The first nut roast I ever made–or ever tasted–was for the romantic Valentine’s Day dinner I cooked up for the HH and me this year. Well, let me tell you, the specific holiday notwithstanding, it was definitely love at first bite (of the nut roast, that is–shame on you for thinking otherwise! Besides, after eleven years, love for the HH had already been firmly established; no biting there for some time, now).
And now, Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has decided to host a blogging event, A Neb at Nut Roast, to honor that venerable dish of nuts, veggies, and spices; that meal-in-a-brick; that loaf to beat all loaves: the Nut Roast! As soon as I read about it, I knew I had to come up with something extra special.
When I first baked up the Valentine’s Day roast, I dutifully followed Johanna’s original recipe; and while it was delicious, that wouldn’t do on this occasion. As I concocted my recipe for a main course consisting primarily of nuts, I felt quite vindicated by the process. You see, in recent years, I’ve been told countless times by friends and family alike that my atypical dietary habits are, in their opinion, a little nutty. Finally, I can confirm that they are, indeed, correct in their assessment.
It seems some of my friends and family just can’t get past the fact that I don’t want to eat anything from fast-food restaurants any more, or that I don’t want to use little packets of “seasoning mix” for my salad dressings, or that I don’t want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies these days (Oooh. Scratch that last one. I really, really DO want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies, but just can’t because (a) they spark a sugar-high gorgefest, in which I consume more in one sitting than any human should eat of them in a lifetime; (b) they cause me to me feel woozy (as opposed to tipsy, which can be pretty nice, come to think of it) and unwell; and (c) they are able to stay “fresh” for unnaturally long periods of time–say, 17 years–making me wonder whether they are animal, vegetable, or miracle-gro.)
I’m sure most vegans have shared this experience: you’re invited to a big bash–some kind of holiday dinner, rite of passage affair (such as a wedding or bar mitzvah), or any other festive event. The host(ess) acknowledges your “bizarre” dietary preferences and even makes a genuine attempt to accommodate. When the rest of the gang sits down to a four-course dinner of pâte en croûte, oxtail soup, bacon, shrimp and scallops Bordelaise, and Wasabi Beef Wellington, you are the lucky recipient of a plate heaped with steamed broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and green beans. Oh, and if you’re lucky, a white dinner roll. (Well, at least it wasn’t a paper plate).
Okay, rewind and play that scene again, only this time omit wheat from the picture. Not even the skimpy little roll, this time! So despite my friends’ best efforts, I rarely get to socialize with them over dinner these days. (I do have to commend them for effort, though. )
This nut roast just may upset the status quo, however. It’s a toothsome, meaty and hearty dish that can be enjoyed by virtually anyone. For omnivores, it offers an appetizing flavor in a package resembling meat loaf. For vegetarians and vegans, it offers a mouth-watering serving of protein that will leave you satiated. In fact, it was so tasty, so hefty and satisfying, that the HH, a tried-and-true carnivore, enjoyed it immensely and asked for seconds. I found it even more appealing the second day, after the flavors had melded and developed a bit.
Before cooking up the loaf, I began by leafing through my various cookbooks from the UK and Australia (since nut roasts seem to be much more prevalent there–we tend to favor patties and burgers over here in North America), just to see what the generic ingredients tend to be. As Johanna noted, most nut roasts contain a combination of nuts (duh), breadcrumbs or flour, and, most often, eggs and/or cheese.
Since eggs and dairy are out for me, I realized I was setting myself a tougher challenge than first anticipated. What the heck, I decided, why not go whole hog (“whole tofu”?) and make it even harder–why not attempt to create a delectable, enticing, egg-free, dairy-free and GLUTEN-FREE nut roast? Why not, indeed?!
Okay, so I was feeling a little nutty myself by that point (which, truth be told, is not that rare an occurrence). My head still reeling, I set to chopping (carefully) and processing (attentively).
If I thought I liked nut roast before, I have now developed eternal, till-death-do-us-part, adoration. This oblong object of my undying affection was robust, with a perfect combination of savory, herbed, and “meaty” tastes in a dense, slightly grainy and moist loaf with a crisped exterior. Solid without being stiff, it easily maintained its shape when sliced; and the flavors were much enhanced by an evening in the fridge.
I imagine you could also shape this into patties and use it for burgers if you were so inclined. We ate it with a simple kale salad, but you could, of course, serve it with the more conventional mashed potatoes and gravy for a divine meal–one you’d be comfortable sharing with just about anyone, no matter what their dietary preferences.
Nut Roast Extraordinaire
This nut roast provides a filling, satisfying main dish to a special meal (or any meal). The Brazil nuts and added wine contribute to the robust flavor, but if you prefer, feel free to substitute other nuts, or vegetable broth for the wine.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
3-1/2-4 cups (250-260 g.) mushrooms, chopped (I used a mixture of white button and portabello)
1/2 cup (15 g.) chopped cilantro
1-3/4 cups (200 g.) cashews
1-1/2 cups (200 g.) Brazil nuts
2 slices (about 100 g.) dense wholegrain bread (I used buckwheat bread), torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup (30 g.) ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup (50 g.) old-fashioned (not quick) rolled oats
1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/4-1/2 cup hearty red wine (pick one you’d enjoy drinking) or vegetable broth
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a loaf pan or spray with nonstick coating.
In a nonstick frypan, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms; sauté until onions are soft and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the cilantro and stir to mix; turn off heat.
Meanwhile, place the nuts, bread, flax and oats in the bowl of a food processor and process until ground and a uniform texture (like a coarse meal). Add the herbs and pulse to combine.
Measure 1-1/2 cups of the veggie mixture as well as 1-1/2 cups of the crumb mixture and place in a large bowl. Set aside.
Add the remainder of the mixture in the frypan to the crumbs left in the food processor, along with the soy sauce and red wine. Process until smooth. Scrape this mixture into the bowl with the vegetables and other crumbs.
Combine the ingredients in the bowl until you have a sticky, thick “dough”. Scrape this mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven for about one hour, turning once about midway through, until the top is dry and the edges are well browned. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing. Makes 8 servings.