We are a 50% vegetarian household. He doesn’t eat meat. I do. It’s not a chore as some seem to think it might be. It’s the way we have lived for nearly 30 years and we’ve found an easy accommodation of one another’s tastes and it means there’s always another experiment to be had.
I don’t understand, for instance, why people think nut roast is a difficult dish to cook. But then maybe it’s because we have made so many over the years that it’s been refined till we do it without thinking. That’s the benefit to you – I know this recipe works every time! The picture, by the way, is the goose that didn’t fit in the oven. I know. It’s not nut roast. But it is funny!
So. Your best friend with this recipe is your food processor.
Set your oven at 180C. Lightly oil a 3lb loaf tin and dust it with fine semolina. Lay one strip of parchment paper along the length of the tin and up the short sides (don’t bother with the long sides – so long as you have greased and dusted with semolina it will be fine. Then lay two bay leaves and a few slices of tomato in the bottom. Take a 2.5 thick slice from a good stoneground wholemeal loaf and put it in the food processor with one large onion, two cloves of garlic and one large carrot. Pulse until broken up but not to the ‘breadcrumb’ stage. Then add your nut selection. My preference is 50% cashew and 25% each of hazlenuts and walnuts. But to be honest you can use whatever you have available. (If you use peanuts I recommend not using the salted variety!) You will need 200g nuts.
Add these to the processor and whizz till you get almost to the texture you want. Some people like a bit of ‘bite’ in their nut roast, others prefer it smooth. Stop just before your preferred texture. Add the following: 2tbsp dark soy sauce, a handful of parsley, two sprigs of thyme, black pepper, the merest sprinkle of chilli flakes two eggs (leave the eggs out if you are vegan and add 15ml cold water instead) and a good squirt of HP sauce. Sorry about that bit – it’s a bit arcane I know, but when you look at the label and read the ingredients you can see why – tamarind, tomatoes, vinegar, spices. Why would you add them separately? Whizz up again and check for seasoning. The mixture should be moist and drop off a spoon. If it isn’t add a little vegetable stock.
Put half in the loaf tin, then add a layer of sliced tomatoes, season, add a layer of thinly sliced feta (if you like it, if not leave it out or use another cheese) and then the rest of the nut roast mixture. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil. Cover the top with a layer of baking parchment and then foil.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes then take it out and LEAVE IT IN THE TIN for at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove the nut roast. When you are ready, slide a sharp knife round the edges, invert onto a plate and remove the bottom layer of parchment. You can now cover the nut roast with foil, whilst still on its plate Th and keep for later, then put back in the oven to warm through when you are ready, or you can serve it now.
If you want a good gravy to go with it, fry off some finely chopped shallot in butter with a teaspoon of cumin seed and a flat teaspoon of turmeric. Add three tablespoons of cooked red lentils, a tablespoon of tomato puree, 50ml water and 100ml coconut milk. Combine with a wooden spoon, check seasoning and bring to the simmer and cook for 5 minutes, then whizz with a stick blender. There you have a perfect creamy gravy to go with the nut roast.
The nut roast freezes well – you can prepare it and freeze it uncooked in the tin – or cook it through. cool and freeze. It is easier to freeze it in the tin. Defrost overnight before cooking. You can also use the nutmeat as ‘burgers’ – great in a bun with tomato and dill pickle – or as ‘nutballs’ with tomato sauce and pasta. It also is gorgeous cold because it keeps its moisture and the flavours are really well developed. So it stands up well against the cold ham and turkey with pickles on Boxing Day!