Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Faux meat: Nut roast

‘But surely the most crucial point of all is that if someone doesn’t want to eat meat, the chances are they don’t want their dinner to look like it either. You wouldn’t dream of presenting your Jewish guests with fish carefully manufactured to look like a pork chop. So why wave replica meat in front of someone who clearly doesn’t want to see it?’

Nigel Slater; ‘The Nut Cutlet’, Eating for England

Despite Johanna’s protestations, I think that Nigel makes rather a good point, poking fun, gently, at the sort of vegetarian cookery no longer considered in vogue. Having arrived at the flesh-free party somewhat late, I’ve never quite grasped the notion that replacing meat, with something concocted to look like it, is wise. Besides, I’m more of a legume girl, content to be drawn into the kitchen by what’s seasonal and abundant.

No-one writes about food like Nigel Slater. It’s writing one sinks, blissfully, in to. Later in the same book, he pokes a little more fun at ‘The Slightly Grubby Wholemeal Cook’:

‘Here you will eat healthily…the yoghurt will be goat’s, the chocolate barely sweetened and the milk soya…[the cookbooks] are on the same shelf as the meditation CD’s, the fruit tea and the tantric sex manual’

Mind you, he’s got my pantry eerily right, but the sound of dolphins cavorting through rainforests inexplicably angers me and frankly I’d rather eat Tofurky wrapped in Soy Bacon than spend hours and hours tangled tantrically. Perhaps a foray into faux meat, in light of Nigel’s dubious stereotyping, was worth exploring. I settled on Deborah Madison’s much-lauded terrine from Greens.

Nut roast is, essentially, something akin to the stuffing that steams in the cavity of a roasting bird, minus, obviously, the bird. Think meatloaf and you’re halfway there. A nut cutlet is similar in construction, differing only in size and shape.

This smells like a proper roast while it cooks: incredibly, deliciously, good. It’s substantial, weighty and golden: worthy of presenting at the table with a flourished ta-dah! Madison warns this is heavy, rich fare and she is right. Thin slices, daubed with plenty of chunky tomato and basil sauce are ideal. And if the thought of half a kilo of cheese and all those nuts fills you as much fear as it did me, try to make up for it in the days that follow with truckloads of salad and fruit…

Cheese and nut roast - feeds six or more, with leftovers

Serve with a quick tomato sauce made by dumping two tins of chopped tomatoes into a saucepan with 3 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, a glug of red wine and a sprinkling of sugar. Bubble away until reduced by about one third, add half a bunch of torn basil leaves and serve. Nut roast adapted from Greens by Deborah Madison.

½ cup of brown rice, or a mixture of brown and wild if possible
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
½ cup, packed, of dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups of nuts, a mixture of cashews, walnuts and pecans
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
Sea salt
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large handful of parsley leaves, chopped
3 eggs
250g (½ pound) of cottage cheese
250g (½ pound) of strong cheddar cheese, grated

Place the rice in a small saucepan and cover with one cup of water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat right down to its lowest possible setting, clamp a lid on tightly and leave, untouched, for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain well and de-stalk the shiitakes, then chop the mushrooms. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes. Cool on a plate. Chop the nuts quite finely, but not so much that you’re bored. A few chunks here and there don’t matter much.

Increase the oven temperature to 190 C (375 F). Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 6 minutes or so. Add a little salt, followed by the mushrooms, garlic and parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes.

In a roomy bowl, combine the cooked rice, nuts, onion and celery mixture. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and cottage cheese, then stir through the grated cheddar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, combine well and press into the prepared loaf tin.

Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours until the top is burnished and golden, the loaf coming away easily from the sides of the tin. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before gingerly slicing with a serated knife.

Am I a convert? Not quite, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting Johanna’s round-up for more inspiration. You have until April the 18th to have a Neb at Nut Roast.


kathryn said...

I'm rarely a faux meat eater. The supermarket versions leave me cold. Really, what is the point of "not-bacon".

But I do love a home-made nut roast and a home-made vegetarian sausage. Both are comfort foods for me, taking me back to my English childhood. We rarely eat them, but when we do take the time to cook these meals, they're my favourites. Ones I savour and enjoy, over and above the food itself.

Plus I have a fondness for that slightly fusty, old-fashioned, 70s-style, vegetarian cooking. All whole-meal pastry and dense, legume-filled dishes.

