Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand - Mother Teresa


Christmas in Australia means coping with the heat, either in air-conditioned comfort or relaxing under a large shady tree. Luckily, Victoria is blessed with dry heat, so when the temperatures soar into the late 30’Cs and 40’Cs, it is almost bearable.    

The weather predictions for Christmas this year is 31’C, so I’m making cooking minimal; other than reheating the mushroom roulade and blanching the vegetables, I’m not sure I’ll even bother to roast potatoes as it will be salad sides this year, but I'm guessing with family pressure there'll be a tray.

Christmas used to be a large family gathering at my beloved parents home, but since they’ve moved into a villa in a retirement village, most of the family gathers at our place by the sea. After an early morning walk along the seashore, we read the nativity story, open presents around the tree and eat a midday feast on the back deck under the large tree before the afternoon heat.

For Christmas or Thanksgiving, vegans are left with a real dilemma of what to use instead of the delicious centrepiece: the turkey. Our longstanding family tradition that is loved by everyone for Christmas dinner, is my beloved mother’s mushroom roulade; our vegan substitute for turkey, which is made once a year and is delicious.

Since no one in our family is a celiac, we use gluten flour for this once a year special treat. If you wish to make gluten free mock turkey, I’d suggest using 1 cup of brown rice flour, ½ cup starch and 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum. Since I’ve not tested this combination, please treat this idea as a suggestion that needs refining. 

I’ve tweaked my mother’s recipe by using my favourite stuffing made of vegan bacon, cranberries, walnuts and apples with mushroom gravy. If you’re interested in knowing my mother’s stuffing, she uses vegan bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms and my addition of olives with mushroom gravy, which I’ve included in brackets.

The secret to the stuffing’s success is using stale bread because it doesn’t become soggy from the liquids and collapse like fresh bread. Another idea to consider is what fry pan to make the gluten dough in; although I use a large square fry pan, the gluten can be made in a large round fry pan.

If you try this scrumptious mushroom roulade, I hope it is a lip-smacking success for you and your family.

For our Christmas family feast, our favourite foods are my beloved mother's vegan mushroom roulade and lightly blanched vegetables, pudding with chilled cashew custard, a Christmas cake for nibbles and non-alcoholic white wine refresher with summer fruits.

The salad sides I plan to have this year are a dish of heirloom tomatoes with basil leaves, and a salad of sliced avocado, mango and macadamia nuts on a bed of spicy rocket leaves.

Health benefits:

·       Gluten is often used to make seitan, a meat alternative used by vegetarians to make faux chicken, faux turkey and other vegetarian foods. 

·       A 120 gram (4 ounce) serving of seitan contains about 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of protein or about 26 grams of protein. Despite its high protein content, gluten is very low in fat.



V, T, (GF option given)


For the stuffing:

½ cup vegan bacon, sliced

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 stick celery, sliced

¼ cup dried cranberries (tomato chunks)

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup vegetable stock

1½ cups stale bread chunks, your favourite type of bread (GF is needed)

½ cup apple, chopped in small cubes

¼ cup walnuts, chopped(olives)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, chopped

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the mock turkey:

1 onion, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons chia seeds, milled in blender

1 cup water

¾ cup milk – nut, seed

1 teaspoon marmite/vegemite

2 tablespoons chickpea flour

1 tablespoon tamari

1 teaspoon garlic

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon sage

½ teaspoon rosemary

1 – 1½ cups gluten flour

olive oil

brown string

For the gravy:

2 tins mushroom soup

1 tin water

To make the stuffing, pour a little olive oil in a medium sized fry pan, and cook the vegan bacon, shallots, garlic, celery and cranberries (mushrooms) over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable stock and olive oil, and cook for a minute. Add the bread cubes, apples (tomatoes), walnuts (olives), thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar, and stir to combine. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mill chia seeds in the blender. Place onion, water, milk, marmite, chickpea flour, tamari, garlic and herbs into a blender, and whiz together until mixed. Pour mixture into a bowl, add 1 cup gluten flour and stir with hand mixer. If the mixture is runny, add more gluten flour and mix together. Heat a large square fry pan on a high temperature, pour in a little olive oil and heat for a few seconds. Pour mixture into fry pan, spread evenly over the base, and cover with a lid for a few minutes until the oil bubbles through the mixture. Cook for 10 -15 minutes on a medium low heat until the gluten dough is cooked and the underside is golden brown. Dampen a tea towel, place on a chopping board, and slide the cooked gluten square on top. Set aside until it is warm.

When the gluten square is warm, spread the stuffing over the mixture. Using the tea towel, roll the gluten square from one end until it resembles a log. Using lengths of brown string, tie the gluten log 4 -5 times along the length to secure, making sure not to cut into the log. If making ahead of dinner party or Christmas day, cool thoroughly and place the gluten log in a container and freeze.

On the day you intend to serve, take the mushroom roulade from the freezer to thaw for several hours. An hour before serving, mix the tins of mushroom soup and tin of water in a bowl. Place the mock turkey in a square fry pan, pour the mushroom soup over the mock turkey log, and baste frequently for 30-40 minutes on a low heat, until the mushroom roulade is cooked through and the mushroom gravy is reduced. If serving as a centrepiece, place on a serving dish and surround with cooked vegetables like broccolini, beets and carrots, and serve immediately.