The Not-So-Dreaded Nut-Roast

I start with a sad truth: many people in this world believe that we, as vegetarians, eat nought but lettuce and that sweet, dry creation known as the nut-roast. As such, I’m not normally a nut-roast fan. But this ‘roulade’, now this is a nutty nibble that I can get behind.

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The garlic-fried mushrooms prevent the sweetness of the nuts from taking over, whilst at the same time, alongside the chestnuts, retaining a lovely moistness. The thyme (and the strong seasoning that I recommend) add a complexity often disallowed to the traditional dish, meaning that this roulade really can take centre stage at a feast.

All that, and wrapped in puff pastry too? Where do I sign?

Speaking of pastry, I have a confession: I don’t always make my own. Whilst homemade golden goodness is necessarily the order of the day for a super supper-party full of VIPs, Thursday evening calls for nothing more than ‘Jus-Rol’. In fact, I kind of like it.

As you lot are so special to me, I did indeed knock up the carb-blanket myself, using this classic recipe (don’t forget to use veggie lard).

I serve this dish with olive-oil roasted new potatoes, a simple tomato sauce, and fresh salad. It is also lovely with chips and ketchup. Obviously.

Note on the recipe: this is delicious cold, in your lunch box the following day. You will be the envy of the office.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6):

100g brazil nuts
200g cooked chestnuts
A good knob of butter
1 onion, small, chopped
300g chestnut or button mushrooms, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
25g fresh breadcrumbs
25g poppy seeds
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
350g puff pastry

For Decoration
Egg
Poppy seeds

RECIPE (adapted from A Year of Family Recipes by Lesley Wild):

Heat the oven to gas 6 / 200C, and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Melt the butter, and soften the chopped onion; add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme, and fry until coloured, and the mushrooms have soaked up most of their juices. Leave to cool a little.

Meanwhile, blitz the brazil nuts and chestnuts in a food processor, mini-chopper, or whatever you use to chop things up small, then put to one side in a large mixing bowl.

Add the cooled mushroom mix to the processor and blitz, being careful not to go too far (we want well chopped, not mushy). Add the mushroom mix to your bowl of chopped nuts.

Add the breadcrumbs, poppy seeds and egg to your well chopped mix, combine well, and season (I like a lot of pepper in this mix, as there is little other spice or herb, but each to their own).

Roll out your pastry into a rectangular shape, about 30 cm by 25 cm (if you are using bought, pre-rolled pastry, that is fine as it is), and place it on your lined baking tray.

Pile the filling on top of the pastry, in the middle, with about 3 cm spare at either end, and a 5 cm gap around the edges (this sounds harder and more precise than it needs to be! Just go with your instincts; it will taste delicious no matter what).

Make around 10 diagonal slices down the sides of your pastry; fold the tops and bottoms of the pastry up onto the filling, then begin to criss-cross your side strips.

Brush the top of your creation with your beaten egg, and sprinkle liberally with poppy seeds.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to gas 3 1/2 / 175C and bake for 10-15 more, until gloriously golden and flakey.

Serve warm, and enjoy.

MY EXPERIENCE:

This meal has been the calm within my storm this week. I am manically busy what with moving house and also searching for a job. My current schedule goes a little something like this: source boxes, source jobs, arrange vans, arrange CVs, order furniture, send applications, and on and on and on. Thank god for food. My savoury saviour.

If you too need a release, here are my potatoes, to calm even the most turbulent of minds…

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