dish loves the meaty texture, with succulent king oyster mushroom slices instead of pasta. It’s the perfect Christmas Eve supper.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 4

For the mushroom ‘pappardelle’

  • 2-3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) king oyster mushrooms, finely sliced

For the ragù

  • 1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 150g (5½oz) king oyster mushrooms (or other mushrooms of your choice), finely diced
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1 pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 150ml (5fl oz) tomato sauce (see page 43 or use shop-bought tomato passata)

To serve

  • 100g (3½oz) Italian-style vegetarian hard cheese, grated
  • A good pinch of micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped)

Begin with the ragù. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the diced mushrooms and season with salt. Sauté them until the moisture content is escaping from the mushrooms – as they dry, the flavour is intensified. Bring to the edge of the pan and season with paprika and chilli flakes, if using. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste.

In a large pan, heat 2tbsp olive oil over a medium heat. Add the 500g mushrooms and sauté until slightly golden, turning occasionally. 

Depending on the size of your pan, you might need to cook in batches, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer the sliced mushrooms to the ragù. Drizzle with a splash of oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and parsley, and serve.

MY AUBERGINE PARMIGIANA SHOWSTOPPER

Here’s my take on Aubergine Parmigiana – a proper celebration of the vegetable with layers of aubergine fritters, mozzarella and tomato sauce. The art is in the construction and I like to use the round Viola aubergine. If you don’t fancy going the whole way, you can just make the fritters, which are lovely appetisers to serve with drinks, with Sinatra crooning in the background. 

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 4

  • 1 large aubergine (the round Viola variety if you can get it)
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 200g (7oz) plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Olive oil, for frying and drizzling
  • 400g (14oz) mozzarella, sliced
  • 400ml (14fl oz) tomato sauce (see my recipe on page 43, or use shop-bought tomato passata)
  • A small bunch of basil
  • Sea salt
  • 150g (5½oz) Italian-style vegetarian hard cheese, grated
  • A small handful of micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, chopped), to garnish

Finely slice the aubergine, about 5mm (¼in) thick, but slice the base and top about 1cm (½in) thick. Keep the slices in order, so that it will be easy to reconstruct the aubergine shape. Rub the cut edges of the lemon over the aubergine slices.

Put the flour in one bowl. Crack the eggs into another bowl, and briskly whisk with a fork. Dip the aubergine slices in the flour, and then into the beaten egg. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan and cook the aubergine in batches for about 5 minutes on each side until golden, adding more oil if necessary. 

Place the cooked aubergine slices on kitchen paper, top each with a slice of mozzarella and leave the cheese to melt. Remember to keep the slices in order so the reconstruction is easy.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Place the ‘base’ fritter on a baking tray and spoon a little tomato sauce on top of it. Add a basil leaf, and lightly season with salt. Place the next fritter on top. 

Repeat the process: fritter, tomato sauce, basil leaf, salt… until the aubergine is reconstructed. Before adding the aubergine top, pour over a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, so that it cascades down the sides.

Add the aubergine top and if necessary push a wooden skewer through the whole creation, from top to base, to hold the layers in place. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Allow the aubergine to cool a little before removing the skewer. Serve in giant rings, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and the grated cheese and parsley.

ENDIVE & GOAT’S CHEESE TARTE TATIN 

We tend to think of tarte tatin as a sweet dessert with pear and apple, but this version is made using the vegetable endive, also known as chicory. It makes a sensational light main course and the goat’s cheese is just delicious.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 6 as a main course, or 8-10 as a starter

MARCO SAYS… 

I’ve used a large 30cm ovenproof pan for my endive tart, but if your pan is a smaller size, simply adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly.

