Updated: Mar 17, 2021
Luckily, being the only vegetarian in French households during this festive season didn't make me feel like an outsider, I can assure you that I had wonderful times and meals in the past two Christmases.
Last year I celebrated Christmas in the South of France with family, totally different compared to what I grew up with because it was amazing for a food lover like me, I got to taste different homemade french meals all week. There’s were too many dishes throughout the week, but there are two pies that were unforgettable. Until now, I can still remember the taste and looks of them. They were called tourte végétarienne de Noël (Christmas vegetarian pies), one with mushrooms and the other one with mixed veggies.
Unfortunately, this year I could only be celebrating Christmas in Paris with friends, and we decided to make a good meal. Since I’m the only vegetarian, I was in charge of myself this year. In France, not just for Christmas dinners, but for all meals when we’re celebrating no matter if it is lunch/dinner. We always have starters, mains, cheese plates and desserts. Since I was in France and surrounded by French people, I thought why not vegetarianize traditional french dishes for this occasion.
Before I start talking about what I ate for Christmas, I would like to tell you a bit about the first and the most important process of all the preparations - getting ingredients. In Hong Kong, it’s much more convenient compared to France. There’s always at least one supermarket in your neighbourhood. But here in France, if we want to go grocery shopping or get ingredients for a feast, we need to drive at least 20 mins/take a few buses to get to a big supermarket like Carrefour, E.Leclerc, which can provide good quantity and quality of ingredients. That’s why if we want to host a party/dinner like this, we always have to prepare a week ahead. And during this festive occasion, you don’t want to be at a packed supermarket for your grocery shopping.
So let’s jump into the courses of my Christmas dinner. For starters, while they were having canapé foie gras et son confis de figue (foie gras on mini toasts with fig jam), canapé de saumon (salmon on mini toasts) and verrine avocat, mangue et saumon (avocado, mango & salmon in a shot glass). I would be having terrine de champignons et tofu fumé (mushrooms and smoked tofu terrine) and pois chiche et boursin (chickpeas and garlic & herb cheese), alos sharing gougère de fromage (cheese puffs) with everyone. Don’t let the fancy names scare you, all the food we had actually did not require difficult procedures. And my starter was so easy-to-make! All you have to do is, cook mushrooms and tofu with butter, boiled soy milk and agar agar with some seasonings. Then, blend everything in a mixer, top the mixture on the mini toasts and voilà. Easy and nutritious.
The second dish I’ve made, which was the main course was the tourte végétarienne (vegetarian pie) with chestnuts, mushrooms and leeks, while the meat-eaters were having bacon and bean rolls and roasted lamb sided with some pomme duchesse (potatoes). I got to try out using chestnuts, one of the common ingredients in french cuisine for this pie. Normally I would make my own crusts, but since I could find different kinds of good ready-to-use doughes for making pastries in France, I could also save time for the preparation. I decided to use the doughs from Carrefour (one of the biggest supermarkets in France) for the crust and the cover layer.
For the fillings, all you need is chestnuts(fresh/canned), I used canned one; mushrooms, leeks, thymes, butter and the béchamel sauce(homemade/carton), I used the already-made carton one, it’s also very common in France with their good quality sauces/cream for all kinds of pastries. Prepare cleaned mushrooms into small pieces and chop leeks into slices, cook them in melted butter. Then add chopped chestnuts, once the filling is cooked, transfer it into a bowl. Next, reheat the béchamel sauce, add some nutmeg, salt and cheese. Lastly, place the crust dough on the bottom of a pie baking tray, pour the warm filling in and cover with the other layer of dough, seal the edge well, cook in the oven and that’s it.
We then took a brief break with some wine and Champomy (non-alcohol apple champagne, normally for kids) for me with a cheese plate. And lastly to the most exciting part, dessert! I’m a dessert lover, so bear with me. We had some cinnamon doughnut bites, which were made by me, and one already-made bûche de Noël traditionelle (traditional christmas log cake) for the closure of our Christmas dinner.
It wasn’t as hectic as last year, but at least we were all safe and healthy. And I had a chance to enjoy the dinner preparations, trying out new recipes and the times spent with friends. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with your family/friends. And hope that you can try out these recipes one day too, even if it's not for Christmas, you can always celebrate something everyday! And lastly, let’s get ready for a better 2021!
Written by Eunice Pang
Recipes I followed:
Terrine de champignons et tofu fumé (mushrooms and smoked tofu terrine)
Tourte végétarienne (vegetarian pie) with chestnuts, mushrooms and leeks
Cinnamon doughnut bites - from my Instagram recipes account