A six course New Year dinner which turned out vegetarian.

We Scots love a New Year. It goes back to pagan times when the winter solstice was celebrated with a round of shortbread like cake, the crimps around the edge symbolising the return of the sun after a long winter.

Through time, Christmas festivities and New Year celebrations have been shaped and changed by church beliefs – the General Assembly banned the Christmas Day holiday in 1649 because it decided the Church of Rome festivities were unacceptable to the ethics of their Presbytarian ethos. Ministers were encouraged to make home visits to make sure everyone was working!

Before World War II, most Scots worked on Christmas Day and it was Hogmanay and New Years Day which were public holidays.

Over the years Christmas and New Year festivities have merged and evolved. From the 18th and 19th centuries, communities would celebrate at stone circles or mercat crosses to welcome in the New Year. After the bells, first footing and partying in houses would then commence with visitors bringing fuel for the fire, shortbread or cake and a bottle of whisky.

Scottish hospitality dictates that people should be fed. Sideboards would be groaning with food, usually cold meat, oatcakes, cheese, shortbread, pancakes, soda scones and clootie dumpling or black bun. On really cold nights, hot dishes might be offered including stovies or scotch broth.

Nowadays anything goes and as I had a vegetarian guest, decided to make a vegetarian menu.

There is no rush to eat on new year’s eve, so I made 6 courses, most of which was prepared the day before. The portions are small to reflect the number of courses. I had time to photograph the dishes as they were served!

Here are the recipes below.

A bowl of sweet potato soup swirled with smoked paprika, coriander & chilli oil

Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup

Serves about 6

1 large onion

1 tbsp oil

3 medium sweet potatoes

1 can coconut milk

1 small clove garlic, peeled and left whole

Thumb sized piece of root ginger, finely grated

1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped

Vegetable or chicken stock

Juice of ½ lime

Salt & pepper

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onion gently to soften and colour slightly.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and add to the onion along with the garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry for a few minutes longer, then add the coconut milk and enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil, put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20mins.
  3. Blend the soup with a hand blender or similar, add more stock if the soup is too thick. Adjust the seasoning and add the lime juice. The soup is now ready to serve.
Wild Mushroom Pithivier on a bed of leaves

Wild Mushroom Pithivier

Serves 6

600g mushrooms, cut or torn into pieces – I used a mixture of chestnut, chanterelle, shiitake & pied de mouton

500g puff pastry

300ml stock – vegetable or chicken

1 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms

50g butter

1 medium onion, sliced

150ml crème fraiche

2 tbsp marsala or sherry

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

1 tbsp chopped parsley

Egg wash to glaze

  1. Heat a heavy based pan, add the stock and porcini mushrooms, bring to the boil, then transfer to a jug and set aside for the mushrooms to re-hydrate.
  2. Add the butter to the pan, when foaming add the sliced onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring now and again until softened and slightly coloured. Add the fresh mushrooms to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Strain the stock into the pan, chop the porcini mushrooms if necessary and add. Bring to the boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the crème fraiche, stir from time to time and simmer until the liquid has reduced down to a thick sauce.
  5. Add the marsala or sherry, tarragon and parsley. Simmer for a couple of minutes longer, then remove from the heat and cool completely.
  6. Roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick. Cut 6 each, 9.5cm and 11cm rounds. Re-rolling the pastry scraps as necessary.
  7. Divide the cooled mushroom mixture between the smaller pastry circles, leaving an approx 1cm margin all the way around. Dab a little water around the edge and cover with the larger piece of pastry, press the edges together and crimp with your fingers or the prongs of a fork.
  8. Make a hole in the top of the pastry with a skewer to allow steam to escape. Brush with egg wash and then go around each pithivier with a knife, making crescent shaped scores from top to bottom, all the way around.
  9. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6, bake the pithiviers for 20 to 30 mins or until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle on a bed of rocket

Twice Baked Cheese Souffle

This is a classic cheese souffle, cooked before hand and re-heated to serve. They are often re-baked with extra cream and cheese, but I was cutting calories, so have omitted it.

Serves 6

300ml milk

50g butter

50g flour

½ tsp mild curry powder

¼ tsp chilli powder

Black pepper

3 eggs

100g strong cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Extra flour for dusting

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, use a pastry brush to butter 6 x 150ml capacity ramekin dishes. Dust the greased dishes with flour to coat, knocking out the excess.
  3. Add the 50g flour to the remaining butter in the pan, let it bubble and fry a little to cook out the floury flavour. Remove from the heat and stir in a few grinds of black pepper, the curry and chilli powder.
  4. Whisk the milk into the pan, once the mixture is smooth, return to the heat and bring to the boil. The sauce will be quite thick. Remove from the heat again and stir in the cheese.
  5. Separate the eggs, add the yolks to the cheese sauce and stir in.
  6. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peak. Stir a spoonful of whisked egg white into the cheese sauce, then tip the sauce into the remaining egg white and fold in gently.
  7. Divide the mixture between the 6 ramekins, filling them about ¾ full.
  8. Put into a roasting tin, fill half-way with boiling water and bake for 15mins in the oven.
  9. Once cooked, allow to sink and cool.
  10. To re heat, set the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Run a knife around the edge of the ramekins and turn the souffles out. Place upside down on a baking sheet lined with a piece on non-stick baking parchment. Bake for 10mins.
  11. To serve, arrange mixed leaves on to a plate and place a souffle on each one.
Pomelo salad with herbs and mango strips

