Serves a greedy six or more polite eight
150g bread crumbs – I used a mix of rye and white sourdoughs – sourdough offers an added dimension
200g cashew nuts
150g pre-cooked chestnuts – there are some good, easily available, brands of vacuum-packed chestnuts around, I used these
2 small/medium onions
2 fat cloves of garlic
Half a red pepper
30g fresh tarragon – use 1 generous teaspoon of dried if you don’t have fresh
6 fresh leaves of sage – or 1 tsp dried
10 oz dried mushrooms – I used a mix of mostly porcini and a few chanterelles, porcini hold most of the flavour
Olive oil for sauteing
1 cube mushroom stock – alternatively use 1tbsp of miso dissolved in hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Grease/line a classic-sized loaf tin. The one I use for this dish measures:
Base: 20cm (8 inch) x 9.5cm (3 3/4 inch)
Top: 22cm (8 3/4 inch) x 11.5cm (4 1/2 inch – approx)
Depth: 6cm (2 1/4 inch)
Width (measured across top): 11.5 cm (4 1/2 inch)
Soak the dried mushrooms in 300ml of hot water. Cover with a plate and leave to stand for 20mins.Rough chop the onion and saute on a low heat in the olive oil. When the onions have softened and released some of their juice, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan.
Finely chop the pepper and add to onion mix. The pepper is for colour and a bit of punch more than anything. Pour in the breadcrumbs.
Dissolve mushroom stock / miso in hot water (a small amount to make a paste and then top up to about 400ml). Add to the pan and stir well – the mixture will look a bit ‘mushy’ at this point – but it needs some moisture to guard against being too ‘dense’ later on.
Rough chop 50g of the cashews and all of the chestnuts and stir into the onion mix. Turn off the heat. Set aside the remainder of the cashew nuts.
Finely chop the herbs and stir in to the pan. Strain the reconstituted mushrooms but reserve the soaking water: pour half of it into the onion/breadcrumb mix and stir in.
With a mixer or handblender, whizz up the cashews into a paste with the remainder of the mushroom water. It will seem ‘grainy’ in texture at first but leave to stand for a few minutes and the nuts will swell and the paste will smooth out. Taste the onion/breadcrumb mix and season with salt and pepper accordingly.
Finally, spoon out a layer about an inch thick of the breadcrumb mix into the loaf tin. Next, spread a thin layer of the cashew nut paste (which is a bit of a tricky thing to do as it’s a bit sticky – patience needed!). Keep layering in this way, alternating thick layers of breadcrumb mix with thinner layers of cashew nut paste. End with a layer of breadcrumb mix.
Cover the tin in foil and bake in the oven for 30 mins. After 30 mins, remove the foil, have a little poke about to see that all is well and return to the oven for approx 30 mins, more/less depending on your oven. The nut roast is ready when it is deeply browned on top.