Crunchy, filling and brimming with goodness and flavour
TOO MANY OF MY SUNDAY PUB LUNCHES HAVE BEEN SPOILED BY EITHER NO VEGGIE OPTION ON THE MENU, NO GRAVY FOR THE VEGGIES (A ROAST WITHOUT GRAVY?!) OR ALL TOO OFTEN A BAD TASTING OFFERING...
And really, with nuts, seeds, herbs, garlic… it really should be delicious! Elsi loves this meal. I think it’s partly the food and partly the fact we sit down together as a family and all eat the same thing - something that sadly isn’t always possible during the week. She always tries more things when she sees her daddy eating them too.
Really this is a family recipe rather than just 'toddler friendly' but I wanted to make the distinction between baby and toddler food clear on this one as it contains lots of nuts, some of which are only partially crushed. If you worry about nuts from a choking rather than an allergy perspective you could blitz them in a food processor until fine before adding them to the mix.
It almost goes without saying but please only feed this to your child if you have established they do not not have a nut allergy.
- 150g Red Lentils
- 6 White Onions
- 6 Carrots
- 2 Courgette
- 4 large cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 sprig of Rosemary
- 1-2 tbs Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
- 500ml Marigold Vegetable Bouillon
- 150g Cheddar Cheese
- 2 Free Range Eggs
- 6 tbs Breadcrumbs (more if needed to dry out the mixture)
- 2 tbs Tomato Purée
- 200g Chestnut mushrooms
- 1 small handful Dried Porcini
- 250g Mixed Nuts (For a fancy roast I use more expensive nuts like pistachios, pecans and cashews but for a standard weekend a packet of supermarket mixed nuts is fine)
- Mixed Seeds (I use pumpkin, linseeds and sunflower seeds) and throw them in liberally!
- 2-3 tbs Olive Oil (you can use any neutral tasting oil)
I always use my food processor to make this recipe however a good sized box grater will also work and give you some great biceps.
First things first, measure out all your ingredients and put them in bowls like the TV chefs/Blue Peter presenters of yesteryear. I also prefer to get all my ingredients chopped up before I start but you can do this as you go.
- Blitz your onion, garlic and mushrooms in a food processor or alternatively chop finely. Select a large saucepan or large high-sided frying pan and heat your olive oil on a moderate heat, then add your oniony mix and take a moment to enjoy the sound of the sizzle. Cook on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes, until your onions turn translucent and begin to caramelise.
- While your ingredients are sautéing use a fine grater attachment on your food processor and feed through the carrots and courgette (just not the tops). I buy organic carrots and I don’t bother to peel them, but for non organic you may want to as lots of pesticides are just below the skin. Alternatively give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Once the onions are translucent add the carrots and courgette to the pan with a sprinkle of salt and ground pepper. Cook for around 5 minutes.
- Next make your vegetable bouillion or stock if you prefer. You’ll need 200-300ml but make the full amount (around a pint) and you'll have enough if you need more. Rinse the lentils and scatter them, along with the dried herbs on top of your veg, giving everything a stir and coating each lentil in olive oil before pouring over your stock.
- Turn the heat to the lowest setting, partially cover your pan and let the lentils and vegetables simmer, adding more water as necessary until the lentils are cooked, this should take around 20-25 minutes.
- Next blitz your bread until it forms breadcrumbs. If frozen your bread should have thawed enough to break it into large chunks, even better, make your breadcrumbs before freezing so you always have a steady supply.
- After removing your breadcrumbs to a bowl blitz your nuts, you don’t want them to be too fine unless making for a baby who is not used to texture. Check for any large chunks before switching to a grater attachment to grate your cheese. You can add this right on top of the nuts in your food processor. If you are doing all of this by hand you might want to use a plastic sandwich bag and a rolling pin to bash out your nuts.
- Cover your Porcini mushrooms in boiling water and soak for at least five minutes before chopping finely and adding to the pan along with their steeping liquor.
- Stir in your tomato purée before adding in the rest of your ingredients apart from the egg. Give it a taste and check for seasoning.
- Beat your eggs and add them in to loosen your mix and help it all stick together. If you wanted to make this recipe vegan you could switch the cheese for nutritional yeast and use a few tablespoons of apple sauce and a spoon of peanut butter instead of the egg. The apple flavour works really well and the nut butter makes it nice and sticky.
- You can bake this in any overnware really but I have most success with a ceramic dish. Use a little butter or oil to act as a barrier on the inside of the dish and it will come away easily when you serve. Spoon your leftover mix into freezer friendly Tupperware or freezer bags for a speedy Sunday lunch next time.
- If you prefer, you can also roll into balls to bake, this size is often easier for young toddlers to get to grips with.
With a nut roast you really can mix it up and throw in any bendy vegetables lurking in the fridge, different types of lentils, switch for beans or even stuff your mix inside a cabbage leaf like this Guardian recipe by Felicity Cloake. Come Christmas I’ll be using chestnuts, sage, stilton and cranberries. This is the star of vegetarian celebration lunch so make it special for yourself or the veggies you are making it for. Enjoy!