Garlic Mushroom Nutroast and My First Roast Dinner!

Yes, I had got to the age of 25 and never made a proper, full blown, British Roast Dinner. Pretty shocking really considering how much I love food/cooking, but roasts have never been one of my favourite meals and I just wasn’t fussed! But, now we are moved out and in our lovely new flat, I decided the time had come for me to tackle this most British of lunches. I asked Ben what vegetarian delicacy he wanted me to conjure up, thinking he’d say mushroom wellington, an exciting pie or some kind of bake. His answer? Nutroast! Well, if that is what the boy wants, that is what the boy will get!

I Googled extensively to find the best nutroast recipe in the world but none were quite what I wanted, so I combined two! My recipe is mainly this Hairy Biker’s Nut and Spinach Roast, with the addition of a garlicy, mushroom stuffing, as seen in this recipe. I just loved the idea of buttery, garlicy mushrooms nestling in the middle of the nut mixture and I thought it would help to keep it all lovely and moist. The Hairy Biker’s recipe was really good and we had most of the ingredients on hand; only really having to purchase the chopped nuts and cashews. I made a few substitutions like using parmesan cheese instead of Gruyere and eliminating the mint (because I don’t like it!) and the sundried tomatoes (too expensive!!) and I really don’t think it made any difference. I hardly ever follow recipes exactly, I think they are made to be played with!

All the ingredients in the bowl, ready to be mixed! I had to buy the bowl whilst in Sainsburys because I realised we didn’t actually have one…or a kitchen scales…so it was quite an expensive shop if I’m honest.

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It smelt really lovely with all the fresh ingredients and herbs, I was feeling very virtuous mixing it altogether! Ben chopped the mushrooms using our super duper hand-me-down food chopper which has CHANGED OUR LIVES!! We used to stand there for hours chopping mushrooms insanely small as I can’t stand them anything bigger, so this gadget is a real life saver!

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Frying them in butter, garlic and olive oil…in our defence, this was just before Christmas and therefore the gluttony was absolutely acceptable! The butter kept them really moist and juicy…yum.

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Once all the ingredients for the nutroast were mixed together, we put half the mixture in a greased loaf tin before adding the layer of mushroom filling. It was looking really promising!

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I then added the second half of the mixture and put it aside for a bit while I cooked my potatoes. My first ever roast potatoes!! How exciting. After some indecisive Googling, I selected Nigella’s roast potato recipe, figuring that if they were a complete fail there were plenty of other people’s to try! I had faith in Nigella though, she’s too pretty to get things wrong in my personal opinion.

Here are the little beauties, waiting to boil! I had no idea how many potatoes to boil to feed two people so I erred on the side of caution and did…an obscene amount.

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Here they are, post fluffing!!! That was some serious fluffing. I also added a bit of flour to help along the fluffing process and it definitely did!! As you can see I made a bit of a mess…

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We chucked the poor babes into a roasting tray filled with molten hot olive oil and the sizzling was merciless, I almost felt bad for them.
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45 minutes later…they looked like this!

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They bought a whole new meaning to the words ‘fluffy potato’ and I was immensely proud of them. And also slightly embarrassed to admit there were only 2 or 3 left once we’d had our lunch…oops.

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Everything then started to happen really quickly; the potatoes were ready but the nutroast needed a few more minutes. My yorkshires and stuffing was ready to go but the peas and broccoli was yet to be boiled. My roasted vegetables were beautiful, apart from the sprouts which were like burnt little fingernails. Nice! This resulted in a pretty stressful 5 minutes with both of us shuffling around our kitchen, opening oven doors, poking forks into things and apologising for repeated bumps. We decided to just eat the sprouts straight from the baking tray because they were actually delicious but I couldn’t bear to put them on my perfect plates.

Finally though, every item apart from the nutroast was ready, so Ben started plating up whilst I wrestled the nutty beast from it’s bed.

To be fair, I didn’t have to wrestle it; thanks to my over zealous buttering it slipped cleanly out of the loaf tin with a gentle tap! No-one was more surprised than me and we stepped back for a few seconds to take in this miraculous coming together of nut and vegetable.

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It really was a thing of beauty. I was so pleased it had not only held together but actually looked like a nutroast loaf!! We quickly realised the brown crispy bits were the best and there was a gentle jostle whilst cutting to ensure we each got our fair share.

My very first roast dinner, plated up beautifully for one very hungry boy πŸ™‚

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It got a double thumbs up from Ben and he actually leapt out of his chair, came round to my side and kissed my hand before returning! Quite the reaction!

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This was my plate; I’m a very naughty girl and have an unnatural hatred for peas so I passed on them and took extra carrots. We did have gravy obviously, but it would have ruined the photos so I waited til afterwards to drown my plate in the dark, rich liquid. Otherwise this would have been a ridiculously dry meal. The nutroast? It was fantastic. The Hairy Bikers got exactly the right mixture of herbs and ingredients so the end result was intensely flavoured, while still allowing the flavour of the nuts to shine through. You could really taste the grated carrot too which I enjoyed, it kept it quite fresh and interesting. We had the rest of the nutroast sliced for sandwiches the rest of the week, with lovely brown seeded bread and a squirt of naughty ketchup. Delicious!

Some more close-ups just so you feel you were actually on the plate with the rest of the food.

