Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Nut roast with chestnuts

In the southern hemisphere, summer can give me a split personality. One voice with the cultural memory of European winters past, whispers about the need for warming comforting festive food. Meanwhile the voice which knows all very well that the end of the year in Melbourne is heralded with a scorching summer, insists that it is too hot for anything but a simple salad. Even though Christmas is still too many weeks away to even start counting, the decorations are going up in shopping centres and civic spaces and my local supermarket is now playing carols. As if that is not enough to mess with my mind, my American blogging pals are immersed in Thanksgiving.

Is it any wonder my thoughts have been full of chestnuts lately. I bought a can of chestnut puree months ago partly out of curiosity because they are uncommon around these parts. It was French and very expensive. Initially I thought I would maybe use it for Sophie’s chestnut parsnip and orange soup or Lysy’s chestnut orange chocolate mousse cake. But this weekend the weather was gloomy grey and I wanted a roast dinner just like my mum used to make. Well, almost! These days I tend to make nut roasts rather than roast beef. And I have never made a nut roast with chestnuts.

I searched for chestnut nut roasts on the web. I found a few – Betty Rundle’s chestnut, mushroom and nut roast, crown nut roast, and the ever popular Brazil and cashew nut roast with chestnut stuffing. All were the sort of fancy nut roast you might make for a festive feast. In my cookbooks there was a similar dearth of recipes. Rose Eliot had a few festive chestnut roasts. I just wanted something a bit plainer. We were celebrating nothing more than some unseasonally cool weather which begged for me to avail myself of a hot oven.

So I decided to just make something up using Rose Eliot’s loaves and Sarah Brown’s Chestnut and Walnut Bake as a guide. I knew what I wanted in the nut roast – chestnut puree, another sort of nut, vegetables, herbs and maybe cheese and egg. The chestnut puree was a little on the sweet side so I added soy sauce. Once it went in the oven I realised I had not added breadcrumbs as I had intended but it tasted fine without. Unfortunately I found it stuck to the sides of the tin – more than most nut roasts – and was very soft so it just collapsed a little once out of the tin.

But it tasted delicious. I still find the soft and silkily smooth chestnut puree is overwhelmingly rich. It tasted so intense that the nut roast needed the texture and lighter flavours of the finely chopped nuts and vegetables. Indeed, I wonder if the decadence of chestnuts in a nut roast is hard to avoid and precisely the reason they are so popular at festive occasions.

Nut roasts are too rich to eat alone and I served this in a style similar to my childhood roast dinners – with crispy roast potatoes, melting roast pumpkin, soft peas and savoury gravy. When young, we would eat around the kitchen table but sometimes E and I like to be a bit more relaxed. We had tea on the knee in front of The Bill on the telly with the rain lashing down outside and the cat curled up on the beanbag. Now if that isn’t comfort, I don’t know what is!

Given that it is Thanksgiving in America coming up and that this nut roast would make a fine centrepiece for a special feast, I thought it timely to say thanks to a couple of sites that have included my recipes in their thanksgiving ideas. Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey has included Polenta Quinoa Sticks with Rhubarb Sauce as a starter in her Big Holiday Menu Planner on FoodieView. Sew Mama Sew have a Handmade Holidays series in which they include my Chocolate Fruitcake Recipe among their gift ideas. From a brief acquaintance, these seem good sites to delve into for some great holiday ideas.

And I am sending this nut roast to Johanna at the Passionate Cook who is hosting this month’s Waiter! There's something in my... Roast.

Chestnut, Walnut and Mushroom nut roast
(Inspired by Rose Eliot and Sarah Brown)
Serves 4-6

1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1-2 small carrots, grated or finely chopped
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g chestnut puree (or mashed chestnuts)
125g walnuts, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme)
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 egg
1 cup (lightly packed) grated tasty cheese
Black pepper

Grease and line a loaf tin (about 13 x 22 cm) with baking paper or well greased greaseproof paper – usually I’d just line the base and grease the sides but for this loaf I would line the sides as well. Preheat oven to 200 C.

Heat oil in frypan and fry the onion, celery and carrots for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and fry an additional 5 minutes or til mushrooms soften. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon mixture into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-60 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes and the turn out onto serving dish. Serve in slices with gravy, chutney or tomato sauce and lots of vegetables on the side.

On the stereo:
Lashtal: Current 93


  1. i have never heard of a nut roast before - but i do like the concept! i love chestnuts, although i find the puree overwhelmingly sweet. i would try this with my own roast chestnuts chopped up, i guess. i never knew you could do a real roast for vegetarians, this is something i will definitely try. with all the sides especially, yhis is one spectacualar dish, i should think! thanks for contributing to WTSIM!

  2. Thanks for this my last nut roast was a HUGE failure so I will be having a go at this 1

  3. You know, I'm yet to 'get' chestnut puree either. It seems really starchy - like a thick, grey, stodgy tin of cold potatoes...

    But I do occasionally like them roasted in winter, sold in little paper bags by those vendors on the street corners of Melbourne.

    Another lovely nutroast.

  4. "grated tasty cheese". i love such flexible ingredient lists. :-) you are the queen of nut roasts and i marvel at each one you come up with.

  5. Johanna you surely are the nut roast queen!
    Ever since you introduced them to me with the Neb on Nut Roast I have made many variations, but I hadn't even thought of chestnuts as they aren't very common in Perth. I will most certainly keep an eye out for the tinned variety in the supermarket now though.