  • 400g (14oz) puff pastry, chilled
  • 250g (9oz) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 30g (1oz) caster sugar
  • 5 small (or 4 large) endives, halved lengthways
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 200g (7oz) vegetarian goat’s cheese (try Rosary, available online)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • A small handful of micro parsley (or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped)

Roll out the puff pastry and trim to a disc around the same size as an ovenproof pan of about 30cm diameter. Chill the pastry disc until needed – you can do this step several hours ahead, if you like. 

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Add the butter cubes to the pan. Sprinkle with the sugar and arrange the endive halves inside so that they fit snugly. Season with salt.

Place the chilled pastry disc on top and, using a dessertspoon, tuck it tightly underneath the endives (you should be able to see the base of the pan around the pastry edges). Using a fork, pierce the pastry all over – this will help the steam to escape during cooking and will caramelise the endives. 

Now place the pan on the hob over a mediumhigh heat and cook for about 10 minutes; you should see caramelisation around the pastry edges. At this point, transfer the pan to the middle shelf of the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Once out of the oven, tilt the pan and spoon out some of the butter. Place a board or large plate on top of the pan and quickly invert the tart so the delicious endives are on top. Crumble the goat’s cheese over and drizzle with the reserved butter or some olive oil. Scatter with some parsley and a good pinch of sea salt.

MY BOXING DAY TORTILLA

An omelette is so simple. From just a few ingredients of eggs, potatoes and onions, you’ll have a Boxing Day family feast.

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

Serves 12

  • Vegetable oil, for greasing and deep-frying
  • 6 large potatoes (about 1.5kg/ 3lb 5oz), peeled
  • 20 medium eggs (or just use 10, leaving out the fried egg topping)
  • Salt and ground white pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
  • 50g (1¾oz) clarified butter
  • 50g (1¾oz) black truffle from a jar (available online), drained and thinly sliced, to serve (optional)

Cut the potatoes lengthways into quarters. Cut each quarter crossways into small pieces, about 5mm (¼in) thick. Place in a bowl of cold water to remove the starch. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Deep-fry in vegetable oil for 10 minutes, until slightly coloured and cooked through.

Crack 10 eggs into a bowl, season them generously with salt and white pepper and whisk. Drain the potatoes and, while they’re still hot, add to the beaten eggs. Fry the sliced onion in a little olive oil until lightly coloured, drain on kitchen paper, then add to the bowl of eggs and potatoes.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a 25cm (10in) non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pour in the egg mixture and cook for 5 minutes, or until the bottom is set. Turn the tortilla when it is almost set, and stable enough. 

First, lightly oil a round plate that’s larger than the frying pan you’re using to cook the tortilla. Place the oiled plate over the pan and swiftly turn the pan over so the half-cooked tortilla flips onto the plate. 

Then slide the tortilla back into the pan so you can cook the other side. Use a spatula to tuck in the edges, then fry for a few minutes more to set. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. 

If you’re making the fried egg topping, melt the clarified butter in a large frying pan over a low heat, crack in the remaining 10 eggs and cook gently. The egg whites will join into one. If you can hear the eggs cooking, the heat is too high. 

Flash the pan under the grill for 30- 60 seconds, to ensure the eggs are set. Slide on top of the tortilla and garnish with slices of black truffle, if using.

Get 40% off Marco’s delicious vegetarian cooking course 

Marco Pierre White's magnificent meat-free festive feast

  • If you love the recipes in this pullout, you’ll find dozens more in Marco’s new BBC Maestro course Delicious Vegetarian Cooking. It includes almost five hours of exclusive video lessons and 25 individual lessons as well as a complete 100+ page course notebook from Marco himself, teaching you how to present a sumptuous collection of vegetarian recipes from irresistible comfort dishes to timeless classics, including some of the dishes in this pullout such as Endive & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin and Pommes Boulangère.
  • This course is available to Mail readers with a 40% saving, paying just £48 instead of £80. To claim, go to bbcmaestro.com/mailoffer – your discount has been automatically applied. Offer ends 31 December. Terms apply, see bbcmaestro.com/ mailofferterms.
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