Johanna said...

thanks for your nut roast Lucy - despite your protestations, this looks delicious. I thought it odd that you think it is faux meat as I always feel this is preferable to faux meat (which is why I was puzzled by Nigel's comment too) - but than I am a loaf girl! I agree with you that a little nutroast goes a long way - and often some of mine ends up in the freezer

Laurie Constantino said...

You are a brave woman. I saw Johanna's event and thought it sounded a little scary. I think it's because I've been served one too many slices of nut loaf. Amazingly, you almost make it sound good.

Ricki said...

Lucy, this looks fabulous! I am a total convert to nut roast, having never had it until about a month ago.

I totally agree about faux meats, though--the processed fake bacon, soy "chik'n" etc.--all are utterly unappealing to me! I think they must have been invented for people whose doctors told them to eliminate meat, when all they really wanted was a double-triple cheeseburger-bacon-sausage sandwich. I don't think of nut loaf as faux meat, though--just something else that happens to be baked in a loaf pan, then sliced (and then devoured by me).

Simona said...

Very nice, as usual. The nut roast looks great.

Lisa said...

Shortly after becoming vegetarian, and before I grew to embrace the goodness of legumes and grains, I would sometimes consume veggie burgers and I once bought a tofurkey! Well, never again, and then, there are those tofu wieners that not only look like the real thing, but also eerily taste somewhat like real wieners.

I've never eaten or made a nut roast before, but I was planning on trying my hand at one for Johanna's event. I was thinking of making one with mushrooms and you do just that. If there was a nut roast I would like, this would be it!

Another Outspoken Female said...

Nut roast reminds me of living in England. Any special event (xmas etc) in a vego household would call for a nut roast. In no way did I ever think of it as faux meat, more a high protein, hot meal perfect for a cool environment. I do mine with no cheese (surprise, surprise) but bound with some beaten egg if need be. Now all we need is some really cold weather....

Lucy said...

Not-Bacon...says it all, doesn't it, Kathryn? I'm afraid of any food masquerading as something else. Not Bacon being the prime example! That seventies wholmeal vegetarian image does, I have to say, still do it for me, too. Grains and pulses kept in recycled jars filled at the co-op.

Did I love the nutroast? Not really, though I have made an excellent one that Johanna suggested some months ago and the sense of occasion that bringing something like this to the table offers is rare in the vegetarian world. I did feel like a slimmer, trimmer Nigella Lawson as I placed it on the table, domestic goddess-like! Heavy, but mid-winter I've no doubt it will be back in some form or other.

I suppose I see it as faux meat, Johanna because it looked, smelt and felt like a weighty, centrepiece meal, very meatloaf-like, and I envisoned it as somthing akin to the traditional roast. In essence it is trying to replicate at least some of that meaty ceremony, and to be honest, I just don't cook that sort of food any more, much as I appreciate others efforts! Though not a complete convert, I am willing to be swayed...;-)

Oh, Laurie, it is good, very good in fact, but heavy on the digestion! Next time I would ditch the cheese and half the nuts, add some savoury, deeper flavours (a little smoked paprika and tamari would be great) and add a bunch of sauteed vegetables. I'm really looking forward to seeing what others come up with!

Ricki, you do make me laugh - those weird meat things make me want to run a mile. Having sampled one of Johanna's earlier creations, had high hopes for this Deborah Madison recipe (I do love her food) but I couldn't really get excited about it - I just kept thinking about the half kilo of cheese...Mind you, the boys around here loved it. Look forward to your take on it!

Thanks, Simona. You should smell how good the thing while it cooks...

Lisa, I knew someone would have experienced the Tofurky and am thrilled that it was you! No turning back after a meal like that no doubt. More mushrooms is what I'd suggest and I know you'll make it rich, moreish and satisfying.

And in rolled the cool weather AOF! You know, it just made me think of meatloaf when I turned it out of it's tin (which is hardly meat, I must add), thus the faux meat tag. Oddly enough, though I've eaten veg for most of my adult life and lived with countless strict vegetarians over the years not once have I encountered a nut roast. Yours, sans cheese, sounds more my style. Perhaps you should think about entering a post?

Rosa said...

I love the Greens cookbook and I've always been intrigued/fascinated by this nut roast. I'm now convinced that I will make some version of it myself... someday!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Funnily enough, I wasn't always the voracious omnivore that I am now. I was raised on a pretty strict vegetarian (bordering on vegan) and organic diet. My mother was (and still is) a wonderful cook, and took a lot of care to prepare delicious and creative meals that could turn even the meat-lovingest person into happy veggie convert.

One thing that she never made though, was faux meat products, so I've never had the dreaded nut roast. Not sure whether I'm curious enough to try, but I'm absolutely positive that yours is amazing.

