The History of the Nut Roast
By Helen Rossiter, Viva! food & cookery manager
Nuts are a wonder food for vegetarians and vegans – we love their crunchy texture and buttery taste not to mention that they are packed with energy, protein and other vital vitamins and minerals. So it’s no surprise they have featured so highly in our diets for many years.
The nut roast for example, is a traditional savoury dish of nuts, grains and seasonings, shaped into a firm loaf, has been a traditional favourite often eaten at Christmas (or any time!) with all the trimmings.
Its exact origins are not clear, but in 1908, Florence George included two recipes for nut cutlets in her book Vegetarian Cookery – which could be the earliest ancestor of the dish.
Shortly after this time, you can read of vegetarians keen to establish a meat-free alternative to serve as a centre piece at thanksgiving and Christmas tables. The
Golden Rule Cookbook of 1910, for instance, talks of a Michaelmas Loaf, where ingredients were shaped into a loaf.
According to Helen Rossiter, Viva!’s food & cookery manager, the nut roast has now come a long way, and with some love, care and imagination, can be served up in festive glory, with many juicy, flavoursome ingredients capable of brushing off any bad image the dish might have acquired in recent years.
“I love serving up Viva!’s Luxury Festive Roast to a table of meat-eaters, veggies and vegans, who can all savour each moist mouthful,” she says.“Nut roasts are no longer are seen just as a meat-substitute, but more like a wholesome, exciting and satisfying option in their own right.And it’s not just about the nuts. I pack mine with lentils, carrots, celery, courgettes, aubergine and porcini mushrooms… with a secret layer of fresh vegan pesto in the centre… topped with toasted pine nuts.
"Get adventurous: why not add a ‘creamy’ mushroom sauce in the centre, or some leeks, vegan cream cheese and a few cranberries? You can vary the flavour by using just one type of nut, like cashews or almonds, for example. Adding other proteins such as smoked tofu or beans can also give your roast that unique edge.
“The trick with any nut roast is to always serve with a beautiful rich homemade gravy, like one with red wine and porcini mushrooms.”
Helen runs www.vrc.viva.org.uk, Viva!’s recipe website with her friend and colleague Jane Easton. It's packed with hundreds of veggie recipes, including many ideas for Christmas.
Excepts from this article appear in the December 2011 issue of Cook Vegetarian magazine, alongside our Luxury Festive Roast recipe - see the link above.