Do you ever have those days when everything in the kitchen seems to go to plan…and it turns out way better than you expected? Well, I had one of those days today!
Lately, I’ve been poring over blogs and cookbooks to find something to take to our family Christmas celebrations. Today it was time to experiment, so I put together a whole lot of my favourite options and, amazingly, it all came together really well – including getting the nod from all the family.
As I mentioned in my last post there were many criteria for the ideal Christmas meal contribution. While I was checking out blogs and cookbooks and websites this week, there were a few ideas/dishes that caught my eye. So, today I invented a new dish, inspired by:
- Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Beet Burgers
- Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute
- Green Gourmet Giraffe’s nut roasts (none in particular – because this didn’t end up being a nut roast – but they got me thinking about loaves and roasts, and I’m sure I first saw a stuffed loaf on her blog, although I can’t find it now)
- …and all those Beef Wellingtons that my mum used to make for fancy dinner parties in the 1970s, and the delicious stuffing balls she used to make for the vegetarians at Christmas.
Tempting the meat eaters
I was hoping to tempt the meat eaters with this one, so I wanted to use ingredients they’d be familiar with – like beans and grains (rather than seitan, tofu or tempeh) – and let’s face it, most people will eat anything if it’s covered with pastry, so I have my fingers crossed that this will be a winner.
This is a colourful bean and beetroot loaf stuffed with a vegan stuffing and covered with pastry. (What’s not to like??)
I apologise for the non-specific recipe. I only created it today, so I haven’t had a chance to refine it – particularly the flavourings. I can only encourage you to taste as you go, as I did (with H’s assistance).
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground Ancho chillies (these are very mild, but tasty)
salt to taste
2 tins of borlotti beans (or some other kind that you like)
1 tin brown lentils
Egg replacer for binding – equivalent to 2 eggs (I used No Egg – directions on the packet)
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
½ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus oil to grease the pan, and for frying)
Stuffing (see link below)
2 sheets vegan puff pastry
Oil a 2 litre loaf tin, then line it with baking paper. You don’t want any bits sticking and breaking up your lovely loaf.
In your food processor:
- Grate the peeled beetroot (much less messy than doing it by hand!)
- Finely chop the onion
- finely chop garlic (or crush/microplane it)
In a tablespoon of olive oil, fry the beetroot, onion, garlic, paprika, oregano, chillies and salt over medium heat until the onions are translucent (about 3 minutes).
Whizz about ¾ of the beans and lentils in the food processor until they’re fairly smunched, but not pureed.
Lightly mash the remainder of the beans and lentils with a fork, so they retain a bit of texture. Try not to leave any whole though or the loaf won’t stick together properly.
To the bowl, add:
- The cooked onion mixture
- egg replacer
- cooked brown rice
- rolled oats
- olive oil
Also add whatever extras you’d like to flavour it (I’m still working on it, because it took me a while to get it tasty enough, so I have a pretty weird collection of ingredients that I probably won’t use exactly the same way next time!). This time, along with the herbs and spices listed in the ingredients, I used:
- ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- juice of half a small lime
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
(Yes, I’m aware that this is an odd combination and, although it ended up tasting good, I don’t expect anyone to follow it! Probably better to substitute the tastes that you like in a burger or bean ball. That’s what I plan to do next time – but I wanted to post this right away.)
Mix it all up and press into the loaf tin – then pack the filling back against the edge, so there’s a big hollow in the middle to allow for the stuffing.
You’ll be relieved to know that the stuffing recipe comes from someone who is much more organised than me, and who has refined her recipe before she posted it! It is the Savvy Vegetarian’s Vegan Stuffing recipe.
[7 Dec. Hold it right there! I forgot to tell you that you shouldn’t make that entire quantity of stuffing. I used 2 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh sage and parsley, salt & pepper to taste, and just enough stock to make it a playdough consistency (about 3 tablespoons, I think).]
Putting it all together
Pack the stuffing into the hollow in the bean loaf and smooth off the top.
Cover the top with foil and bake in a preheated oven (200ºC) for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes to get a crust on the top.
When it’s finished, remove from the oven and turn it over like this:
- Cover a flat, rectangular oven tray with baking paper (or just oil it if you’re confident that it won’t stick).
- Wearing thick oven mitts, put the tray upside down over the loaf tin and tip the loaf onto the tray. (If you hold your breath, it might just come out cleanly in one nice neat piece!) It should look like this.
Finishing it off
Thaw 2 sheets of vegan puff pastry (or you can make your own if you have any energy left by this time).
Drape them over the loaf in a single layer, sticking the join together by moistening with a little water. Try to smooth it out as best you can. (I’ll do this more neatly next time!)
Cut off the excess, slice diagonals on the top (or decorate it as you like), brush with non-dairy milk and bake in a preheated oven 200°C until it is nicely brown (about 30 mins).
Leave it to settle for a little while after it comes out of the oven. This will give you time to make gravy.
I used the Basic Vegetarian Gravy by Jolinda Hackett, and it was a hit with the family… but they usually hate gravy, so…
Once the loaf has had a chance to settle and cool a little bit, slice it carefully with a very sharp knife.
It looks very pretty, I think, with the pink coloured bean loaf and the stuffing in the middle. Next time, I think I’ll make the stuffing an entire layer, rather than just a sausagey section down the middle. This means there will be more of the tasty stuffing and those who get the ends won’t miss out.
Will it work on the day(s)?
The weather is very changeable in Melbourne at this time of year. We’ve had freeeeeezing Christmas days, and we’ve also had real scorchers. I hope this will work out well whatever the day – I imagine it would be nice hot for a traditional Christmas dinner, but would also be nice cold at a picnic.
Sometimes I find that people don’t eat my vegan food at a ‘bring-a-plate’ dinner. I’m never sure if that’s because they don’t want to take the only thing on the table that we can eat, or whether they think it’s a bit too weird to try…or if they tried it and thought it was disgusting. 🙂 (I hope not!)
Hopefully I can convince them to try this one. It’s a little bit special, but it’s familiar food. And even if they do eat it alongside their meat, I hope it’s a good ambassador for body-free food!
How to make gravy
While I was cooking today, I was dusting off the Christmas music so, in honour of my gravy, I feel like I just can’t let this post finish without Australia’s favourite tear-jerking Christmas song…