Plant-based roast with stuffing: recipe and serving ideas

I’ve never been a great fan of ‘imitation meat’, so when I heard about a turkey-style roast, I thought it wouldn’t be something I’d want to make. I’m not keen on the fibrous meaty texture of many plant-based meat replacements, but working with vital wheat gluten means that you can add a variety of flavours to the dish by including savoury and tasty ingredients to the wet mix below, such as brandy, marmite and a variety of mushrooms. 

So last weekend, as an experiment, I made a prototype vital wheat gluten roast and it went down well for Sunday dinner, served with crunchy roasted potatoes, lots of veg and some unctuous mushroom gravy. It wasn’t hard to make either and, although it’s a bit time consuming, it is worth the trouble: the roast is quite big and it lasts for three days. It can be eaten cold in sandwiches and hot, fried and coated in breadcrumbs with mushrooms for breakfast, so it’s versatile and useful. Make it at least a day before you want to eat it.

To make the roast: 

You need to blitz the following wet ingredients in a blender:

1 cup drained chickpeas (half a tin)

Half a cup of dried mushrooms such as  porcini,

Half a cup of white wine.

2 tbsp miso 

2 tbsp maple syrup

One cup plant milk of your choice – I use oat

1 sauteed onion or shallot and 3 sauteed garlic cloves

Half a pack of silken tofu (about 4oz)

Thyme, rosemary, sage. Any herbs you like – onion salt, if you wish, even tarragon or paprika.

Seasoning, as you wish – I use pink salt and white pepper…

Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones below and mix to a dough:

Two and a half cups of vital wheat gluten

One cup of gram flour

2 tbsp of nutritional yeast.

Method.

Knead the mixture by hand for at least  twelve minutes or put it in a machine with a dough hook. Don’t under-knead or it will cook into a piece of rubber. The dough should be just firm and stretchy. If it’s too wet to handle, add a little more gram flour.

Roll it out on a gram-floured surface by whacking it with a rolling pin, until it’s a half-inch-thick rectangle and then let it rest. Stretch it by hand if it springs back. 

Now make the stuffing – 

Saute a large onion and some garlic, and add to it half a tin of chickpeas, a couple of handfuls of chestnuts, a handful of blitzed breadcrumbs, a handful of chopped dried apricots, cranberries, chopped hazelnuts, a cooked mashed sweet potato, some cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and a good pinch of thyme. Mash it all up to form the stuffing so that it’s still a bit chunky. Use some white wine if you need it to make it a little softer. Place the stuffing mixture in a  line down the centre of the ‘roast’ rectangle and roll the dough over lengthways so it makes a single roll. Close the ends. Then rub olive oil on the outside and then roll it all in some dried herbs – I use a mixture of parsley, thyme, onion salt and a pinch of cayenne or paprika. If the roast’s too big, you can cut it in half and make two smaller roasts and freeze one after it’s cooked, which is what I did.Wrap the roast in cheesecloth and tie it up with cooking string.

Put the roast in a baking tray containing liquid: some water, white wine, (make it all up to 6 -7 cups,) a bayleaf, rosemary, thyme, sage, some dried mushrooms, a chopped onion, garlic, a bit of celery, carrot, and bake it for two hours, turning after an hour. The liquid will need to be topped up regularly during the cooking process as the roast needs to be steamed and kept moist, or it will burn.

After two hours, take it out of the oven and let the roast cool, then strip off the cheesecloth. 

I rub the surface of the roast with oil and then brush it with maple syrup to glaze it, and maybe sprinkle on more herbs. You can keep the roast, wrapped in foil, in the fridge for a few days.

To cook the roast, put it in a medium oven for 30 minutes. I used a baking tray with a little white wine and water on the bottom and laid it on a few chopped onions so it wouldn’t burn.

It goes really well (cut into not-too-thick slices) served with onion or mushroom gravy, lots of seasonal veg, roast potatoes, red cabbage and plant-based yorkshires. 

Serving ideas.

If you have some roast left over, it’s nice cold in sandwiches with salad, mayo and slices of tomatoes,or fried, coated in breadcrumbs, for breakfast with spinach, tomatoes and a huge chestnut mushroom.

