Monday, March 2, 2015

A Vegetarian "Steak"

When I left my parents´s house and set up my own home, I knew little to nothing about how to cook. My mother was on the one hand not very amused by cooking, on the other she liked to do it alone - she is neat and tidy and don´t like messes. As a teenager I was very clumsy - as many teenagers are - and I got pretty much grounded from the kitchen area after a series of catastrophes. At least, this is how I remember it.

My first cookbook was this one, published by Cranks, a vegetarian restaurant business in the UK, which opened its first restaurant on the legendary Carnaby Street in 1961, when London was swinging. There are no original Cranks restaurants left and I never got there; I planned to go with my brother when we were in London in 1988, but he fell ill that day, and just as well - the original Cranks that I knew from the cookbooks was already gone by then (but I didn´t know, because there was no internet). I think I would have been very disappointed.

The recipes are all vegetarian, wholefood, and very British. This suited me, who was a strict vegetarian (lakto-ovo) between the age of 17 and 23, when I started eating fish. By 26 I was back on meat, though I will never be a lover of bloody steaks and this recent fashion for raw meat is not to my taste at all. I still love vegetarian food and will eat it out if it is on offer, but serving a meal without even a small sausage for the husband makes him look somewhat forlorn and I do want to please him. However, I have decided to make those old favourite dishes again, after having whipped out the recipe for "nut-steak" (really, I don´t know the name of it in the original English, so this will be a case of translating back to English, which is always a bit hazardous) for a vegetarian guest over Christmas. This is a dish that works well to substitute meat on a regular buffet; we had potatoes au gratin and sallads that everyone could eat. I have actually served it to people who thought they were eating meat! (This makes me suspect that many people eat with their eyes rather than with their noses and palates.)

You need 225 grams of mixed nuts (I like hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds), 1 onion, 100 grams of breadcrumbs, 300 ml vegetable stock, a dollop of butter, and spices (I stick to salt and pepper, but go crazy if you like). The recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons of brewer´s yeast, which I skip, but then I like to add a can of sliced mushrooms instead.

Grind the nuts in an almond grinder. Fry the choped onion and the mushrooms in the butter. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with the stock to the consistency you´d like to have if you were making a meatloaf (which is what this will look most like). Put the mixture in an oven proof casserole dish, sprinkle breadcrumbs over it and shove it into an oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, until golden brown. You can fry it hamburger shaped also, if you like, but that´s more work and not as healthy.

It´s great with a brown gravy, or onion rings (perhaps stewed in cream), potatoes of any kind, or cumberland sauce. It works on bread too, with a beetroot salad. Also, it freezes well. Anyway you like, really.

"Nut steak" with mash and fried onions. 

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