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Vegetarian alternatives for Christmas

Saturday, December 14, 2013
A vegetarian alternative for Christmas, Lentil Cakes Tikka Masala. PHOTO COURTESY TOM HIRSCHFELD/

Hosting vegetarians, I'm sure, can be stressful as well. The gracious host that you are, you want everyone to feel welcome and leave satisfied. Stuffed, even. But what do you serve to those that pass on turkey and ham? 
A feast of side dishes likely won't disappoint anyone, but if you'd like your vegetarian friends to feel special, rather than ostracised or imposing, here are a couple of meat-free dishes that will satisfy even the most skeptical omnivores. (Adapted from



Serves 6 to 8

For the filling
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs yellow onions, peeled & sliced thin
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed & stems discarded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp sherry vinegar
2/3 cups (2 ozs) Swiss cheese, shredded



For the Swiss cheese pastry crust
3/4 cups (110 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp (2 grams) fine sea salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 cup (3 ozs) Swiss cheese, shredded
4 tbsps (2 ozs) very cold butter, shredded using a box grater
1 to 2 tbsps cold carbonated water.




For the crust
Add the flour, salt, and paprika to the bowl of a food processor. 
Pulse once or twice to mix the dry ingredients. Add the cheese and butter, then pulse a few times until it forms a sandy-looking mixture. 
Add 1 tbsp of carbonated water, pulse again until a rough ball of dough comes together. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, add more water 1 tsp at a time (you may not need the entire 2 tbsps), and continue to pulse until you have a ball of dough. 
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured counter, flatten and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 mins.
When ready to use, place the chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and roll it into a 13-inch circle. Fit dough into a nine-inch ungreased springform pan. Fold down sides of dough, leaving a one-inch high crust.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. 
Add the onions and saute for two minutes. Cover pot, reduce heat as low as it can go without shutting off, and let cook until onions have cooked down and released a lot of their liquid, about 20 minutes. 
Remove cover from the pot of onions, raise heat to medium, add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until onions turn golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. 
When onions are golden and very tender, stir in the sherry vinegar. Remove from heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer onions to a medium bowl.
Add the egg and cheese to the bowl with the onions. Stir to mix well. 
Pour mixture over the tart crust and spread to the edges using a rubber spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden. Remove from oven and let cool for five to ten minutes before slicing.



Place the lentils into a 3 quart pot and cover with water by two or more inches. 
Add the minced onion. Place the pot over medium heat. 
Slowly bring the lentils to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils until tender adding a pinch or two of salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking. This should take approximately 30 minutes.
Drain the lentils. Let them cool but puree them in a food processor while they are still warm. 
Add the remaining lentil cake ingredients and pulse the cakes a few more times until the rest of the ingredients are combined into the mix. 
Let the cakes sit for a few minutes to hydrate the flour. Take a tablespoon of the mix and make a ball. 
Divide the lentils into eight balls.





Lentil Cakes
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
1/2 onion, small dice
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp cilantro, minced
2 tsps garam masala
1/4 cup flour, I used millet flour
1 egg
3/4 tsp kosher salt

For the Sauce
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch tumeric
2 tsps cilantro
Canola oil




Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy bottomed sauté pan by an 1/8 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat. 
Test the oil by dropping a pinch of lentil to the pan. It should begin to sizzle right away but not violently sizzle and pop.
When the oil is ready take each lentil ball and smash it down gently forming it into 1/2 inch thick cakes and add them to the oil. Let each side brown nicely and then remove them to a tray lined with a brown bag to soak up the oil. Keep the cakes warm, either in a low, 200 degree oven or in a warm place on the stove.
Drain the oil from the pan, place it back on the heat and then add the remaining diced onion. Saute until tender then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. 
Stir to combine, bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Let it simmer for ten minutes to come together. You can puree the sauce to make it smooth or leave the onion chunky making the sauce rustic. Serve with rice.









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