23 December 2013

Malty Christmas and a hoppy New Year!

I made a big sacrifice and sampled eight Christmas beers for you. Believe me, it wasn't easy as many of them are quite potent. I hope that these short tasting notes can help out a little for choosing the right Christmas beers for you.

Stille Nacht

12% De Dolle Brouwers, Esen Belgium

- live beer, like a real ale

- rich and malty, almost raisiny character, a bit like a barley wine, spicy

- tastes like a Belgian beer (which it is)

Hoppy Christmas

7,2% BrewDog, Scotland

- a festive pale ale

- citrussy taste: grapefruit, papaya, pineapple

- strong bitter hoppy finish



4,6% Sinebrychoff, Finland

- malty and rich on barley

- some underlying hints of raisins and plums

- toffee undertaste

Delirium Christmas

10% Delirium, Belgium

- good bitterness

- slightly toffee in taste

- some burnt notes



Kerst Pater Special Christmas Beer

9% Kerst Pater, Belgium

- sweet

- almost chestnutty taste

- dark malty taste with a strong nutty aftertaste

7,8% Brussels, Belgium

- toasty malty, dark

- Belgian spiciness

- long bitter finish

Twelve Days

5,5% Hook Norton Brewery, England

- dark

- burnt malt and dark chocolate notes

- smooth finish





Lapin Kulta Luomu Jouluolut

4,6% Finland

- slightly bitter from hops

- toffee taste

- toasty notes

All these beers were very enjoyable. Try them, if you can get hold of them.

Then I wish you all a peaceful and hoggy Christmas!

Your VegHog


22 December 2013

Nut roast with onion gravy

A proper homemade nut roast is a rather lovely thing to enjoy in this season. I was particularly inspired to make a nut roast by the Green Gourmet Giraffe, who is a great appreciator of nut roasts. I fully agree with her that nut roast isn't a dated veggie dish that should be avoided (it seems that some celebrity chefs have been bashing it publicly!), but a wonderful addition to vegetarian roast dinners or Christmas dinners. Have a look at the Green Gourmet Giraffe's blog for plenty of nut roast ideas and enthusiasm!

So I decided to make a nut roast of my own, an earthy chestnut roast with parsnips, porcinis and cheese, and served it with a wonderful shallot and cider gravy, cranberry jelly (see my recipe here) and simple roasted potatoes. This meal is a great Christmas main course, but you can also combine the components at will.

For the gravy:

400g shallots

1tbsp flour

50ml dry cider

1tbsp vegetable stock powder

50ml water (I used parsnip cooking water)

1tbsp soya sauce

Few fresh thyme leaves

Chop the shallots into half rings and sweat them at low heat for about 45 minutes by occasionally stirring. By then the shallots will have almost melted into a saucy texture. Then stir in the flour and the vegetable stock powder and add the cider. Cook for couple of minutes so that some of the cider evaporates and then add water (I used on this occasion the cooking water of the parsnips for the nut roast for a little bit of extra flavour). Let simmer for a while longer and season with soya sauce and thyme. And the gravy is done!

For the nut roast:

240g peeled and cooked chestnuts

1-2 shallots

2 garlic cloves

2 parsnips

1 carrot

25g dried porcini mushrooms

2tbsp olive oil

100g emmental cheese

1tbsp soya sauce

Few fresh rosemary leaves

Peel the parsnips and chop them to about 2cm long pieces. Boil them in water until soft, and then mash them. Save some of the water from boiling to make the mash smooth. I also used this parsnip boiling water in the gravy.

Crush the dried porcini small and soak them for about 10 minutes. Also save the soaking water for later.

Peel the carrot and chop it into very small cubes. Then also chop the shallots and garlic cloves and grate the cheese (cheese can also be cubed).

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sweat the onion, garlic and carrot cubes for about 5 minutes. After the initial phase add the porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid to cook it all for a further 5 minutes.

Season with rosemary and soya sauce. I used peeled and pre-cooked chestnuts that can be bought in a can or vacuum pack. Crush them between your fingers and add them to the mix.

Stir in the parsnip mash and cheese to make a moist, sticky mixture.

Grease either a large loaf tin or several small loaf tins (this recipe filled nicely four of my small round tins) and put the mixture in.

Bake the nut roasts at 180C for about one hour. Then remove them carefully from the tins and serve as a part of a vegetarian Christmas feast.

Hoggy Christmas!

Your VegHog


21 December 2013

Char-grilled pepper pesto

If you are looking for a quick dip or sauce idea, this pesto can become a good addition to the Christmas table. It's slightly smoky due to the char-grilling and thanks to the garlic a bit punchy.


2 bell peppers (red or orange)
2 sundried tomatoes
50g pine nuts
25g vegetarian pasta cheese
2 cloves of garlic
50ml olive oil
Groundnut oil for grilling


Cut the peppers in half or quarter them and then char-grill them on each side until they have distinct grilling marks. Let them cool.

Chop the sundried tomatoes small and soak them in water for about 15 minutes. Then drain the water of them.

Grate the vegetarian pasta cheese (parmesan equivalent).

Once the peppers have cooled, put them into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and puree with a hand mixer to a smooth paste.

Serve as a dip or an additional sauce with the Christmas meal.

Stay hungry!

Your VegHog

20 December 2013

Cranberry jelly

Cranberries are great Christmas berries and they can be combined with savoury and sweet cookings and bakings. I made a simple cranberry jelly that is very versatile to combine with sweet cakes, cheese, savoury nut roasts, you name it! It can even be eaten just on its own and it looks great on the plate. Try it!

So this is how to make my cranberry jelly.