I’ve also used leftover roast to stuff a round, home-baked loaf, with the top cut off and the crumbs hollowed out, then the inside is layered with slices of roast, cranberry sauce, plant-based mozzarella, walnuts, beetroot, a little plant-based mayo, a few breadcrumbs and some home-made pickle.Stuff the inside of the loaf with the layers, replace the lid and wrap it. Later, you can cut it into wedges as an alternative to sandwiches or for a Christmas buffet.

The ultimate and best (plant-based) Sunday roast ever

I make roast dinners for large numbers of people quite a lot: nut roasts, nut wellingtons, nut parcels, steamed puddings, vital wheat gluten roasts, all sorts of centrepieces find themselves alongside crispy pototoes. zingy vegetables, gravy, delicious yorkshire puddings, but this one is my favourite roast dish to date. It features chestnuts at the heart of the meal, although you could substitute walnuts or a mixture of nuts and seeds if you prefer, but this works so well with pre-cooked chestnuts. It’s a great meal for a celebration, for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, or just for that special time when families get together and you want to push the gravy boat out.

Preparation

Parboil enough peeled and chunked  potatoes (Maris Pipers work well)) for everyone sharing the meal. Drain the potatoes. Put them in a big bowl with a few chunks of sweet potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and leave to marinade.

Make the roast: blitz a packet or tin of drained (cooked) chestnuts, two slices of brown bread, herbs of your choice (thyme, sage, parsley), a little water, a little oil (a tbsp), a shake of soy sauce, a couple of tbsp of brandy, black pepper and then stir in some sauteed onions, garlic, celery and chopped mushrooms. Mix together and put it in some greased individual pudding dishes, one for each person. This should feed four with one individual roast each but I know some people may want to make twice as much. The individual roasts go in a bain marie, a tin containing water, to cook later.

Prepare the gravy. Make a roux out of plant-based margarine and flour or, if you prefer, use a heaped tbsp of cornflour in water to thicken the gravy. Saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and celery; add a little water and a tbsp marmite. Blitz the lot (or most of it if you like bits in your gravy, as I do) then add a little more water, the thickener (roux or cornflour/water mix) and cook gently until the gravy thickens, darkens and bubbles. (I always add a glug of either marsala or, if I can’t get any, blackcurrant or blackberry liqueur to my gravy. Don’t ask why, but it really works well!)

Prepare your veg: broccoli, kale, carrots, beans, peas, whatever you like, in a steamer ready to go.

Prepare the yorkshires – blitz 2 cups self-raising flour, two cups plant milk (I use oat…) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour a little oil in each ‘pudding hole’ of a yorkshire pudding tray.

Forty/ fifty minutes before you want to eat.

Put the potatoes, covered in a little oil, on a tray into the top of the oven on 190. NO need to pre-heat.

Put the bain-marie containing the individual chestnut roasts in the middle of the oven.

25-30 minutes before you want to eat.

Shake the potatoes in the tin so that all sides will roast evenly. Move them down the oven to the centre shelf – I put them on top of the individual chestnut roasts to stop the tops of the roasts burning. Put the Yorkshire pudding tray with oil on the top shelf of the oven. 

Eighteen minutes before you want to eat.

Take out the yorkshire pudding tray. Pour the yorkshire pudding mix into the sizzling fat. Put the tray back on the top shelf. The mixture makes between 9-12 yorkshires, depending on the size of the tin. Turn the oven up to 200. Check the potatoes and give them a vigorous shake.

Ten minutes before you want to eat.

Steam the veggies. Season. Add some fresh herbs to the potatoes if you wish. Check the chestnut roast is almost done – firm to the touch or you can insert a tooth pick (but do remember to take it out again!)

Five minutes before you want to eat.

Reheat the gravy. Check the food in the oven is almost ready. Depending on your oven, you’ll be ready bang on time or you may want to cook for another five to eight minutes. The yorkshires will be crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. The veg needs to be just cooked. Drain them and add a pinch of seasoning if it needs it and some lemon juice, then cover and  leave them until you plate up.