  6. Thanks Johanna - most of the recipes I found had mashed or even chopped chestnuts but I only had a tin of puree - so your suggestion sounds quite sensible. I'd never heard of a nut roast because I became vegetarian and it is one of the things that has make life as a vegetarian a lot easier

    thanks Flower - good luck with trying some different nut roasts - hope you can find one to love!

    Thanks Lucy - puree chestnut seems an odd texture to me too - and v sweet but I live in hope - the chocolate chestnut cake might be interesting when I get around to it - have never bought the roasted chestnuts in the city - they always seem out of place in Melbourne

    Thanks Bee - I find nut roasts a comfort - as is tasty cheese - but I gather from some comments that tasty cheese is not so common in America as it is here - I think it is a sort of cheddar but any hard cheese would do! Flexibility is one of the great things about nut roasts!

    Thanks SWF (and Bee) for that lovely accolade of nut roast queen! Chestnuts aren't very common in Melbourne - although as lucy says they sell them roasts on the street which seems just so odd - but I had a terrible time of peeling them once. I'll be impressed if you find tinned chestnuts in the supermarket - I had to find them in a speciality shop - hence the ridiculous price!

  7. Would you believe I've never tasted chestnut puree (or even chestnuts)? This sounds divine! And the picture is gorgeous, with that rich, brown gravy (recipe, perhaps?) Now you've got me yearning for nut roast again--I think it's time to make another!

  8. Oooh, this is spooky! I just opened a can of chestnut puree last night to make some little Christmas cakes and was wondering whether I could make a nut roast with the rest. Now I know! AND I'd completely forgotten about my own post about orange and chestnut mousse cake which I now have a huge craving to make tonight - so thank you for both recipe and idea!

    Was your chestnut puree definitely unsweetened? Mine doesn't taste too sweet out of the tin (to be honest I have to work hard not to think 'dog food' when I open it) but it has instructions for how much sugar to add if you want it sweetened. Then it's VERY sweet.

  9. Oh, that looks wonderful. Very comforting.

    By the by, just noticed you are a fellow Jarvis Cocker fan. Read this interview the other day and thought you might be interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/nov/24/jarvis-cocker-pulp-pop-music

  10. Johanna this is such a good idea using chestnuts!

    I've just found where they have been hiding the chestnuts in our local supermarket (not with the nuts or with the fancy gourmet ingredients but tucked underneath the stuffing mix!). I was all ready to make parsnip and chestnut soup but I think I'll put a packet aside ready to try this out

  11. thanks Ricki - I think before this year i might have had chestnuts a couple of times but I can believe you have never had them - even more believable is your desire to cook nut roast as the weather cools! The gravy link is obviously not obvious enough but it is just what I wrote about in the link to childhood roast dinners

    thanks Lysy - you now have me wondering if the puree was sweetened and the tin has gone out now - doh! I don't think so! Glad to hear you are thinking about nut roasts too!

    thanks Wendy - yes E spotted the article for me (luckily he reads some UK papers online) and even pointed out the Jarvis looks like a groovy 1970s teacher with his beard! Didn't know you were a fan too - such good taste in musicians as well as food!

    Thanks Sophie - maybe I should check my supermarket for chestnuts - esp over Christmas - I still hope to make the soup some time too!

  12. I have the same issues with hot Christmases. I always feel like there should be snow and a roast whereas the weather calls for anything but. I adore chestnut puree (yes pity the pricetag here) and this looks like a great way to use it in a savoury dish!

  13. Oh, wow. That looks like such a great loaf.

  14. The nut roast looks great....how did you do your potatoes? They look amazing as well.

  15. Honestly, I never would have tried nut roast, but you inspired me. This sounds great and I love the addition of mushrooms.

  16. Thanks Lorraine - snow and chestnuts seem so much part of Christmas even though they are not part of our experiences in Australia.

    Thanks Bunches - it was delish!

    Thanks VeganCowGirl - I will put a link to my post on potatoes - I think the trick is just having lots of time to leave them in the oven til they are crispy - one of my favourite things to cook and eat!

    Thanks Lisa - glad you are feeling inspired by nut roasts - I think chestnuts and mushrooms must be a good combination!

  17. I'm definitely going to give your recipe a go - it looks delicious!

  18. thanks Shirl - hope you give it a burl (sorry is that just an Aussie colloquialism?)

  19. Just thought you might like to know that I made this for our Christmas dinner yesterday and it went down a treat :) There were five of us and two are vegetarian so it seemed sensible just to go entirely veggie. And I've had a tin of chestnut puree in my cupboard for at least a year so it was off to Google for recipes... I'd never made a nut roast before in my life so it was a slightly scary prospect doing it for the first time for Christmas, but I figured there wasn't a lot that could go wrong, even with altering the recipe slightly - I left out the cheese and added 50g of breadcrumbs and a tablespoon each of polenta and wheatgerm. I think I must've been quite annoying from my unrestrained glee at how brilliant the result was. Certainly no-one missed having meat and I already want to make another one!

  20. SueSue10 December 2013 17:15

    Thanks for the inspiration, will be serving this up at Christmas dinner 2013.
    Just thought you might to know what I did with it :)
    Merry Xmas all!

    1. Thanks for letting me know Suesue - glad you enjoyed it - am sure it will make a great Christmas centrepiece

  21. We just had this for dinner. It was delicious, and the way you explained it is very straightforward. It also salvaged some open chestnut puree that needed to be used. I'm sure we'll come back to this recipe soon, over the holidays, too. Thanks a lot for the post!


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