The butt of a thousand tired jokes at the expense of the ‘knit-your-own-lentil brigade’, nut roast may not be quite as fashionable a plant-based centrepiece as a whole cauliflower or a swede steak, but, packed full of luxurious nuts, savoury mushrooms and soft, sweet roast root veg, it’s a cliche well worth reviving.
Prep 25 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 6 (with accompaniments)
2 large parsnips
Salt and black pepper
Oil, to grease
1 savoy cabbage, 6-8 outer leaves only
1 red onion
150g chestnut mushrooms
100g peeled and cooked chestnuts
40g butter, or 2½ tbsp oil
100g brown breadcrumbs
1 small bunch fresh sage, leaves picked
100g stilton (or other vegetarian or vegan-friendly cheese of your choice), optional
½ tsp mixed spice
1 egg, or 2 tbsp Marmite (or similar)
1 Cook and puree the parsnips
Peel the parsnips, cut them into roughly equal chunks, then cook in a large pan of boiling, salted water until tender. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, and put a lid on the pan to keep the water hot for the next step. Drain the parsnips very well, then mash or puree until smooth.
2 Blanch the cabbage
Lightly grease a 21cm x 11cm x 7cm loaf tin with oil, then line it with foil and grease the foil generously, too. Pull off six of the nicest-looking outer leaves from the cabbage, then wash them and trim the bases. Blanch these in the pot of boiling water for two minutes and fill a large bowl or the sink with iced water.
3 Refresh the cabbage
Scoop the cabbage leaves into the iced water, then check you have enough to line the tin, leaving no gaps; if not, blanch and refresh a couple more leaves. Keep the cabbage leaves in the iced water while you make the filling – this will keep them as green as possible, which will make for a more attractive-looking end result.
4 Start on the filling
Peel and finely chop the onion, and finely chop the mushrooms and chestnuts, keeping them all separate for the time being. Heat a dry frying pan on a medium-high heat, then toast the hazelnuts, shaking the pan regularly, until they start to colour; take care not to burn them. Tip the nuts out of the pan and leave to cool.
5 Saute the onion and mushrooms
Turn down the heat to medium, add the butter or oil to the pan, and sweat the onion, stirring from time to time, until soft but not coloured. Add the mushrooms, cook, stirring regularly, until both are soft and the pan is dry, then tip out into a large bowl. Turn off the heat under the pan but don’t wash it up just yet.
6 Finish the filling
Roughly chop the hazelnuts and add these to the mushroom bowl, along with the chopped chestnuts, cranberries and breadcrumbs. Finely chop the sage leaves until you have about about two tablespoons and add that to the bowl as well. If you are using the cheese, crumble that in now, followed by the mashed parsnips and the mixed spice, then stir briefly until everything is evenly distributed.
7 Add the binding agent
Beat the egg, then add that to the filling mix (alternatively, mix the Marmite with 50ml hot water and stir that in instead). Season with salt (if you used Marmite, hold back a little), then check the seasoning by frying a scant teaspoonful of the filling mixture and adjusting as necessary. If you’re cooking the nut roast immediately, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6.
8 Build the nut roast
Dry the blanched, refreshed cabbage leaves well, then use them to line the prepared tin, overlapping them to ensure there are no gaps and leaving any excess hanging over the sides. Spoon in the filling mixture, press it down well, then fold any overhanging cabbage leaves over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, keep in the fridge for up to 48 hours before cooking.)
9 Finishing touches
Remove the foil from the top, then roast the uncovered loaf for another 15 minutes. Once ready, place a large serving plate over the top of the tin and, holding the tin with oven gloves, turn over so the loaf inverts on to the plate. Carefully peel off the foil, slice and serve.
Fiona Beckett’s drinks match
Opinor Touriga Nacional 2021 £7.99 Lidl Wine Tour, 14.5%. Big, hearty, spicy red, and a total bargain.
Château Tour du Pas Saint-Georges 2017 £15 selected Co-ops, 14%. Nuts can be as good a foil as beef for a mature bordeaux, and this Saint-Émilion is classy stuff.