Christmas chestnut tartlets

I don’t know about you, but this year seems to have gone by so quickly! Christmas is nearly upon us once again. By now, most people have the decorations up, the presents bought (or maybe not!) and know who’s cooking that amazing festive feast on Christmas Day.I usually cook up a flavour-packed nut roast as my plant based alternative to turkey (see for a good basic recipe). Some may say it’s not the same, but a special feast is what you make of it, not necessarily what tradition dictates! If you so desire, there are some tasty meat-alternatives out there such as the Vegusto rustic roast (made with wheat protein) or Tofurky (wheat and soy protein), but they’re not my kind if thing, even before I went gluten free. Eating plant based and wholefood is about packing in real food, not processed products infused with a variety of chemicals.

This year though, I wanted to create something slightly different, something sumptuous and packed with Christmas flavours. And what’s more Christmassy than chestnuts and cranberries? So I put together this gorgeous little tartlet for my December supper club, and have to say am rather pleased with the results.

Chestnuts are an underrated nut! Lower in fat and higher in starches than most nuts, they are popular with those who believe that low fat, high carb is the way to lose shedloads of weight (remember Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh diet??). Although this approach is no longer de rigueur and despite their low fat content, they’re still good sources of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, but also fibre, manganese and vitamins B and C.

Cranberries are well known for being good for bladder health, and dried can be as good as fresh, although some of the vitamin C is lost. The problem is that sugar is often added to make them more palatable, but a small amount is fine. Just try not to nibble the rest of the packet whilst you’re cooking!

The filling is also gluten free, so as long as you use gluten free pastry as well, then you’ve got a fully free from dish (unless someone has a nut allergy!). I’m currently experimenting with gluten free flours – with this dish, I’ve found a pastry made with brown rice flour works the best, but that’s another blog post!

So why not give this a go? It does take a little time, but can be made in advance then reheated when you’re ready, giving you more time to open presents and drink bubbles! Merry Christmas!

Chestnuts, cranberry and mushroom Christmas tartlets (makes 6)
1 portion shortcrust pastry (homemade, Just-rol, gluten free)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
260g chestnuts (I used 1 ½ packs of Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts)
3 medium carrots, grated
2 teaspoons thyme
1 pack parsley, stems separated from leaves and finely chopped
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
200g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons dairy free cream cheese or non-dairy cream
To make the filling Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion and thyme until the onion is soft (if it starts to stick, add a little water. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the carrot and chopped stems of the parsley, mix well and cook for another minute. Stir in the chestnuts and mushrooms and cook until the fluid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the cranberries, a few dashes of tamari and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cranberries then add the cream cheese/non dairy cream and chopped parsley leaves and cook for another few minutes until it all comes together. Taste and add additional seasoning and tamari as needed.Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Roll out your pastry of choice to about 1/2 cm. Place a tartlet tin on to the pastry and cut around it with a 1 ½ cm extra rim. Remove the tartlet tin and carefully pick up the cutout piece and flip it over into the tin. Press the pastry into fit, pinching any breaks together and trim the edges. Brush with some dairy free milk or a chickpea flour wash (mix a tablespoon of chickpea flour with some water to get a milk-like consistency). Repeat the process until all the pastry is used (should be enough for 6).  Place the tartlet tins on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 6 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the oven then fill with the mixture. Put the tartlets back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so until the pastry feels firm and the top of the tartlets starts to brown slightly. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly so you can remove the tartlets from the tin without burning yourself and serve with all the Christmas veg. This works well with onion gravy with some redcurrant jelly stirred in, although I used homemade rosemary jelly – yum!

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