Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nut roast, roast potatoes and mixed vegetables

This is a classic vegetarian alternatief to a roast, but you can also make it into individual cutlets. When I was growing up 'nut cutlets' was used to deride the diet of the woolly sock brigade (vegetarians). Now it's just about healthy and tasty eating.

Preparation 20 mins
Cooking time 40 mins
Serves 4 adults

What you need for the nut loaf:
175g mixed chopped nuts, (not too fine)
175g breadcrumbs
4-6 mushrooms, sliced
onion, garlic, flour, seasoning

About 100-150g (sweet) potatoes per person

One large carrot
2-3 sticks of celery
mixed seasonal mushrooms/toadstools
cherry tomatoes (halved)

Pre-warm the oven to 190°C. Place a large basting pan in the oven with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Scrub and chop the potatoes, hustle with the oil in the basting pan and season with crushed salt and black pepper. Leave enough room in the pan for the roast/cutlets. Put the potatoes in the oven, skin side down, and let them warm up with the oven. The potatoes will need about 40 minutes at temperature to get nice and soft.

Fruit an onion in olive oil. Add garlic and sliced mushrooms, cook until soft. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on top and stir well. Add 300ml of stock or water and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Stir in the breadcrumbs and seasoning. Salt and pepper are just fine but you can add parsley or tarragon to bring out the nutty flavour. Fresh chives (or chilli pepper if you're really adventurous) give a bit of a kick. Feel free to experiment.
  • About the nuts: if you use a blender it makes a very fine powder which is great for Bakewell tart, but it makes the roast a bit stodgy. You can just elect to wrap the nuts in a tea towel and give them a good bashing with a rolling pin. Trust me, you'll feel great.
The mixture will start to go all gooey and stick together. Now it's time to decide whether you want cutlets or a loaf. If it's the loaf, lump the whole mixture together into a more or less loaf shaped mass. Coat the loaf evenly with flour on all sides. Stick it/them in the now warm oven with the potatoes. Roast the loaf for 40 minutes, basting occasionally.
  • If you've chosen cutlets, you might want to put them on a separate tray lined with baking paper. Shape the mixture into beef burger sized cutlets, about an inch thick (25mm). Coat them evenly on both sides with flour and give them a dab of oil on both sides so they don't dry out. The cutlets need about 25-30 minutes to cook, so now's the time to check on the spuds. If they're still hard and white, which is highly likely if the oven's only just got up to temperature, wait about 10 minutes and then shove the cutlets in.
The lovely thing about roast dinners is you get oodles of time to clear the decks and prepare the side dish. I've made it really easy with stir fried vegetables. Slice the veg (make the carrot nice and thin), get the oil nice and hot and add the veg in the following order: carrot, celery, oregano, 2 mins, mushrooms, 2 minutes, cherry tomatoes, 1 minute.
  • An alternative cooking method for families with small children. Cut the carrot a little thicker and soften them up with the celery in olive oil at low to moderate heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Turn the heat right up and add just a splash more oil before adding the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes as above.
  • Don't waste lots of money frying in extra virgin olive oil, save it for salads or on bread ie when you consume it straight from the bottle. I always use a blended olive oil for frying, especially at lower temperatures.
  • If you're going to really stir fry then you need to use sesame oil because it can reach higher temperatures before it starts to degrade. In that case olive oil is not suitable.
Serve with the roast/cutlets and a dry white wine. Enjoy!

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