To serve

Invert the chestnut roasts and put the potatoes and veggies on plates.  Add the yorkshires. Smother the lot with gravy, just how you prefer it: a lot, a little, everywhere, just on the chestnut roast. A bottle of red goes down very well with this meal.
wine

‘Any leftovers’ Pizza

If you have any strong white or wholemeal bread flour and you’re making bread, here’s a useful meal you can make from the leftover dough and anything that’s lying in your fridge or larder. The bread is simply half a cup of warm water, a teaspoonful of (brown) sugar and a tablespoonful of yeast in a bowl, left for fifteen minutes somewhere warm and then added to the flour with a pinch of salt. I’d probably use half a kilogram of flour, more if you’re feeding a hungry group or making lots of bread. You can also add other things to your bread – I always put ground linseeds in bread as it adds useful vitamins and oil.

Mix the flour and yeast liquid together and continue to add warm water a little at a time until the mixture becomes dough-like. If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour. Knead it vigorously for a good ten minutes.

Leave the dough somewhere warm to rise for 50 minutes. Divide it into rolls, a loaf, bread-stick twists, whatever you like, but leave some over to make pizza.

Roll out the pizza and put it on a greased baking tray. Spread some tomato puree over it and any of the following you may have left over in the fridge or the cupboard:

  • Plant-based cheese
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes – tinned is fine.
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweetcorn
  • Plant-based chorizo, sliced. (I make my own – recipe to follow soon)
  • Pineapple
  • Peppers, any colour
  • Chillies
  • Courgettes
  • Jackfruit, tinned, shredded and baked in the oven in a nice tomato and chilli sauce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Tofu chunks
  • Herbs such as thyme, oregano, mixed herbs – fresh or dried

You might want to drizzle a little olive oil on top and add olives.

Bake the pizza in a hot oven, 180*,  for 30 minutes. Check it after twenty.

It’s ready to serve with a green salad or a carrot and red cabbage and onion coleslaw and, if you’re really hungry, bake some herbed polenta or sweet potato chips in the oven at the same time. Flip them over after 15 minutes of cooking.

In the absence of  a football game on TV, I’ll be eating this while reading a good book ….

Chocolate Celebration Cake – (Plant based)

In these times when people might want to cheer themselves up with an indulgent cake but there are no eggs available, this plant-based, chocolatey Victoria sponge is a great substitute and easy to make. It’s a recipe I use all the time and, although you can jazz it up by adding your favourite extra ingredients, it works well without the chocolate as a vanilla sponge. It also makes a really good birthday cake.

First of all, you need two mixing bowls. In a large one put 500 grams of plain flour, a teaspoonful of baking powder, a teaspoonful of bicarb, 350  grams of sugar, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of good drinking chocolate or cocoa. In the other bowl, put 300 millilitres of oil (I use a mix of olive and sunflower), a big teaspoon of vanilla paste, two tablespoons of cider vinegar, 400 millilitres of plant milk (I use oat) and whisk it all together.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix together. Add a little more milk if the mixture is too stiff: it should look like any other unctuous cake batter. Divide the mixture between two sandwich cake tins. Bake the cakes in a 180* oven for thirty minutes or maybe a little longer, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

Level the cake off so it sits up straight on a plate. (I’d use the spare sponge bits to make plant-based tiramisu… soaked in Kahlua.)  Sandwich the cake with buttercream and red jam – cherry, raspberry, whatever you like. The buttercream is made from three tablespoons of plant butter, mixing icing sugar in bit by bit until it is the right consistency to be thick and spreadable. Add vanilla paste to it if you like and a pinch of salt.

Cover the top of the cake as you please – a dredging of icing sugar, raspberries. My favourite covering is to make a ganache by melting a big bar and a half of good plant-based chocolate, letting it cool a bit and mixing into it three good tablespoons of coconut cream from a tin, ideally left in the fridge overnight so that the coconut cream is super thick. You can use the rest for a Thai green curry, a satay or a chickpea and butternut squash madras. If it’s bitter chocolate, you may want to add a dash of maple syrup.

Once the topping has set, after about half an hour, you’re ready to dive in and devour it! It’s a huge cake, it will feed a dozen people. It should last in a cake tin for a week or, if you prefer, it will do for one or two cake-starved bookworms for a couple of days, or perhaps just one extra-indulgent evening!