Stuck for what to cook for the veggies and vegans at your Christmas table? Try Jasmine Hemsley's sweet potato Christmas wreath pilaf

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If it's your first vegan Christmas, or you are cooking for vegan friends and family, try this beautiful 'crown of crisps' (what's not to like?) by Jasmine Hemsley. Jasmine's speciality is bringing the flavours of the East and the Ayurvedic way of eating to our comfort-food loving Western palates (if you haven't discovered her book East by West,  Simple Recipes for Ultimate Mind-Body Balance £17.50, we highly recommend you check it out). Her food philosophy, which set store by the way we prepare ingredients for optimum digestion, means that this is one plant-based recipe that's a surefire Christmas bloat avoider .

It's made with traditional Indian ghee (clarified butter, better for the gut)  but can be adapted for vegans by substituting with your favourite cooking oil. '

"Thinking about the flavours of Christmas, I came up with a pilaf/salad/stuffing idea of black rice and Puy lentils tossed together with some aromatics and chestnuts and cranberries of course, " says Jasmine. "Choosing Puy lentil — or beluga lentils if you can find them — means you end up with a well-cooked lentil that still has its shape, but without too much bite. Remember that what some people might look for in texture might not always be great for digestion! Black rice and wild rice too can retain that shape without being turned to mush even with a good simmer.

"Soaking the rice and lentils the night before not only drastically cuts their cooking time,* but also makes them easier to digest. A dash more apple cider or red wine vinegar and some toasted pumpkin seeds to the stuffing to make a more complete meal for all Six Tastes. The Six Tastes as understood in Ayurveda are sweet, astringent (a sensation of dryness as in tea or an underripe banana), sour, salty, pungent and bitter."

Serves 4 - 6 depending on sides


For the rice and lentil salad stuffing:

3/4 cup beluga/puy lentils, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup black rice or wild rice, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt, to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp vinegar (or use the juice from the pickled cabbage)

2 tbsp ghee or your favourite cooking oil to make vegan

1 leek, finely sliced

1 1/2 tbsp cumin powder

1 pack (200g) cooked chestnuts, sliced into thirds

1/4 cup dried cranberries, halved

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

For the sweet potato wreath:

1 kg sweet potatoes (about 4 medium-large)

4 tbsp (50g) ghee, melted (or your favourite cooking oil for a vegan version)

3 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp plus a pinch of sea salt

Good grind of black pepper

Fresh rosemary

Small handful of dried cranberries to decorate


For the rice and lentil salad stuffing:

1. Cook the soaked rice in 3/4 cup of water for 15-20 minutes until tender, tip into a colander (save any cooking liquid for soups), rinse, drain well and set aside.

2. Cook the soaked lentils in half a cup of water for 15 minutes until tender, tip into a colander (save any cooking liquid for soups), rinse, drain well and set aside.

3. Mix the cooked rice and lentils together with half a teaspoon of the salt, some black pepper and the olive oil, and set aside.

4. Melt the ghee in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the leeks and celery and sauté for a few minutes. Add the cumin, chestnuts and cranberries to the pan and continue to sauté for a few minutes.

5. Season with a pinch of salt, then toss through the rice and lentil mixture with the fresh parsley. Set aside.

For the sweet potato wreath:

1. Place a stainless steel bowl on a very low heat source.

2. Add the ghee to melt, then the smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and fresh oregano, and mix. Remove from the heat.

3. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes, then use a mandolin to finely slice them to 1-2 millimetres thick — watch your fingers!

4. Transfer in batches as you slice into the bowl of ghee and spices to stop them browning. Toss well with your hands — as the ghee starts to cool, pop the bowl on a low heat source again to melt it.

5. Take your biggest oven tray and line with baking parchment. Start to layout the potato slices in a circle, overlapping slightly as you go — I started by placing 4 evenly — in the north, south, east and west of my imaginary circle to map it out.  Continue to build up the circle until all the slices are used up. Set aside.*

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/190°C fan.

2. Roast the sweet potato wreath for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges and the top are starting to brown and become more translucent, and the insides are cooked (use a skewer or knife to check).

3. Remove from the oven and fill the centre with the stuffing mix (there will probably be some leftover mix but save for extras later!), pop back into the turned-off oven for 5-10 minutes until you’re ready to serve.

4. To serve, pop some rosemary sprigs into the wreath and carefully place a few cranberries around it.

Jasmine's tips

*If you didn’t manage to soak your lentils or rice for eight hours, don’t worry, just soak in warm water for as long as possible, then adjust cooking times and water to allow for a longer cook.

**Fresh cooked is always best but it’s Christmas and you’re making more than one dish and quite possibly feeding a crowd. To make the tatty towers a day or so ahead, don’t add the salt until you’re ready to stack and pop them in the muffin tin, otherwise the salt starts to draw out their moisture. The stuffing mix works well made a day or two in advance too. Just be sure to bring to room temp or even toss in a warm pan before serving to bring to a nice ambient temperature — for your belly and the flavours!

Find more recipes form Jasmine at