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As with all roast dinners, 2 hours of prep/cooking resulted in about 8 minutes of eating before the crumbs and drops on the plates served as the only reminder of what was once there. This was slightly depressing and left me a bit deflated but then I remembered we had the rest of the nutroast for sandwiches!!

I feel my first roast dinner was a resounding success and whilst this isn’t a recipe to be making every single Sunday as it is a bit labour-intensive, I’ll definitely be keeping this combination recipe in my repertoire for the future.

P.S As I have been so good all year, Santa bought me a brand new Canon EOS 1100d/Rebel T3 for Christmas! So brace yourselves for some photos on this blog that are actually not taken with my iPhone!! Exciting times πŸ™‚

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Homemade Christmas Gifts – Cookies In A Jar, Chocolate Truffles and Chocolate Bark

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We moved into our new flat on the 24th November, one month before Christmas. With buying new furniture, appliances and home bits and bobs, together with the initial costs of rent and deposits, we realised we’d be pretty skint for Christmas! So, we decided to try out a few homemade gift ideas I’d seen online for our friends and family. Although we had the best intentions, what actually happened was we made all the homemade gifts (which were not as cheap as we thought they’d be…) and also got everyone additional presents because we kept seeing things they’d like. So, it didn’t really work out how we planned but I really enjoyed making the gifts and everyone we gave them to absolutely loved them. In fact, they couldn’t believe we’d made them! So I was really pleased with how it all turned out.

My favourite one was the Cookies In A Jar which went down an absolute treat πŸ˜€ I used this recipe from Chocablog, mainly because it was English so I didn’t have to convert the measurements! The idea is all the dry ingredients are layered beautifully in the jar and you just need to add an egg, butter and vanilla extract, mix it up in a bowl and voila, you have cookies!

They used chocolate chips as part of the ingredients but I decided we would go one better and make the cookies all colourful and festive! I chose white chocolate, pecans and dried cranberries and the result was really lovely and Christmassy. Funny story – a friend of ours picked up a couple of the Ikea Kilner jars for us to practice on and I began layering the ingredients in the jars, only to find the layers were really not going very far! I’d pretty much finished adding all the ingredients and I was only 1/4 of the way up the jar, what was going on!? I need to add that I was extremely jetlagged at this point after returning from Bali the previous day (amazing work trip, Bali food post coming up in the New Year!!) so was really not in the mood for this to be going wrong for no rational reason. I then double checked the barcode number on the Ikea website and it all became clear when I read out the jar size to Ben – “1.8 L.” The recipe I was working for called for a 1 L and we hadn’t realised it was twice the size. Oops! We went to Ikea the following day to stock up on the correct size jars and we still have that 1.8 L jar on top of the fridge, 1/4 0f the way full with cookie ingredients, to be used on a rainy day. Bonus!

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Aren’t they beautiful!? I was really pleased with how they came out! I designed the labels in InDesign with a simple snowflake design and the one on the back had the recipe and timings on it. The bows are from Wilkinsons and are actually tree decorations – very handy because they had green wire attached which made it super easy to tie them to the jars! And obviously, they are red polka dot, so very me/very Polka Dot Kitchen!

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The ingredients layered up perfectly and I added enough chocolate chunks to fill the jar and stop the contents from shifting too much in transition.

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Overall, this was a fantastic Christmas gift and all our friends and family loved it. My colleague has already baked the cookies and she said they were delicious and didn’t last very long at all! A very successful present, I recommend. We didn’t work out all the costings but the jars were 80p each, the bows were 25p and I would estimate the ingredients to be about Β£2.50/Β£3? Most of which is the pecans which are one of the most expensive nuts I’ve ever come across!! The nice thing about these though is that the recipe is really flexible; you can really add whatever toppings you like to the base ingredients and I think they’d turn out perfectly!

We also made chocolate truffles with various toppings/coatings and piled 6/7 in a smaller kilner jar as a gift. I followed Gordon Ramsey’s recipe minus the honey and mint and they turned out perfectly, if a little moist. I substituted 250ml double cream for the single as I’d bought a big carton of double but I didn’t think that would affect the consistency? I guess it did! Anyway, they were tricky to work with but we froze the baking dish for 20 minutes or so before making the mixture into truffles and that firmed it up nicely. We dipped some of the truffles in cocoa powder, some in melted white chocolate and some in chopped mixed nuts. They were beautiful! I very cleverly didn’t take a photograph of the finished truffles in the jars but here are a few photos of the creation process!

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Beautiful! These were also very warmly welcomed by our friends and family and everyone who has tried them so far has loved them! We gave our friend Jason a jar on Boxing Day and they didn’t even make it back to his house!

Finally, we made white chocolate bark. This seriously is the easiest treat to make, ever. We had leftover white chocolate from making the truffles so I melted it, spread it on a baking tray quite thickly and sprinkled mixed chopped nuts, cashew nuts and dried cranberries all over. An hour in the fridge and it was set enough for me to break into pieces and pop into a couple of jars. Once again I was a very bad blogger and forgot to photograph it but I did somehow take some photos of it waiting to go into the jar!?

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chocolate bark

There we have it! Three beautiful homemade gifts that I’m sure your friends and family will appreciate so much due to the love and thought that has gone into them πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas everyone! Christmas and general 2012 in review posts coming up!