Have Yourself a Veggie Little Christmas
It's nearly Christmas time and chances are, you have started to plan the feast. Maybe you're a seafood buffet household, or perhaps you like a traditional turkey or ham. Either way, there's a decent chance that somewhere in your extended family you've got a vegetarian, vegan, or perhaps an uncle who's cutting back. Cholesterol; amirite?
No matter your Christmas situation there's no reason why you can't incorporate a little veggie magic into the festive season. Here's a little inspiration for y'all.
Mango & Macadamia Salad
It's not the silly season until I've eaten a mango. That's the rule. Mangoes signal the true beginning of summer, and they're inextricably linked with Christmas in my mind. Aside from a regular appearance on the Christmas table, there was the memorable year when Mum had only bought a couple of mangoes (enough to enjoy, but not gorge on), and then Uncle Stephen showed up on boxing day with a full tray that was entirely ripe and ready to eat. I ate nothing but mangoes for a week. It was heaven.
My strongest mango memory is actually not from Christmas, but from a family holiday we took to Malaysia. We went for a meal in Kuala Lumpur's Indian district where we ate our meal off banana leaves, using the ends of our fingers to scoop the endless curries into our mouths. Most importantly, it was my first taste of a mango lassi. Total fucking gamechanger. And entirely irrelevant to this post. I just felt like sharing. Ya welcome.
Anyway, here's a salad full of juicy mango, crunchy and fatty macadamia's, with a lime dressing.
Serves 6-8 as a side or 4 greedy mofos
2 Ripe Mangoes
400g Macadamia Nuts
1 big head of lettuce of your choice (but choose something good; literally anything other than iceburg)
A handful of mint leaves (don't buy a bunch, just talk to your friends/family/neighbours/local buy nothing group. You definitely know someone who's backyard is being slowly overtaken by mint and they need your help)
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The juice of two limes
Long Red chilli, (take out the seeds if you're scared) chopped v.v.v. thin
A pinch or two of brown sugar
A pinch or two (or three?) of salt
Using a good knife, cut the cheeks off your mangoes. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out so you get two domes and then slice thinly lengthways so you get long, thin crescent shapes. You could just dice the damn thing but this is Christmas, goddamn it!, make an effort. At this point your family will want to fight over who gets to suck on the stones but YOU ARE THE COOK AND YOU GET TO CALL DIBS. Chef's prerogative, trust me. Slice your cucumber in half lengthways, and then into thin strips diagonally. The Christmas goddamnit! thing applies here too.
In the oven, roast off the macadamias. It doesn't take too long. I would go medium heat, five minutes, shake em up, then give them maybe 5 more. They should look toasty but not too dark. Cool em down. My advice is to do this bit first thing in the morning before it gets too hot for an oven; it is summer after all.
I have given you no measurements for the dressing because it depends entirely on the juiciness and sweetness of your limes, not to mention personal preference. Keep adding and tasting as you go. You want it to taste fresh and zingy. Only dress the salad once you’re ready to serve the whole thing up. Most of this dish is just arranging it nicely on a plate. Be an artisté.
Obviously this salad is delicious with prawns so if you're that way inclined, go for it. Or throw in half an avocado or something. Treat yo'self!
Pearl CousCous with Cranberries, Pinenuts and Rocket
This is less a recipe and more vague guidelines. Those of you who’ve been loyal readers this year (looking at you Mum) should be used to this by now! If you’re having this as a side, maybe lighten it up by increasing the ration of rocket. But if it’s a main meal, or you need to fill people up on carbs, chuck in some extra couscous. 250g should be sufficient for 4 greedy mofos, or 6-8 as a side.
Cook your pearl/Israeli/Moghrabia couscous in boiling, salty water: just pretend it's really tiny pasta (hint: it is). When it's cooked through but still chewy (AKA al dente Italianos) strain it into a colander.
While is this going on, gently sauté some (maybe 2 cloves?) crushed garlic in plenty of olive oil. Whatever you do, don't let it burn. If it burns you should start again and also rethink your life choices.
Add the couscous on VERY low heat, along with some chopped preserved lemon (or just some lemon zest, you do you haters), a teaspoon or two of sumac, heaps of salt and pepper- always tasting, always tasting- and then chuck the whole thing in the fridge to cool down. I enjoy throwing a shit ton of chilli flakes in there too but not everyone will enjoy that, so read the room and act accordingly.
At this point, cut up an orange or two into segments. Start by cutting the skin off, making sure to trim off all the pith. Hold the clean orange in your hand and use a sharp, trustworthy knife to carefully cut out the segments leaving behind the chewy membranes. OR if you can't be fucked then just do some nice slices. I’m not your Mum and I won’t tell Santa.
Chances are your cold couscous is sticking together a teensy bit, but don't panic. Add a big old glug of nice olive oil and gently separate the grains with your fingers. Toss everything with some toasted pinenuts, dried cranberries, your beautifully cut oranges and some rocket leaves. If you're feeling herbaceous chuck in some mint and parsley. Flat leaf, not curly; this isn't the nineties. You’re basically looking for a balance between the different flavours while making sure you’ve got enough of everything that you get a little pop of those complimentary flavours every few mouthfuls.
The carnibores in your life will enjoy eating this salad with their climatically inappropriate Turkey, or this banger of a salad makes a delightful side to some roasted veggies.
My own family is currently in discussions about Christmas lunch. In true Ridge tradition we will have a buffet of salads (and a bowl of prawns for Mum and I). When asked his preferences Dad responded with ‘I like pumpkin’. So… I guess pumpkin is happening too.
Whatever you're doing for Christmas, throw in a few veggies. They're festive AF
Merry Fucking Christmas Vegetable Nerds