When I first became a vegetarian, I had many challenges in trying to fit in with my meat-loving family. No time was this such a problem as at Christmas. My mum makes a big roast dinner for Christmas, no matter what the weather, and my family live on turkey and ham leftovers for days. A vegetarian friend told me that he once had a tomato sandwich for Christmas dinner but in my early days I wanted to prove that vegetarians could enjoy food as much as omnivores. Having recently being introduced to nutloaves, I decided they were the answer.
On my first Christmas as a vegetarian, sixteen years ago, I chose a simple cheese and walnut loaf from a recently acquired Sarah Brown cookbook. Every Christmas since then, except once when I was travelling, I have made this nutloaf. Initially my family laughed at my nutloaf, but now it is as much part of our Christmas traditions as turkey, and I am not the only one to enjoy its charms.
This nutloaf is quite plain. It is easy to make at a busy time of year, and it is simple enough to need the accompaniment of vegetable dishes. It reminds me a little of sausage stuffing that my mum used to make – which was always my favourite meat before going vegetarian. Plus it slices up easily, so when the rest of the family are eating turkey sandwiches I am eating nutroast sandwiches. I have also taken leftover nutroast to extended family gatherings so no one needs to go to extra trouble for me. It is delicious cold with salads. You can even eat it as a snack in slices topped with chutney, with a little pomegranate molasses (as suggested by SpacedLaw) or with dip such as muhammara (as suggested by Cindy).
These days it is no longer just my nutloaf that breaks with tradition. This year my mum did a seafood starter, served a pumpkin stuffed with spiced rice, nuts and cranberries instead of roast pumpkin, and offered pavlova and chocolate cake as an alternative to plum pudding.
A few practical notes about this nutloaf. I make it the day before Christmas and then reheat it in the oven for Christmas dinner. I always double the recipe at Christmas because it keeps for days and others will ask for some. Doubling ingredients means it is less likely to cook through and can be a bit soft inside. This year I baked it for 60 minutes in a silicone loaf pan – the silicone pan meant the sides browned less than they would in a tin, and it was cooked through. It is a moist loaf but be careful reheating it that it doesn’t dry out too much.
Cheese and Walnut Nutloaf
(from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookery)
250g (8oz) cottage cheese
50g (2 oz) walnuts, ground
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 cup (125g or 4 oz) dry breadcrumbs
8 black peppercorns, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Spoon into prepared loaf tin (I use 13 x 22cm loaf tin and line bottom with paper except if using silicone pan.) Smooth the top down with the back of a spoon. Bake in moderate oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.
You can also read about my vegan version of this nut roast.
Click here for more nutroast recipes and information.
On the stereo:
The Original Christmas Album: 20 Party Christmas Crackers: Various Artists