Firm, sliceable and great with all the usual festive trimmings and condiments, nut roast is a tasty meat substitute that can be enjoyed by non-meat eaters, too
It’s not an exact science and you can be quite flexible about what you put into it as long as the staple ingredients – nuts, breadcrumbs, herbs and something to bind it all together – are there.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to use bagged, ready-chopped, mixed nuts for a nut roast, make sure you buy a fresh new bag before you start. Stale nuts will ruin what should be a star-of-the-show main course.
But which nuts?
Chestnuts, especially if you use vacuum-packed or tinned, pre-cooked ones, add a lovely texture and flavour that complements the crunchier texture of hazelnuts, almonds and cashews.
Walnuts and Brazils have a lovely earthy, creamy flavour, and pine nuts give a welcome chewiness.
Pistachios add a lovely colour and their own unique flavour – and are suitably ‘special occasion’ because they are often at the top-end price-wise.
While roasted nuts add a different flavour dimension, avoid using salted nuts. It’s safer to add your own seasoning to the nut roast mix as it’s more controllable that way, especially if you’re using any stock or serving with a gravy.
Fancy a little extra? Give these a go…
Mushrooms – any type works – but if you include some soaked porcinis and shiitakes, you’ll get a beautifully pungent flavour.
Cheese - Stilton, of course, is the obvious choice, but goats’ cheese also works well. Always make sure the cheese is vegetarian, of course.
Vegetables – try a handful of cooked aubergine or carrots, grated courgette or cooked parsnips. Cook them lightly beforehand so that they’re properly cooked through in the finished result (whilst ensuring they retain their colour).
Cooked brown rice – the binding of choice for some, and because it tends to retain some bite, it can give a good texture.
Yeast extract (or a vegetarian alternative) is favoured by some nut roast enthusiasts as it adds a lovely kick of umami to the flavour.
Not a fan of breadcrumbs?
Try using pulses or lentils instead of breadcrumbs (or half-and-half). Haricots, kidney beans or a can of good old baked beans in tomato sauce are all excellent additions, and are a good substitute for breadcrumbs if you’re already serving stuffing.
…but love a bit of time saving?
Many nut roasts can be made ahead and frozen for up to a month – just check your recipe before you start.
Save even more time when you make it by using a food processor. You can finely chop the nuts, make the breadcrumbs and dice your veg without even changing the blade or washing the bowl in between.