Friday 25 June 2010

Going on a picnic with nutroast

It has been quite a week. In this side of the world it was the winter solstice. In our country, we had the appointment of Australia’s first female Prime Minister. In our house we had many chocolate treats, a soup that reminded me of gravy and a nut roast that gave the soup new life as a sauce. The nut roast may have been inspired by the soup and a celebration of the solstice, but it was also the perfect offering for a virtual picnic.

I found the nut roast recipe many months ago via the International Vegetarian Union list of cookbooks. I love browsing the historic cookbooks and found one called Modern Meatless Cookbook: five hundred recipes for preparing food with special reference to cooking without meat published by the House of Rest, San Jose California in 1907.

The idea of baking a nut roast covered in mashed potato appealed in a daggy retro sort of way. The minimal instructions in these recipes always scares me a little. This one had all of two sentences: “Mold into a roll. Spread with a covering of mashed potatoes and bake in slow oven until well browned.” It was not quite that simple. So I have modernised the recipe a bit in my adaption.

Though the recipe looked straightforward, there were many components and it took me some hours to make. I started cracking the walnuts mid afternoon while Sylvia insisted on staying outside in the garden and digging in some pots of dirt. Zinc ran around like a crazy cat looking for new places to explore. She managed to climb on the handle bars of E’s neglected bike and looked for all the world like she was trying to figure out how to work the damned contraption.

I ground nuts, boiled rice, made fresh breadcrumbs, fried onion, boiled potatoes and in the middle of it all I had to run out to pick up the car from its service. I also burnt the rice while washing the dirt off Sylvia's hands but managed to salvage enough of it. When we sat down to eat it, the work was worthwhile. The nut roast was dense and substantial – dare I even say meaty! I loved the combination of ground nuts, breadcrumbs and rice. (E loved it but Sylvia was not a fan.)

When I first found the recipe, I had intended to serve it with this sherry gravy. Meanwhile I made a pumpkin soup with some leftover beetroot and rhubarb crumble. It wasn’t quite right and seemed more gravy than soup. In fact, I felt it was in need of a nut roast and hence dug out this recipe. The smooth well seasoned sauce with a hint of piquancy was perfect. It pooled around the slab of nut roast the mound of mashed potato and the pile of brussel sprouts. It was a great way to include more vegies in the meal.

One thing I loved about the nut roast was the crispy little layer of mashed potato. In fact when I sliced it up I thought it would make great finger food. I knew the Louise was holding a virtual picnic and thought she would love some nutroast. Hence my special picnic photos (which are actually taken at night as it is winter here but just ignore that and admire the little capsicums and tomatoes from my mum's garden).

This blog event, being held by Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations, is quite different to most events that I participate in. It is based on the picnic game – you know, the one where you say "I went on a picnic and I took an Apple", and the next person picks something starting with B and the next person picks something starting with C and so on. Each person also has to remember the letters before them so the last person has to recite a long list. Well fortunately my memory is not being tested here but there is an alphabetical list to include. So here is my contribution to Louise’s picnic game:

I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing:

A: Almond Joy Pie
B: Baked Beans
C: Chocolate Picnic Cake
D: Dutch Funnel Cake
Easy Blender Chicken Pie
F: Five Bean Salad
G: Granola Bars
Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad
I Incredibly Fruity Raspberry Cakes
J: Jewelled Picnic Bars
K: Kaltschale (Cold Fruit Soup)
Long Island Lemonade Cocktail
M: Mushroom Tart
And I’m bringing Nut roast

Louise will post the whole picnic alphabet on Thursday 1 July so be sure to visit to check it out. I will also fill in the dishes as they are posted for A-M. For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Louise's wonderful blog, you will also find lots of fascinating information on food being celebrated each day, week and month. The picnic game celebrates National Picnic Month in July in the USA. But I think my favourite celebration I have seen on her blog lately is Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (13 June).

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: The Amazing Chocolate Cake in a Mug
This time two years ago: BBD #11 Sprouted Bread
This time three years ago: SHF: Mud Glorious Mud (mud cake)

Walnut and rice nutroast with mashed potato crust
adapted from Modern Meatless Cookbook, p 29
serves 4-6

  • 1½ cups ground walnuts
  • ½ cup ground cashews
  • 1½ cups cooked brown rice
  • 1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil,
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 eggs
  • about 10-12 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 potatoes, chopped
  • generous glug of milk
  • knob of butter

Prepare the ingredients. For me this meant shelling and grinding the nuts, cooking the rice, processing the breadcrumbs, frying the onion in the oil til brown and cooking the potatoes for about 20 minutes and mashing them with milk and butter,

Mix nuts, brown rice, breadcrumbs, fried onions, eggs, sage leaves, tomatoes and seasoning. Adjust seasoning according to taste. The recipe said to mould into a roll and cover with mashed potatoes. My mixture was not that firm so I decided to spread it in a lined and greased 22cm square tin and spreading a thin layer of mashed potato over the top.

I baked the nut roast in the oven at 170 C for about 50 minutes and then for 15-20 minutes at 220 C until the mashed potato was browned and starting to crisp up. It reheated well the next night in the oven without any foil over it because mine wasn't that brown.

On the stereo:

self titled:
art abscons / gabe unruh


  1. One of my regular dishes is "[insert protein here] pie", which is always pie in the sense of being topped with mashed potato, so I really like the sound of this!

