My mum and I always spend the days leading up to Christmas together in the kitchen. I’m in charge of the stuffing at Christmas, and the roast potatoes. I always do about 15 sticky toffee puddings for all my mum’s friends.
I think there are delusions of grandeur in my family! We have a long table lit by candles, and this year there will be about 20 of us, along with five little babies in the family who will plod around and make a racket. My partner Paul is from a huge family, too, so we now have Christmas breakfast and lunch at his parents’, before heading over to mine for a huge supper.
I drew up this vegetarian recipe because there are days in the lead-up where you fancy something a bit lighter. Christmas is a rich, meaty, buttery time, and the strudel is quite light, but with a kick to it.
Six years ago Paul and I started making a “midnight snack sandwich”. You know in Friends when they had the gravy-soaked piece of bread in the middle of the sandwich? We do that, along with stuffing, cold cuts, cranberry sauce… It’s probably the most calorific sandwich in the world, but it’s my favourite new Christmas tradition.
3 mixed peppers
125g cherry tomatoes
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp ras el hanout spice mix
1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Small handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
300g goat’s cheese
Salt, pepper and sunflower oil
FOR THE PASTRY
10 sheets filo pastry
70g unsalted butter, melted
FOR THE SALAD
5 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 oranges, segmented
50g raisins, soaked in orange juice
Small bunch of coriander, chopped
25g toasted flaked almonds
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1.Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Place the whole peppers and aubergines into a roasting dish and drizzle over a little oil then season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, then add the cherry tomatoes and roast for a further 20 minutes, or until the skins of the peppers and aubergines are slightly charred (the aubergines may need a little longer than the peppers). Once roasted, allow to cool completely then peel the aubergines and peppers and pull them apart into strips of flesh.
2.Meanwhile, caramelise the onion. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the finely sliced onion and allow to slowly cook down for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark, sticky and sweet. Allow to cool.
3.Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl and crumble in the stock cube along with a little salt and pepper. Give it a good mix together, then pour over some boiling water so that it covers the couscous by about 2cm. Cover with clingfilm and allow to soak for a few minutes, until the couscous has swollen and the water is all absorbed. Once cool, add the strips of pepper and aubergine, the roasted tomatoes, caramelised onions, ras el hanout spice mix, chilli and coriander as well as a good pinch of salt and pepper. Give it a good mix, then crumble in the goat’s cheese and mix through gently. Adjust seasoning to taste.
4.For the pastry, place a clean tablecloth onto the counter top. Line up 5 sheets of filo pastry, top to bottom, overlapping each one over the previous one by a good 5cm. Repeat with the other 5, starting from the same point, overlap- ping over the previous 5 by 5cm. So you should end up with a panel of filo sheets that’s 2 wide and 5 deep. Paint the melted butter over the filo with a pastry brush.
5.Pile the filling into a line across the pastry – make sure you pile it at the first two sheets of filo, and leave a good 5cm either side of the filling. Using the tablecloth, roll the filling up into the pastry and tuck the excess bits of pastry under the strudel. Arrange on a large baking sheet – you may need to snake the strudel around – then bake in the preheated oven for 50 or 60 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown.
6.For the salad, simply mix all of the ingredients together and serve with the strudel.
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