Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Nut Roast

The finished product!

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I'm a vegetarian, especially at this time of year, is 'but what do you eat for Christmas dinner?'. People seem genuinely interested in hearing about this, and lots of people tell me that they could imagine giving up meat to a certain extent, but could never give up their Christmas turkey. All year round I can meet people who say they can't imagine giving up meat, but I think that these feelings are magnified at Christmas time, when the contemplation of a meat-free Christmas dinner is just too much for some!

So I am really excited to tell you all about my stilton and nut roast, that I made this year and last year, and thoroughly enjoyed both times. The best thing is that as I'm the only one eating it, there are always plenty of leftovers, which is good, as it's really delicious! The recipe comes from a book called The Vegetarian Cookbook: From Earth to Table by Nicola Graimes and Fiona Biggs. I love this book, and have tried a few of the recipes so far, but after years of searching for the perfect Christmas dinner recipe, it is their nut roast recipe that I love the most. I have made some minor changes, so the recipe below is not the original, but the slightly tweaked version. 

A few things I love about this recipe:

It calls for roasted chestnuts. So now I have an excuse to roast chestnuts on Christmas Eve and eat the leftovers....yum! This really gets me in the Christmas spirit - such a simple, old-fashioned tradition - and so tasty. Sadly I do not have an open fire on which to toast them, but even in the oven, they're still good.

I prepare this nut roast the day before, getting everything chopped, mixed, and layered into the tin and covered with foil, but I don't cook it until the next day (Christmas Day!) - so all the more time to chill out and enjoy a bit more time with the family on the day. No matter how much I or anyone else loves to cook, who wants to spend Christmas Day slaving away in the kitchen?

Making my own nut roast may take a little time, but I feel that makes it all the more special to eat on Christmas Day. As soon as I have got the raw ingredients in the tin on Christmas Eve, I can't wait to get my Christmas dinner the next day!

It is very forgiving - as I already mentioned, I have changed some ingredients and quantities from the original recipe. But I even adjust the oven times and temperatures to suit the turkey that my mum is cooking in the oven at the same time. And the nut roast still turns out great*. 

I should also admit something that may shock cheese lovers here, but will appeal to anyone who is a savvy shopper watching their pennies: I used Morrisons Savers blue cheese rather than actual Stilton....and it tasted great! So even with more budget-friendly ingredients, this roast is still a yuletide winner, and it won't break the bank.

* It's best if you can adhere to the times and temperatures in the recipe as this makes the roast hold together better, but if you can't, due to conflicting temperatures of other food in the oven, it is still possible to cook the roast nicely and it will still taste lovely.

I hope that you all had a very merry Christmas, and that Santa was good to you. I'd love to hear what all the other veggies out there eat for their Christmas dinner - please leave a comment below and let me know! And if you are looking for new inspiration for next year's Christmas dinner, or simply a nice vegetarian roast to serve up at another time of the year, then look no further than the following recipe.

I made the mistake of not lining the tin...

Christmas Nut Roast


2 tbsps oil, plus extra for greasing tin
2 onions
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
150g roasted and peeled chestnuts (about 250g unpeeled, uncooked chestnuts)
200g mixed chopped nuts
55g ground almonds
55g fresh breadcrumbs
215g Stilton (or another blue cheese), crumbled
30g Cheddar cheese, grated
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 red pepper, finely sliced
115g courgette (for me this was about half a fat courgette), cut into rough chunks


If you are cooking the roast on the same day as preparing it, start by preheating your oven to 180ÂșC. If you are cooking it the next day, leave the oven off just now; you're not going to need it. Lightly grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Finely chop one onion and fry in a little oil with the celery and three of the crushed garlic cloves over a medium heat. Fry for about 5 minutes. If you are making your breadcrumbs from a slice of bread, this is  a good time to make them in the food processor, while you wait for the onion, celery and garlic to cook. 

Put the onion, celery and garlic into a food processor and add the breadcrumbs, all the nuts, half the Stilton, the Cheddar and the basil. Pulse until combined, then add the egg and gradually blend to create a stiff mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Finely slice the remaining onion and fry over a medium heat in a little oil with the courgette, red pepper and remaining garlic. Fry for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

In the tin, ready to be cooked!
Place half of the nut mixture into the loaf tin and smooth down. Next, add the courgette and pepper mixture as the middle layer, crumbling the remaining Stilton over the top. Finally, top with the remaining nut mixture and smooth down. Cover with foil. If you are cooking the roast the next day, pop the tin in the fridge at this point, until you are ready to cook it.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 25 - 35 minutes, or until cooked and firm to the touch.

Slice and serve with roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, veggie gravy, veggie stuffing.....and anything else that is part of your favourite Christmas dinner!

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