For most, turkey has become the centrepiece of the Christmas table. Adorned with all the trimmings it can be quite a fetching bird, but it does have its drawbacks. Firstly, turkey simply isn’t quite as good as chicken; and, secondly it isn’t exactly appropriate for vegetarians. There are a number of solutions to the first problem, of course; ham, goose, duck and chicken are all adequate replacements. However, the second dilemma is a little trickier, and that’s where the humble nut roast comes in. Suitable for vegetarians and, without much difficulty, vegans this recipe for Hazelnut and Parsnip Nut Roast makes for a superb centrepiece free from the cost and potential problems associated with meat.
Though chestnuts are highly regarded when it comes to both stuffing and nut roasts, I find them a little bland and lacking in texture. Hazelnuts on the other hand offer a divine crunch and rich flavour, perfect for adding a little diversity to your roast. When adding your hazelnuts, make sure to only very roughly chop them, as reducing them to a smaller size would only serve to overpower their flavour and texture.
Parsnips and apples on the other hand provide the nut roast with both sweetness and body. As you can see, the centre of the nut roast is very “meaty”; not too wet or too crumbly. Roasting the parsnip and apple not only brings out a caramelised flavour, but reduces the amount of water they contain, so as to avoid the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’.
For those of you who are set on having meat this Christmas – we certainly are – this recipe for Hazelnut and Parsnip Nut Roast would still serve you well as a stuffing. Afterall, it’s always nice to have a vegetarian option, or to really make something of the stuffing. Perhaps it’ll even be more popular than your bird of choice.
Hazelnut and Parsnip Nut Roast
• 150g brown breadcrumbs
• Large bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
• Large bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 200g hazelnuts
• 2 parsnips, roughly chopped
• 2 apples, roughly chopped
• 250g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
• 50g butter
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 egg, beaten
• 5 or 6 large spring green leaves
1. Roast your parsnips and apples at 180C until golden brown. Meanwhile, begin to fry your onions, garlic, celery and mushrooms in half of the butter. Cook this until the mushrooms have released their water and it has evaporated. Add the remaining butter and set aside.
2. Tip the breadcrumbs and herbs into a large mixing bowl along with the onion mixture. Mash the roasted parsnips and apple and add that too. Quickly toast your hazelnuts in a pan, before roughly chopping them and adding them to the bowl. Pour in the olive oil and egg and season well. Bring the mixture together by hand and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C(fan). Pour some boiling water into a pan or large bowl and immerse each spring green leaf individually for 20 seconds, or until soft. Line a 2 pound loaf tin with the spring greens, stalks at the bottom and leaving enough to fully cover the top of the roast.
4. Press the filling into the lined tin and fold over the excess leaves to cover the top. Seal with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately, or set aside to have cold.
Cost: Another benefit of using hazelnuts in place of chestnuts is that they tend to be much cheaper; the bag of nuts I used was in the region of £1.80/200g, which is very reasonable indeed. As a result, this entire Hazelnut and Parsnip Nut Roast should set you back no more than around £5!