Monthly Archives: December 2012

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast

Pistachio & Cranberry Veggie Roast

I’m back in Chicago for Christmas and have been happily very busy, mostly with things involving food. As I’ve written previously, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect veggie roast. Thanksgiving was good practise – and great fun – but Christmas adds an extra layer of “special” since I’ll be spending it with my family.

The veggie loaf I’ve settled on is this Pistachio and Cranberry “Nut Roast”, adapted from Anna Jones’ recipe in the Jamie Oliver magazine of all places. But I really do love it. She bills it as a “nutroast”, but there’s a whole lot more going here – a risotto-style base of barley (or arborio rice), mushrooms, cheese, pistachios of course, plus lots of Christmassy herbs like rosemary and sage. The best part, though, is the cranberry “glaze” on top that makes it actually look pretty appealing, rather than just a vomitty-colored lump of congealedness on a plate. Plus, cranberries are great with pistachios. And cooking the rice in a risotto-like manner with white wine, wild mushrooms and porchini mushrooms gives the loaf that super umami flavour that you really need on Christmas.

I made this for the Thanksgiving crew and everyone enjoyed it. I’ve adapted it slightly to include lentils for added texture. A slice of this veggie roast requires cashew gravy and, if you’re me, my aunt’s killer cranberry chutney.

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast

  • A small handful of dried porcini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 90g risotto rice or pearl barley
  • 60g puy lentils
  • 100ml white wine
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 200g mixed wild mushrooms
  • 100g pistachios, toasted
  • 100g almonds, toasted
  • A handful of breadcrumbs from sourdough or ciabatta
  • 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 225g ricotta cheese
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sprigs each of sage, rosemary and thyme, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 200g fresh cranberries

  1. Cook the puy lentils in boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the risotto base: Soak the dried porcini in a little boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Cook for a minute or so until you hear it snap, crackle and pop, then add the wine and stir until absorbed.
  4. Drain the porcini, sieve any grit from the liquid and add this to the risotto pan, stirring until absorbed. Finely chop the porcini and add to the pan.
  5. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring each one in until it has been completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir as much as you can – this is what will make it creamy. Once the rice is al dente (when you break into a grain, it should be almost cooked through but still have a white fleck in the middle), transfer to a bowl to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Fry the wild mushrooms in a little olive oil over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes, until they are just starting to crisp. Bash the nuts into coarse pieces, or quickly pulse in a food processor.
  7. Once the risotto has cooled, add all other ingredients except the sugar and cranberries, season, and mix well.
  8. Butter a 20cm loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Cook the sugar and the cranberries in a pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, then tip into the tin and spread evenly. Pile on the nut-roast mixture and pack it down with the back of a spoon.
  9. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. Once it’s golden brown on top, remove the nut roast from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes.
  10. Use a knife to loosen the tin, then place your serving platter or board on top. Cover your hand with a tea towel and flip the whole lot over, then carefully lift the tin off. Serve with cashew gravy and all the trimmings.


Image credit: Many thanks to Emily for snapping the above picture on Thanksgiving. A very happy moment captured!

Posh Prawn Cocktail

Posh prawn cocktail

I’ve already mentioned my latest weekend of food and debauchery in my post about Brown Bread and Guinness Ice Cream, but that barely scraped the surface of our foodie shenanigans (in fact, I wouldn’t doubt if some of us were too drunk by the time the ice cream was served to remember if it was actually good – but take it from me, it’s badass).

Also on the food experiment list was this posh prawn cocktail. But before I go on, let me say a little bit more about our crew last weekend because they’re all part of the story…

It was me, Kavey from Kavey Eats, Pete from Pete Drinks and Marie from Lanyon Cottages. We met in Cornwall last June on a holiday organised by the Food Travel Company. Throughout the trip, we four were always the ones lingering around the dining table long after everyone had gone to sleep, and during those evenings of good drink and great food, we bonded. We affectionately call ourselves the “Fab Four”, and have now had two reunions here at the O.C. It’s hard to believe I’ve only known them since June – this a seriously rare case of instantly comfortable friendships, the kind where you can have these people over to your house for a weekend and never feel sick of each other, you don’t feel like you have to “entertain” and no one’s “in the way”. If Pete feels like taking a nap, he just goes and takes a nap. No body’s worried about anyone else’s well-being, because it’s all pretty clear that we’re totally at ease.

Posh prawn cocktail

Despite the lack of pressure to entertain, I got it in my head last weekend that I wanted to do something kind of retro-tastic, dinner party style for one of our meals. I wasn’t about to break out the cocktail dress, but cocktails sounded like a fun idea, and so did hors d’oeuvres.

Enter Great British Chefs recently posted their collection of Christmas recipes where I found Chris Horridge’s Prawn Cocktail. The recipe reminded me of my first and only prawn cocktail experience with Genie Cooks at The Bell at Sapperton just a few weeks ago. I think my recent foray into Jell-O molds and cheese balls in preparation for Thanksgiving has me jazzed about retro food (so weird!), so prawn cocktail has definitely appeal. Unfortunately, the prawn cocktail at The Bell was “rubbish” – crappy little prawns excessively splooged with the signature Marie Rose sauce (what we American would equate to Thousand Island Dressing) and with very little salad to speak of. Genie backed me up – this was not a great prawn cocktail:


Ever since The Bell, I’ve been driven to make a prawn cocktail that I would actually eat. An opportunity was knocking!

