Vegan festive treats

Penelope Maguire. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Penelope Maguire. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. With a little one who has just had her first birthday, we get to revel in the joys of her celebrating the festive season with our wee family, writes Penelope Maguire.

Our garden is blooming and full of treats for Christmas Day. The days are warming up and we can spend more time cooking outside.

I think we are all looking forward to having something to look forward too.

Gathering around the table with the people we love to enjoy beautiful things to eat is a perfect way to celebrate getting to the end of a very challenging year.

Photos: supplied
Photos: supplied

Christmas gingerbread reishi martini

30ml reishi gingerbread cordial (see recipe)
45ml vanilla vodka
60ml oat milk
pinch salt
1 cup ice
whipped coconut cream
caramel sauce
biscoff crumbles

In a cocktail shaker add the cordial, vodka, oat milk, salt and ice and shake enthusiastically for 1 minute.

Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass and top with whipped cream, caramel sauce, biscoff crumbles and an edible flower. Yum!

Reishi gingerbread cordial

The smell when making this cordial is just like Christmas! Use as a cocktail mix, ice-cream or pancake topping or as a sweetener for iced coffee or chai.

2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cup white sugar
4 cups water
1 Tbsp whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks
½ Tbsp mixed spice
1 Tbsp dried ginger
50g dried reishi mushroom (or 1 Tbsp powdered)
200g fresh ginger, finely chopped


Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring up to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes with the lid on then turn off.

Cool with the lid on then strain through muslin. Pour into clean bottles and store in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied
Gingerbread cookie decorations

These hanging from the tree are so delightful and are irresistible to kids (and pets!) who will want to eat them directly from the tree.

300g butter of choice
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp ground flax seed mixed with 2 Tbsp water
3½ cup flour
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground black pepper


Cream butter and sugar then mix in sifted dry ingredients. Shape into a disk then wrap in cling wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface about 4mm thick and cut with your favourite cookie cutters.

Place a little hole in the top of each that is big enough to thread some string through.

Bake in a preheated 180degC oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Cool, ice if desired and thread with string.


Maple Balsamic roasted cherry
with cashew feta bruschetta

You’ll want to put this cashew feta on everything! Served with a glass of chilled rose this is the ultimate summer lunch to eat in the garden.

Maple balsamic roasted cherries

1 cup fresh (pitted) or frozen cherries
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sprig rosemary


Preheat the oven to 180degC. In a small tray toss maple, balsamic and olive oil with the cherries and roast for 15-20 minutes till the sauce is starting to get sticky.

Cashew feta

1 cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1 cup milk of choice
½ cup refined coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
juice 1 lemon
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt


In a high-speed blender, blend ingredients until super smooth. Taste for seasoning, it should be quite salty and tart. Add more lemon juice and salt if needed. Pour into a tray lined with cling wrap and chill until set to the consistency of cream cheese or a soft feta.

To assemble

Toast some ciabatta or sourdough and top with the cheese then roasted grapes. Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper and green herbs to get the full Christmassy effect and enjoy!

Rosemary beetroot lentil bites
with spring pea puree and dill mayo

The colours of Christmas! Red and green look so festive together and make for a very Christmassy starter or light lunch with a salad and crusty bread.

Red lentil beetroot bites

2 cups split red lentils soaked 1 hour (or overnight)
2 raw beetroot, peeled and chopped
½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Moroccan seasoning
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp beef-flavoured stock
¾ cup chickpea flour


In a food processor break up the beetroot to a course grind. Add lentils, parsley and spices and pulse until lentils begin to break down. Add chickpea flour and pulse to combine. Chill at least 1 hour.

Shape into balls then dredge in corn starch and salt and fry until golden.

Spring pea puree

1 cup baby peas
¼ cup milk of choice
1 Tbsp olive oil
sprig mint
pinch salt


Blanch peas 1 minute in boiling water then drain. Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Dill mayo

Mix together 1 C store-bought mayo, 1 handful fresh finely chopped dill and 1 Tbsp juice from a gherkin jar.

To assemble

Spread some pea puree on your best Christmas plate then top with a little dill mayo. Place your red lentil bites on top and dress with pomegranate, pickled red onion and a flower.

Chocolate salted oranges 

These are the prettiest things, like delicate stained glass and can be used as festive decoration on cakes or hung off string on  the Christmas tree.

Dark chocolate
Flaky sea salt


Cut oranges into slices, leaving the skin on and put on a lined tray into the oven on the lowest setting for 1 hour.

Turn oven off then leave overnight to dehydrate and cool.

Once cooled, dip into melted chocolate then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Elderflower cordial

This is a bit of a different method of making cordial as it uses a cold infusion which helps to retain the delicate perfume of the elderflowers.

4 cups sugar
4 cups water
3 lemons sliced into disks
20 heads elderflower
½ tsp citric acid


In a large saucepan bring water and sugar to the boil then turn off, add sliced lemons and cool.

Once cooled add elderflowers and citric acid and infuse for 24 hours. Strain through muslin and store in clean bottles up to 3 months in the fridge.

Elderflower strawberry soda 

1 cup elderflower cordial

1 cup fresh strawberries

ice-cold soda water (or sparkling wine)


Blend together cordial and fresh strawberries. Place in a clean jar and store in the fridge for up to a week. To serve place puree quarter way up a Champagne glass and top with soda. Cheers!

Elderflower lemon curd baby cakes

My baby girl’s name is Elderflower and with the elderflowers in full bloom we had these baby cakes for her first birthday at the end of November to celebrate her first year and kick off the festive season.

Vanilla baby cakes

1 ¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk of choice
2 tsp vanilla extract
⅓ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp white vinegar


Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Sift dry ingredients into medium mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.

In another bowl mix wet ingredients and gently fold into the dry.

Place into mini cake or muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes till a skewer comes out clean.

Turn out from tins and cool.

Lemon curd

Juice and zest of 3 lemons
½ cup white sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk of choice
pinch turmeric


In a cold saucepan whisk cornstarch, sugar and milk together until no lumps. Turn on heat and heat until beginning to thicken.

Add lemon zest and juice and turmeric and continue to heat until coating the back of the spoon.

Pass through a sieve and cool.

To assemble

Baby cakes

Elderflower cordial

Lemon curd

Whipped cream of choice


Fresh picked elderflowers or pansies.

Place vanilla baby cakes on your prettiest tray and drizzle with elderflower cordial.

Top with whipped cream, drizzle with lemon curd and top with strawberries and fresh elderflowers.

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