Crammed with mushrooms, chestnuts and festive cranberries and wrapped in shatteringly crisp filo, this works as the centrepiece for a vegan or vegetarian Christmas dinner. It’s also a useful addition to a bigger spread if you’re trying to cater both for omnivores and those who prefer a plant-based diet.
There’s good texture and bags of flavour, the sharp cranberries a counterpoint to the sweet chestnuts and savoury mushrooms. I’m not a vegan so I hesitate to dole out unwanted advice, but I would serve it with a shallot and red wine gravy, masses of the usual festive veg and with a cranberry and orange sauce on the side. (There’s a good, fast, uncooked one in this post.)
You need to start making this the day before you want to eat, so plan ahead. The good bit is that it leaves you less to do on the day. My thanks to Sarah Beattie, who has forgotten more about vegetarian and vegan cooking than I will ever know, for last-minute advice. Please check out her books and her Facebook page, SarahBeattieFood for some fabulous recipes.
Mushroom and Chestnut Strudel
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
25g butter or vegan spread
300g chestnut mushrooms, two thirds chopped small, the rest kept chunkier
15g dried porcini mushrooms
180g vac-packed chestnuts, halved
1 tsp very finely chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
50ml red wine (optional)
70g fresh cranberries, defrosted if frozen
A handful of fresh breadcrumbs
A few rasps of orange zest
7 sheets of filo pastry
Plant milk mixed with a small amount of Marmite, to glaze
Seeds, to garnish (eg black onion seeds or black and white sesame seeds)
A sprig of herbs, to serve
Start the day before you want to eat. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of freshly boiled water. In another bowl, mix a few tablespoons of plant milk with a little Marmite – you may need to warm it up to get the Marmite to blend in. Lightly oil a small loaf tin and line it with cling film, leaving some hanging over the sides. Set them all aside.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the onions and celery on a low to medium heat, sprinkled with a little salt, until soft and golden, at least 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic, cook for a few minutes more then scrape everything onto a plate. Set aside.
In the same pan, melt the butter or vegan spread and add another small splash of oil. Cook the mushrooms, both the finely chopped and chunkier ones, until all the moisture has been driven off. Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking water. Squeeze dry, chop and add to the mushroom pan.
Add the onion mixture back to the pan, along with the chestnuts and herbs. Strain the mushroom soaking water to get rid of any grit then add to the pan. Cook until the mixture is almost dry. Add the wine, if using, and again cook off the liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries, orange zest (go easy) and breadcrumbs. Tip into the lined loaf tin and press down. Wrap the excess cling film over the top and weight it, making sure the weight is evenly spread. Refrigerate overnight.
Next day, heat the oven to 190C/170fan/375F/Gas Mark 5. If you want a really crispy bottom to your strudel, put in a baking sheet to heat up.
Place a tea towel on your work surface and top it with a sheet of baking paper. Next to it, unroll the filo and put a dampened tea towel on top. Put some extra virgin olive oil in a bowl and have a pastry brush to hand.
Take the first sheet of filo, lay it on the baking paper and brush with oil. You’re aiming to paint every inch without drenching it. Add a second sheet on top and continue to layer and oil until you’ve used all seven sheets, being careful to re-cover the unused pastry with the damp tea towel each time.
Take the filling from the fridge and using the cling film, carefully remove it from the tin. With a short end of the pastry towards you, invert the filling onto the end nearest you, leaving a 5cm margin of pastry at the bottom and sides.
Turn the sides in and the bottom up, keeping the corners neat, and carefully roll the filo parcel away from you, keeping it as tight as possible. You should end up with something that looks rather like a house brick (or a bullion bar if you’re feeling a bit bling).
Brush all over with the plant milk/Marmite mix (the Marmite helps turn it more golden) and sprinkle the top with the seeds of your choice.
Trim the baking paper to a manageable size and carefully slide the strudel, still on its paper, onto the pre-heated baking sheet, if using, or a cold baking sheet if not, and bake for 40-45 minutes until crisp and golden. Turn at half time to ensure it cooks evenly.
Remove from the oven to a serving dish and garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs. Allow the strudel to sit for 15 minutes before cutting. I find a serrated bread knife is best.