100g cranberries
1tbsp sugar
6g (1 sachet) vegetarian gelatine (vege gel)
2dl water

Heat the cranberries for about ten minutes at moderate heat with couple of tablespoons of added water. They start popping quite soon and will become saucy. Press them through a sieve to get clear red cranberry pulp.

Add the vege gel to 2dl of cold water and heat it to the boiling point. Then add the sugar and the cranberry pulp and whisk.

Pour the mix into small glasses and let set for about four hours or overnight in the fridge. Done!


Your VegHog

19 December 2013

Gingerbread cookies

Baking gingerbread cookies before Christmas belongs to the important yearly Christmas traditions for me. It can be nice family fun to bake and decorate the cookies, hogs and hoglets alike can participate. This time I took the easy way out with the ready made Ikea gingerbread cookie dough, so the baking went quite smoothly, but still resulted in lovely looking woodland animals collection. I like to make the cookies very thin so that they are crispy after the baking and then get a light decoration. Decoration isn't necessarily needed, the cookies are tasty even without.


550g gingerbread cookie dough

For decorating (optional):
Icing sugar
Lemon juice
Food colouring
Tyrkisk Peber extract and crush
Different cookie decorations

Take small pieces of the dough and roll them out thinly on a floured even surface. Cut out any shapes you like with cookie cutters. For me the hedgehog shape was obviously the natural choice, but I also made other animal shapes and even Finland shaped cookies.

Bake the cookies on baking paper at 175C for about 6 minutes until crispy. Keep an eye on them while they are in the oven as the thin ones can bake quite quickly and start blackening around the edges.

Let the cookies cool fully before decorating. Make the coloured icing in the meanwhile. Of course ready made coloured icing can be purchased, but it's nice to fiddle around making your own. I normally just add lemon juice to icing sugar and whisk it to a smooth icing, which needs to be fairly thick as you don't want it to escape the cookies. Add food colouring carefully as it might make the mix too liquid and then you would need to add icing sugar again. I also made one special icing of salty liquorice type of flavour with Tyrkisk Peber extract.

I always make my own piping bag either out of a freezing bag or baking paper rolled into a funnel. I think that life might be easier with a proper piping bag or ready made icing from the tube, but I'm used to it this way. Squirt all sorts of shapes and figures on the cookies, you can even write on them if you like.

Then also sprinkle any sprinkles you like on the icing when it's still soft, so these will stick to it. Then let the icing get hard in peace and later place the cookies into a Christmas tin or share them with your friends.


Get creative and have fun!

Your VegHog

18 December 2013

Potato casserole with honey-glazed carrots and steamed purple sprouting broccoli

The sweetened potato casserole is one of the traditional Finnish vegetarian Christmas dishes. It takes a long time to prepare as the resting time is long, but it's worth the wait as that's when the casserole gets its special sweetness. You can prepare this well in advance and freeze for Christmas. I have combined the casserole today with some simple sides: honey-glazed baby carrots and steamed purple sprouting broccoli. These will all make nice additions to any veggie Christmas.

The sweetened potato casserole (1 large or 4 small ramekins):

1,5kg potatoes
About 2dl cooking water of the potatoes
4tbsp flour
200ml milk
3tbsp butter
2tsp maple syrup
1tsp salt

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft and save about 2dl of the cooking water. Mash the potatoes and let them cool slightly. Place the mash into an oven dish and add the flour and the cooking water to make a smooth mash. Cover the dish with foil and let stand in a warm place for about four hours. I put mine to the oven at 50C. This is the phase when the mash gets sweetened.

After this has been done, add the milk, melted butter and syrup, and season with salt. Then either use a large oven dish to make one casserole or divide the mix into four small ramekins. Don't fill the dishes fully as the casserole will move while heating and could easily boil over.

Bake the casserole at 150C for about 2 hours. After this treatment you should be left with a soft and sweetened casserole that can be combined with any veggie dishes.

The honey-glazed baby carrots:

150g baby topped carrots
1tbsp honey
3tbsp butter
50ml vegetable stock
Fresh thyme

Heat butter in a pan and quickly saute the carrots in there. Add vegetable stock and bring it to a light boil. Then add the honey and thyme and continue cooking until the carrots are al dente – not too soft and not too hard either. That's at least how I like them best.

The steamed purple sprouting broccoli:

230g purple sprouting broccoli

Steam the purple sprouting broccoli for about 10 minutes until they are also al dente. Take care that they don't get too soft.

Serve all components together for nice sweet and savoury flavours and combine with a nice wine. Enjoy!

Your VegHog

16 December 2013

Christmas markets

I love the atmosphere in Christmas markets (unless they are too crowded) and town centres decorated with lights and trees. The best Christmas markets I have ever been to are in Germany, but even here in England more and more nice ones start appearing. Many of these markets are German style anyway. I think that Christmas markets are all about eating nice veggie snacks and sweets and especially drinking mulled wine. It's nice to get a warming drink when you are outside in the cold. This year I visited a few Christmas markets in England, and wanted to share some photos I took while I was visiting them.

The large Gothic cathedral offers a wonderful backdrop to the Winchester Christmas market, and the whole town centre is decorated with beautiful lights around Christmas. Here you can certainly get into the season's spirit.

If you are visiting London, pop into the busy area of Southbank to enjoy the Christmassy feeling at the Southbank Centre Christmas market and the Real Food Christmas market. You can make great discoveries there especially in terms of food shopping.

I bumped into these friendly creatures when I was walking through the forest to the New Forest Christmas fair in Brockenhurst in early December. The fair itself was also a nice event, and there was lots of local produce available.

Southampton's Christmas market is centrally located in the city's shopping area and it's also a German style market.

Have fun visiting Christmas markets!

Your VegHog