The prawn cocktail recipe at Great British Chefs isn’t your traditional prawn cocktail, and you could argue that it isn’t really prawn cocktail at all. But with nice prawns and a freshly made creamy tomato sauce, it’s a pretty solid starter regardless. The sauce – at least as I made it – erred more on the tomato side than the mayo side, and actually worked just as well with the vegetarian version we made for prawn-hater Pete, subbing buffalo mozzarella for the prawns, and garnishing with basil instead of dill.

Prawn cocktail, the vegetarian version with buffalo mozzarella

There are a few other Christmas recipes in the Great British Chefs collection that I’d like to try, particularly the carrots with tarragon and garlic and the apricot stuffing (vegetarian-ised). And having tried the prawn cocktail recipe, I know to expect the unexpected, which I kind of like, especially during the holidays when you’re meant to kick things up a few measures from the norm. Perhaps The Bell, a pub which tries to convey the image of super posh, artisanal, fine-dining country Cotswolds bliss (it has “horse parking” for goodness sake) could learn a thing or two from this recipe.

Recipe: Prawn cocktail with homemade sauce

Brown Bread and Guinness Ice Cream

Brown Bread & Guinness Ice Cream

Last weekend I had a few friends over for an Orchard Cottage slumber party / food fest. Among them was Kavey of the blog Kavey Eats and her latest stack of cookbooks. One of the themes of our visits has been to trawl through these books and pick out recipes to make. Then we head to the shop and return home for a weekend of cooking and eating. It’s basically my ideal way to spend time.

Kavey and I share many mutual foodie interests, one of which is ice cream. Kavey runs a monthly blog meme called Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream (aka BSFIC), so I always like to use Kavey’s visits as an excuse to try a new ice cream recipe. It also helps that her chosen theme for this month’s BSFIC is BOOZE, which made my mission to make ice cream all the more inviting.

Convenient to my cause, one of Kavey’s cookbooks was The Icecreamists: Vice Creams, Ice Cream Recipes & Other Guilty Pleasures by Matt O’Connor. I wasn’t sure if I liked this book at first, totally based on the cover whose bright pink / black design is really hard on my eyes. Inside the book, I continued to find other aspects of the design off-putting: lots of light-coloured text on dark backgrounds and pseudo punk rock motifs. I get what they’re going for, but it doesn’t make for user-friendly reading, which is pretty crucial for recipe books.

The photographs, however, are another matter – here the dark and brooding style really works. These days, too many pictures of ice cream involve pastel colours and frilly props. Not so in The Icecreamists. I reckon a man took the pictures – indeed, his name is Anders Schonnemann – and he definitely has balls (or should that be scoops?).

Having perused the book, it was obvious which recipe needed to happen: Brown Bread and Irish Stout Ice Cream (pictured in a very manly Guinness glass, though oddly looking more like a milkshake than an ice cream – but nevermind). I’d never heard of “brown bread ice cream” before but it seems to be a “thing” in these parts. It goes back to 18th-century Victorian times and has been a popular flavour in England and Ireland ever since. The premise is this: take ice cream, and mix in crunchy caramelised bits of bread crumbs. Sounds good, right? And this version is a particular tribute to the Irish, made with brown Irish soda bread and Irish stout (Guinness in my case).

The ice cream base is a basic custard, kicked up with cinnamon and nutmeg (a LOT of nutmeg, which I loved). For the brown soda bread, I followed the recipe in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 which includes dark treacle for a sweet, molassesy kick – basically perfect for this ice cream. The recipe only calls for 50ml of stout, which leaves plenty left over for drinking, but also makes me question whether the stout flavour comes through, particularly with the high flavour spices. Regardless, the final result was a total win. Caramelised bread crumbs in ice cream – or in anything for that matter – might be my new favourite thing.

Brown Bread & Guinness Ice Cream

Brown Bread and Guinness Ice Cream

Adapted from The Icecreamists.
  • 250 ml (1 cup) full-fat milk
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) double cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 88 g (1/2 cup) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
  • 20 g (1/3 cup) brown Irish soda bread (or other brown bread)
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) Guinness or other stout
  • 30 g (1/2 cup) brown Irish soda bread
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) dark brown (muscovado) sugar

  1. Pour the milk, spices and cream into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to steam but not boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and whisk until slightly fluffy. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking continuously to prevent the eggs scrambling. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring frequently until the custard thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil.
  3. Add the crumbled soda bread and mix with a stick blender, then pour the mixture back into the bowl and set aside for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooled to room temperature. For more rapid chilling, half-fill a sink with cold water and ice and place the bowl in it for 20 minutes. Never put the hot mixture straight into the fridge.
  4. Once cooled, boil the stout until it is reduced by about half and add to the custard. Cover the mixture and refrigerate, ideally overnight but at least for 6 hours, until thoroughly chilled (at least 4°C/40°F). Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (you can also make this without an ice cream maker).
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the caramelised crumbs. Combine the crumbled soda bread and sugar and spread over a shallow baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place under a medium-hot grill, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are softly caramelised. Allow to cool a little.
  6. Fold most of the toasted bread mixture into the ice cream, then use a spoon or spatula to scrape the ice cream into a freezer-proof container with a lid. Freeze until it reaches the correct scooping texture (at least 2 hours).
  7. Decorate each portion with a few of the remaining caramelised bread crumbs before serving.


Recipe posted for Kavey’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream December challenge.