    Also, remember, dishes are never burnt. They are either "caramelised" (if sweet), or "rustic" (if savoury). So you just made rustic rice, s'all good! :D

  2. I must live in a news vacuum as I didn't know that Australia had a new female prime minister. I'm going to look her up. Love-love the idea of beets and rhubarb together and love nut roast too. I use Bonnie Mandoe's recipe.

  3. You sure know how to have a picnic, Johanna. I never dreamed Nut Roast could sound so darn good!!!

    I'm entranced by the amount of time and effort it must have taken you to perfect the slight instructions especially from 1907. Goodness! And to think your family added sweet morsels of adventure and intrigue, picnic delight in my book.

    Thank you so much for "playing." I am humbled by your generous words:)

    We sure are going to have one heck of a Round-Up, I can't wait!!!

  4. That sounds like a fun game and I love your gravy idea. What a cutie sylvia is playing in the garden with zinc keeping her company. It is like zinc is keeping an eye on sylvia.

  5. I'm so relieved that it was worth it after all that work! I'm going to have to check out that cookbook.

  6. Your picnic photos are so adorable!! Your nutroast sounds heavenly - I would love savoring this on a chill winter day... It sounds sooo nourishing and comforting! I love the photos of Zinc and Sylvia, too - SO cute!! :-)

  7. Thanks Hannah - mashed potato is great comfort food and great when crisped up in the oven over any food

    Thanks Agrigirl - never heard of Bonnie Mandoe's nut roast - but always interested in a new nut roast recipe - will look out for it. And am not sure how much our change of Prime Minister has been reported internationally - but worth looking up

    Thanks Louise - have had fun at your picnic - thanks for the invitation - always pleased to share a nut roast

    Thanks Jacqueline - oh yes zinc keeps an eye on sylvia (but mainly to make sure she doesn't grab her tail) - they are a funny pair!

    Thanks Joanne - I'd love to try more of these historic recipes - some great ideas and it is amazing to think Vegetarian cookbooks are not a new thing

    Thanks Astra - when winter comes around I start hankering after nut roast - though it is great cold on a salad sandwich too in summer!

  8. We have a vegetarian friend from Ireland arriving next week, so I'm thinking of making this so she can try it. BTW grated cheese on top mashed potatoes will make the top brown & crisp up (& add protein also).

    Yes, great news isn't it! Finally 2 women in top positions (GG & PM). Have a good week - winter in OZ isn't as long, or as cold, as it's here in Estonia.

  9. Oh, that sounds really good! A lot of work, but I enjoy being in the kitchen doing these sort of tasks as it cools down (so I'll have to put it on hold, but...). So glad you brought this to the picnic!

  10. Thanks Pene - grated cheese on top would be great - I sometimes do that with shepherd's pie but was trying to stick to the flavours of the recipe

    Thanks girlichef - you have to pick the right time to make such a meal - I was surprised how much work it was as the instructions were so deceptively simple - but it was worth it

  11. Johanna, the nut roast dish looks so yummie, love the idea of having different nuts and the brown you mention the layer of crispy mashed potato on top must make it taste even nicer...and I am so glad that we can all try it at the picnic ;-)

  12. The nutroast looks so good, I would love to take that on a picnic.
    I saw that you had a new female Prime Minister, that will be interesting!

  13. Your nutroast looks fantastic! Delicious picnic food! I'm glad I'm going to be at the picnic! In response to your comment about the 'Aussie' basil, it is different from regular basil - it is like a stalk with the leaves coming right off of it. The leaves are smaller and it isn't at all like the bushy basil. Hopefully I can remember - to post a picture on my blog sometime in the next week.

  14. First of all, congrats on your new Prime Minister! I saw the news article and thought, "Yessssss!" :) And boy, that is some picnic. Wish I could be there. Your potato-topped nut roast brings to mind shepherd's pie. The ingredients sound much like those in a quick "sausage" patty I made a while back--just delish.

  15. Thanks Juliana - am pleased to be on the picnic with you - I did think about how the mashed potato would work cold for a picnic as I find mashed potato doesn't keep well but it took on the nutroast flavours and gave interesting contrast

    Thanks Nic - a female prime minister makes for interesting times - though I think of maggie thatcher and am not starry eyed about her being perfect but she seems very down to earth

    Thanks Cinnamon Girl - am not puzzling over if the regular basil I find in Melbourne is aussie basil or regular basil - will be investigating - am sure basil would make for great picnic conversation over all that wonderful food :-)

    Thanks Ricki - I did think of shepherd's pie when I was making this and the recipe didn't say how much mashed potato so I decided to make a thin crispy layer, esp as I don't think mashed potato keeps very well in large quantities (probably why there are such wonderful baked goods with mashed potato)

  16. I really have to try this. It is printing now. I play around with nuts a lot and use them for breading and whenever I can throw them in. Success is the word for this.

  17. Hi JoHanna,
    Just wanted to pop in and "personally" thank you again for bringing your Nut Roast on the picnic. It sure did a disappearing act, lol.

    Thanks again, it was a pleasure having you:) Louise

  18. Love the photos of Zinc and Sylvia! This nutroast looks really good. I've made a vegetarian shepherd's pie before with mashed potatoes on top but they didn't get crisp as yours did (which sounds delicious!)


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