There’s certain bravery in defying tradition and not serving meat for Christmas. It’s akin to riding a bike with gears and breaks past a group of fixie-clad hipsters. You know eating less meat is a superior idea that was invented for good reason, but you also know you’ll be ridiculed for it.

This year, ST co-founder Cassie Duncan had her family Christmas early. She’s not a vegetarian (nor is anyone in her family) but her awareness of the environmental and ethical issues surrounding excessive meat consumption spurred her to do something a little different. So, you guessed it, she faced up to her fears and served a Christmas spread without a skerrick of meat in sight. To her meat loving family. For Christmas. What amused her most was that she told no one of her plan and no one realised it until after fingers were licked and plates mopped clean of entree:

“My father-in-law exclaimed “hang on, there was no meat in that dish!” He was even more horrified when I told him that he’d also just eaten tofu, but because his plate was empty there was no disputing the fact that he’d thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think it came down to a courage thing. I thought, wait a minute, the only way I’m going to prove that vegetarian food doesn’t have to be reserved for Monday night stir-fry is by showing them that vegetables can be special too.”

What Cassie served:

Entree

Vegetarian San Choy Bau, recipe from Good Food.

Instead of tofu puffs, Cassie used finely chopped firm chilli tofu, fresh instead of dried mushrooms and whatever veggies she had in her fridge: carrot and celery, no cabbage.

Main

Glazed carrot and mushroom tart, recipe from BBC Good Food.

Hellenic Republic’s Ancient grain salad, recipe from Good Food.

Herb-stuffed tomatoes, recipe by Yotum Ottelenghi.

Roast pumpkin with paprika

Preheat oven to 180C. Slice open a whole pumpkin, scrape out seeds and save to make roasted pumpkin seeds another time. Cut the pumpkin into 1cm slices, leaving the skin on. Toss pumpkin slices with olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and lay out on a baking tray. Roast until pumpkin is crispy on the edges and caramelised in the middle.

Smashed roast potatoes

Preheat oven to 200C. Grab yourself some good roasting potatoes such as Dutch creams or royal blues. Wash potatoes but keep skin on. Quarter them and place in a large pot of water, add a good amount of salt, cover with lid and bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, place back in pot, cover with lid and shake the pot around a little to kind of ‘bash’ the potatoes. Grab a roasting tray, pour in the bashed potatoes, drizzle with heaps of olive oil. Add a few cloves of whole garlic and roast for 30 minutes. Add a few twigs of rosemary and roast for another 30 minutes until potatoes are golden and crispy on the outside.

Dessert

Sticky date pudding with homemade organic vanilla ice-cream.

Cassie’s top tips for going rogue:

– Don’t tell your guests that you’re “doing vegetarian”. Just serve up the goodies and see if anyone even notices.
– Choose recipes that are full of flavours from herbs and spices. A bedazzled palate is a full belly.
– Choose the most fresh, best quality, local and chemical-free vegetables you can afford. Fresh really is best.
– Include heartier dishes – rice, grains and pasta dishes even fill a man’s stomach.

I admire Cassie. I’m Greek… for Christmas, my family picks at a whole lamb that’s roasted over charcoal for five hours. It is tradition. It is addiction. It is a MUST. I’ve always wanted to baffle everyone by hosting a meat-free Christmas at my house. Cassie’s instilled a little courage in me.

A meat-free Christmas really not right for you? Use our sustainable meat and seafood guides to ensure the meat you do dish up is the best it can be for our environment, animals and farmers.

For a plethora of tips and tricks to having the most sustainable Christmas possible, check out our previous blog posts below:

Christmas survival guide

8 tips for a sustainable Xmas table

7 more ways to reduce waste this Xmas