Mistletoe, wine, and a huge hunk of turkey are usually the order of Christmas day. But for the estimated 375 million vegetarians worldwide, the traditional Christmas dinner has to take on a different guise. Some go for meat alternatives, like tofu turkey, others just choose to top up their plates with more of their favourite veggies. It’s the nut roast though that has come to rule the veggie Christmas dinner.
A good nut roast is a hard thing to get right, with the very likely risk of a dry mulch at the end of all your hard work. Which is why we’ve asked the brains behind the brilliant, plant-based food blog Nourishing Amy and a friend of Form, Amy Lanza, for her top nut roast tips, including the mistakes to avoid, what veggies to pair it with, and some brilliant recipes for you to follow on Christmas day.
What Exactly Is A Nut Roast?
A nut roast is typically a mix of vegetables, seasonings, a cooked grain or lentils, and then nuts. You can use any nuts you like from roasted chestnuts to pine nuts if you have a nut allergy (the pine nut is actually a seed). Dried fruits such as dried cranberries or apricots are also really common. The nuts and dried fruits used will affect the flavour of your nut roast but overall, it’s a savoury and festive dish that is almost like stuffing.
It’s packed with healthy fats and fibre from the nuts and vegetables used so also makes a delicious wholesome option for non-vegetarians looking out of the turkey box. They’re also easily gluten-free, making nut roasts a great crowd-pleaser for the whole family.
What are your top hacks/tips for making a great nut roast?
Nail The Key Elements
Nut roasts are really versatile which is partly what makes them so great. You need a few key elements for a perfect nut roast: crunchy toasted nuts, juicy dried fruits, some extra vegetables, lots of seasoning, another starchy vegetable as a binder as well as using an egg replacer like chia or flaxseeds. A lot of recipes also use cooked grains like quinoa, rice or bulgar wheat, or even cooked lentils to bulk out the mixture and for a boost of protein.
A Little Bit OF Flour Goes A Long Way
You’ll also often need a little flour to soak up all the wet mixture. As long as you have all the elements, you’re onto a great recipe. Adding in the flour is crucial to help soak up any excess moisture otherwise the nut roast will be soggy and won’t crisp up and cook evenly. The added chia or flax seeds are also really important and often forgotten, but help bind the ingredients together so you can slice it neatly.
Easy On The Nuts
I also think too many people are too heavy handed on the nuts, which can make the resulting nut roast dense and stodgy.
Compact The Mixture
When it comes to cooking your nut roast, be sure to press down firmly into the tin to compact the mixture otherwise they can crumble when you try to slice them.
Let The Roast Rest
Another good tip is to allow the cooked nut roast to rest a little before slicing to ensure even cuts. To make your nut roast even more special, serve it with homemade cranberry sauce or gravy, too. It’s also a great idea to make a big roast and then freeze individual portions for a rainy day.
Seasoning Your Nut Roast
When it comes to nut roasts, you want to create something wholesome, warming, and comforting, so classic roast dinner herbs like fresh rosemary and thyme are best. If you don’t have fresh herbs, then dried also works well. Salt and black pepper are also important to season it all and enhance the flavours. You could also try adding a pinch of nutmeg, a ground clove, or dried mixed herbs. For adding richness and a depth of flavour, it’s a great idea to add some Tamari soy sauce too.
What vegetables could you use to pad out the dish?
You’ll want to opt for a starchy vegetable to roast or steam and then mash to bind the mixture together. Butternut squash is a really popular option, but you could similarly use pumpkin or sweet potato. As for the other vegetables, make sure to chop them small. Mushrooms are great as well as onion, garlic, carrot, and greens like kale.
Nourishing Amy’s Favourite Nut Roast Recipes
I’ve made a few nut roast recipes over the years and my veggie nut roast is a favourite, although it may just be beaten by my vegan butternut squash nut roast. Made in the round it can also be baked in a loaf tin.
How To Make Nourishing Amy’s Veggie Nut Roast
- Olive oil
- ½ onion, small dice
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 200g butternut squash, small dice
- 160g chestnut mushrooms, chopped small
- 1 medium carrot, small dice
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp each: dried rosemary, parsley, thyme
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 50g hazelnuts or cashew nuts
- 80g pre-cooked chestnuts
- 25g oats
- 75g spelt flour
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to Fan 160/180 C and place the nuts on a tray. Roast for 10 minutes then remove and leave the oven on. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, fry off the onion in a good drizzle of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and all the dried herbs and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes until smelling fragrant.
- Add the butternut squash, mushrooms and carrot to the frying pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their juices and the vegetables have reduced in volume, seasoning with salt and black pepper.
- While the vegetables are frying, add half of the roasted nuts to a food processor with the oats, spelt flour and ground flaxseed and whizz until combined and broken down finely. Roughly chop the remaining nuts.
- Add the flour mixture, the chopped nuts and chestnuts to the frying pan and give it a really good stir, you may want to reduce the heat on the pan. Add in the Tamari soy sauce and 4-6 tbsp water. Keep stirring well to ensure the mixture is evenly moist.
- Pour into the lined loaf tin and press down firmly to ensure the loaf is compact and flat on top. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes until the top is crisp and firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the tin and slicing. It is easier and neater to slice when the loaf has cooled down more. Serve straight away or keep individual slices wrapped up for the fridge (up to 5 days) or freezer.
How To Make Nourishing Amy’s Vegan Butternut Squash Nut Roast
- 500g butternut squash (peeled weight with no seeds)
- Olive oil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 red onion, small dice
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 courgette, in ¼ moons
- 1 red pepper, small dice
- 1 tsp each: dried thyme, dried rosemary
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 150g pre-cooked chestnuts, chopped
- 100g dried apricots, chopped
- 1 tin cannellini beans (drained weight 240g)
- 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 60g oat flour
- Salt and black pepper
- To serve: pomegranate, fresh greens, chutney
2. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add the red onion and garlic and fry for 10 minutes. Add the courgette and red pepper and fry for another 10 minutes until soft. Now add the dried herbs, nutmeg, chestnuts and apricots and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the squash cubes to a food processor and blitz to a chunky paste. Add in the drained beans and Tamari soy sauce and blend again until combined but chunky.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the same mixing bowl and stir together with the oat flour until sticky. Transfer to the lined round in, smooth over the top and press down to ensure the mixture is compact. Roast for 50-60 minutes.