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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
 

Ingredients
  • 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

Instructions
  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!

In Search of the Perfect Veggie Roast

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

Thanksgiving is upon us, a holiday which means very little to most people in the UK, unless you’re one of us American expats for whom the holiday seems to take on even greater meaning than it ever did when we were Stateside. Maybe it’s the ol’ ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ thing: because we can’t be home for Thanksgiving, we compensate, busting out every traditional recipe with can think of – from green bean casserole to pumpkin pie. And for lack of a central “family unit” to centralise the festivities, multiple people play host to Thanksgiving dinners, resulting in a multitude of Thanksgiving feasts, any one of which would probably put the family party back home to shame.

I am attending two Thanksgiving dinners this year, one of which I’m hosting here at the cottage. It will be a vegetarian feast, which naturally leads guests to the following question: “Will there be a nut roast!?”

To nut roast or not to nut roast? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

Impromptu veggie loaf

The search for the perfect vegetarian holiday main dish seems to be a constant quest for me and my veggie mom and sister. Every year we scheme and plan. There have been lentil loaves, stuffed butternut squash and, one of our most successful attempts, a glorious vegetarian moussakka.

But what I’m after is something vegetarian that works with two of my favourite Thanksgiving hallmarks: gravy (cashew gravy in my case) and cranberry chutney.

Cranberry Chutney

So a veggie roast is in order, but what to make? Here in Britain, the classic veggie roast is a “nut roast”, for which numerous recipes exist. The problem I have with all of these recipes is, well, the nuts. I just really don’t want to eat a slice of nuts for Thanksgiving dinner, especially when there’s cashew gravy on the line.

Christmas Eve Nut Roast

Other options include a loaf based on lentils or grains, but the challenge continues… many of these veggie roast recipes take some of the key elements of the meal – namely roast vegetables and stuffing – and mush them up into one loaf – it’s like bubble and squeek on overdrive. Great for leftovers, but not the main event. So I’m seeking a loaf that really stands on its own, that works with side dishes like roast carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes and stuffing, without being redundant.

Aside from all of this, the veggie roast should have great texture while still being sliceable. I’ve made my share of veggie loaves that crumble apart when you slice them. Not the best presentation!

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

To that end, I’ve been researching recipes and practising and I think I’ve settle on something that does the trick. But I don’t want to give anything away before the big day. Instead, I’ll share with you a few of the more promising recipes I’ve stumbled upon.

I’m sure there are more out there but frankly I’m a little bit burnt out on veggie loaf research. So you tell me: what’s the ultimate veggie roast? Or is there no such thing? In which case, what’s the ultimate vegetarian Thanksgiving main?