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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InSpiral Vegan Cafe, Gloucester Arms and general London eating

We were in London recently for the weekend to see an amazing folk band called Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall (for a fabulous review of our evening check out my boyfriend Ben’s post on his music blog, BamRambling!) I booked tickets as a surprise for Ben (what a good girlfriend!) and arranged for us to stay with our good friend Sam on the Saturday night. We had National Express tickets early on Saturday and late on Sunday so we had lots of time to kill which was mostly spent eating.

My favourite place we ate at was a vegan cafe in Camden called InSpiral. It’s a small, busy place with a big counter brimming with vegan and raw treats and a few tables with lovely views of Camden Lock.

It wasn’t too busy when we got there and I was able to spend a few minutes agonising over the array of choices – they all looked so good!

In the end neither of us could resist the amazing looking vegan lasagna which came with a choice of three sides. I got an apple juice and Ben got an orange juice and we got a little table for 2 over by the window.

The portions here are HUGE! Our food came on very smart black rectangular plates which had plenty of room for the delicious side dishes that were generously spooned on next to our lasanga. I chose to have the channa masala, root vegetables and curly kale, all of which were really good. The root veggies were roasted and covered in a sweet nut and herb mixture which was incredible! I chose the channa masala in a moment of panic as I felt I couldn’t get potato wedges as I already had root vegetables (schoolboy error) but they turned out to be my favourite part!

The lasagna itself though. Oh my goodness. It was roasted vegetables in a rich tomato sauce with the most amazing cashew nut ‘cheesy’ bechemal sauce. I could have drunk a glass of it, it was that good. We also opted to have vegan pesto on the top of the lasagna which just took it above and beyond! I felt so virtuous eating this lunch knowing that everything was meat and dairy free and so fresh and wholesome. I managed to eat all the lasagna but was very upset that I had to leave some of the side dishes. Tears were nearly shed.

The juices we ordered were made fresh and I was slightly alarmed when my apple juice came out all frothy and bitty…but it was delicious! I will never again judge a juice by it’s frothyness.

Tragically we were too full for dessert and although I had plans to sample some of the raw chocolate truffles and vegan ice-cream, I never got the chance. We will be back though! InSpiral is not a cheap lunch option (especially compared to the rows and rows of Chinese, Indian, Mexican etc food stalls in Camden Market) and our lunch came to Β£30ish but we couldn’t pass up the chance to try some authentic vegan food and are really glad we visited.

While we were in Camden we also visited Whole Foods – one of the UK branches of the huge American health food store. We tried to visit the one in Orlando while we were in Florida last year but it was a lot further away than we thought so we couldn’t which was very upsetting. I was excited to visit the Camden one but I had lowered my expectations considerably because lets face it, it’s Britain, not America. It was a nice shop, loads of awesome hard-to-find products and a fabulous hot and cold salad and soup bar. Although we didn’t need a meal (or even really a snack…) we couldn’t resist buying a couple of goodies and ended up with some items from the fridge.

I had a vegan spinach and tofu pancake.

The brand was ‘Lauras Idea’ and there were lots of similar items in the shop. The pancake was delicious – light and fluffy with a slightly toasted flavour. The filling was rich and indulgent with an intense creaminess from the silken tofu and a satisfying bite in the spinach from a sprinkle of nutmeg. I really wouldn’t have guessed this was vegan as the tofu confidently takes the place of what would normally be ricotta.

Ben chose a vegetable calzone. We were pretty sure it was meant to be heated up but he really fancied it so threw caution to the wind and ate it straight out of the fridge.

It was filled with a mixture of roasted vegetables in a rich tomato sauce. No complaints from Ben and it was gone pretty quickly!

The other eating experience from our London trip was a visit to the Gloucester Arms pub, about 10 minutes walk from the RAH. I was looking for somewhere to eat before the show that wasn’t eye-wateringly expensive (nigh-on impossible in that area!) and the Gloucester Arms seemed to have pretty bargainous food and drink prices.

The menu is very extensive and it seriously took us about 15 minutes to decide what to order as everything sounded amazing! Eventually though I selected the very item that had first piqued my interest when viewing the menu online – Vegetarian Fish and Chips! And the best part about it? The ‘vegetarian fish’ was IN FACT battered halloumi! Can you blame me for ordering!? I also couldn’t resist ordering a side of onion rings and for reasons known only to myself at the time, a pot of curry sauce. And the meal came with bread and butter anyway. So basically, I looked like a huge greedy beast with 5 plates of food around me. In my defence I was hideously hungover and after coming back from a near-death state in the early hours of the morning when I first woke up and enduring 2 hours on a coach then 5 hours walking round London, I think I deserved it.

The halloumi was perfectly amazing in the way only battered cheese products can be. The batter was extremely thick though and unfortunately (although not surprisingly given my side dishes) I was unable to finish it and had to make the tough decision to just eat the halloumi. The onion rings were also delicious and obviously you can’t go wrong with bread and real butter!

Ben got the same as me but Sam went for the burger and very kindly paused to let me take a photo.

Overall we all loved our meals at the Gloucester Arms and if I’m ever in that area again I will definitely be going back! The food in London was brilliant as ever and I never cease to be amazed by the huge range of choices everywhere you go. I love it!