Pomelo Salad

This is a recipe adapted from ‘Plenty More’ by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Serves 4 to 6


75ml wine vinegar

40g soft brown sugar

1 tsp orange flower water (optional)

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

10g fresh root ginger, finely shredded

2 red chillies, deseeded and finely shredded

  1. Put the vinegar, sugar, star anise & cinnamon into a small saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, add the ginger, chilli and orange flower water. Set aside to cool.


½ large pomelo

1 small unripe mango, cut into thin strips

¼ of a large red onion, thinly sliced

Handful of rocket leaves

10g each coriander and mint leaves

2 tsp vegetable oil

Juice of ½ lime

20g roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped

  1. Remove the peel & pith from the pomelo, divide into segments and remove the membrane from each one. Break the fruit into bite size chunks and place in a shallow dish.
  2. Pour over the marinade and allow to sit for at least 30 mins or more.
  3. Toss the rocket, herbs, mango and red onion together.
  4. Drain the pomelo from the marinade and mix with the leaves
  5. Pour over the oil, lime juice and enough marinade to coat. Mix everything well, taste and add salt if necessary.
  6. To serve, pile handfuls of the salad on to plates & sprinkle over the chopped cashew nuts.
A dish of green lentils, rice, crispy onions, surrounded by tomato relish

Green Lentils & Rice with Roasted Roots & Tomato Relish

I made this for someone who was dairy intolerant, it’s based on Middle Eastern Mejadra, a lentil & rice dish usually served with a yogurt & cucumber sauce. The roasted roots & tomato relish replace the moisture from the traditional yogurt dressing.

Serves 6 to 8

Roasted Roots

Approx 200g each carrots, beetroot and butternut squash, cut into 1cm pieces. Drizzle with oil, toss with salt & pepper and roast at 200C for 20mins. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Lentils and Rice

3 medium onions

4 tbsp flour

1 mug small green lentils

¾ mug basmati rice

2 tsp cumin seed

3 tsp coriander seed

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp turmeric

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

350ml water

Oil for frying

Salt & pepper

Tomato Relish

2 large tomatoes, finely diced

¼ red onion, finely chopped

¼ red pepper, finely diced

Large clove of garlic, crushed

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1tsp soft brown sugar

½ tsp ground allspice

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chopped mint leaves

  1. Finely slice the onions, toss with flour, salt & pepper.
  2. Heat about 1 cm oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot fry the onions in 3 to 4 batches until brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
  3. Put the lentils in a pan, cover with plenty water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins then drain and set aside. They should be par cooked and still have a bit of bite.
  4. Make the relish: put everything into a bowl and stir together
  5. Heat a heavy based pan on a medium high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds, fry for a few moments to warm through and toast. Add the rice with to the pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, turmeric, allspice and cinnamon. Stir to toast and coat the rice with the oil and spices. Add the lentils and water. Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 15mins.
  6. Stir through the roasted vegetables and half the crispy onions.
  7. Serve piled onto plates, with the relish spooned around the edge, topped with the remaining crispy onions.
A baked custard served with spiced roast plums

Baked Custard with Roasted Plums

For 4 people, I made the custard the day before & cut rounds for presentation.

Serves 4 to 6


3 eggs

1 egg yolk

55g sugar

300ml milk

150ml single cream

2 bay leaves

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Pre heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas3.
  2. Beat together the eggs, egg yolk, nutmeg & sugar.
  3. Mix the milk and cream with the bay leaves in a heavy based pan and bring to scalding point. Pour onto the eggs, mix well and pour into an oven proof dish approx. 500ml capacity.
  4. Stand the dish of custard in a deep roasting tin, fill to half way up the dish with just boiled water and put into the oven for 20mins or until the custard is set. It will not be liquid but will still wobble.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool and chill overnight in the fridge.
  6. Next day use a 6.5cm straight cutter to cut portion sized rounds. Remove from the dish with a pallet knife.

Roasted Plums

Serves 6

9 red plums

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 bay leaves

6 juniper berries

1 cinnamon stick

50g soft light brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350/Gas4
  2. Half and de-stone the plums, put into a baking dish with the spices, lemon, orange rind & juice. Toss everything together well.
  3. Roast for 30 to 30mins or until the plums are soft and have released their juices. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  4. Serve the warm plums and sauce with the chilled custard. I used 3 plum halves per person