Suganya said...

Bea-u-ti-ful. Nutritious and indulgent. How many times that happens :)

Another Outspoken Female said...

Well if this coooooool weather (yippee) continues - I just might. I think I last cooked nut roast in a shared house in carlton in the early 90's. I will have to search my memory very hard to remember how I made it. I do have the perfect latest op shop find jug to put the sauce in too. Ok, you're on!

Lucy said...

Rosa, do - sliced the next day and sandwiched between bread it was lovely. Worth the effort, I think.

Mari, I had no idea you were raised so 'healthily' - now I understand your aversion to tempeh! I wonder often how many of us who love to cook come from similarly food-loving parents...interesting.

Suganya, this is totally not from your beautiful world of veg cooking, but worth a look I think. Los of protein - perfect for an Atkins-style veg diet!

AOF, isn't this rain and cold the best thing? I was starting to doubt it would happen. Yay! A gorgeous jug, another nut roast to try...am so looking forward to your entry!

winedeb said...

Never heard of a nut-roast until Johanna posted her event. I am still searching for a possible entry, but not promising anything. Yours Lucy sounds very yumptious! I must look up this Mr. Nigel. Have not seen his books here in the stores so I will try Amazon. He must be an amazing person!
Wonderful post Lucy, as always:)

Susan said...

An excellent point. Why would a committed vegetarian/vegan want his/her diet to look like meat? Unless the diner has given up meat but misses the flavor/textures... Hmmm...points to ponder.

I'm going to have to make at least one of these to know what the debate is about. Your recipe reads well; would not have thought it would be leaden.

bee said...

your pics always always take my breath away. and this recipe is something i've gotta try.

Callipygia said...

I had the same feeling about that Green's nut loaf recipe. The smell and taste wonderful, but it was over the top rich, especially warm. I find this same general complaint with the Esalen cookbook which uses so many nuts and cheese, instead of beans and grains...

Anonymous said...

Looks so delicious! I'm so glad that I found your blog!

Wendy said...

Not only was I planning on making this very nut-roast from "Greens" next month but I was also planning on entering it in Johanna's round up! Great minds... :)

Cynthia said...

I am in love with your photographs.

Lucy said...

DEB! Get yourself off to Amazon and have a little wander through the works of Nigel. His 'Kitchen Diaries' is my favourite, a diary of a year of seasonal eating. Beautiful in every way. You will love him, I promise!

I've never understood it either Susan! Seitan in particular, being something that not only looks like chunks of flesh, but is deliberatley flavoured to be 'as tasty as...'. The nut roast surprised me with its heaviness, too, though I think I was hoping for a completely different thing altogether which may have coloured my view somewhat - look forward to your attempts!

Thanks, Bee - give it a go. It's an easy thing to whip up on a cool Sunday afternoon.

It's the overuse of nuts and cheese that does me in, Callipygia. Whilst I love the idea of them, I do think that veg food in particular has moved on to lighter times and is all the better for it. The rest of 'Greens' is beautiful food, isn't it? Shall duly avoid the Esalan cookbook, should it cross my path.

Thanks Tina! I'm glad you did too.

Wendy we do have similar thoughts...he he! I've done that to you once before I think, but this time I am BEGGING, nay INSISTING that you to try it and blog your results. I want to compare notes!

Oh, Cynthia - you do say the nicest things!

glutenfreeforgood said...

Another nut roast! Yum, what a great idea. You Aussie girls come up with some creative cooking. I love it. And I absolutely laughed out loud at the Nigel Slater quote you have in your post. Brilliant! Great post!
Take care,

Lucy said...

Hi Melissa - it's cooling down here, considerably. We've been cooking up a nut roast feast as a result! Thanks.

eatme_delicious said...

Ooo this nut roats looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I Love the look of your nut roast and bee's. Must get out the old cookbooks and try your recipe (sans eggs) and some variations.

I don't do the home faux meat thing, especially after someone who shared my house bought vegetarian sausages. Yech! But I do like the Vietnamese Vegetarian "meat" dishes. There is a Vegetarian Buddhist restaurant near me that does the best dishes, even tho they are supposed to replicate non-veg, I love them for their own sake.

LisaRene said...

It's great to see all the nut roast creations! Yours looks delicious and very satisfying, though I agree that with all those calories I'd be running extra long the following day - but it would be worth it :)

joanna said...

Wow, so many lovely nut roasts to discover! I would never have thought of adding cottage cheese, thanks for the idea.