1. Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Embracing the Nutroast

    Great British Chefs, blogger Monica Shaw is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for her American expat friends.  She’s vegetarian.  A number of her friends aren’t.  What to cook?  Will she resort to a nutroast?

    This year, for the first time ever, I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my American expat friends living here in the UK. Knowing I’m a vegetarian, one of the first questions they eagerly asked was: “will there be nutroast?!”

    The question is a testament to how “British” we’ve become during our time here. After all, nutroast is a very British thing, and I can’t think of a similar dish in the States that holds the same iconic status as a standard vegetarian holiday main course. This often leaves us in a bit of a jumble. I had a look at what some of the popular American food publications suggest as vegetarian mains. Bon Appetit is pushing its Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding; Food and Wine suggests Minestrone Pot Pies, Moussaka and Quinoa-Stuffed Squash; Saveur, meanwhile, has gone multicultural with such ideas as Saag Paneer, Manicotti and Pumpkin Curry.

    They all sound like well and good vegetarian recipes, but none of it screams Thanksgiving to me. Which brings me back to the nutroast question. I’ve always found the idea of a loaf based on nuts kind of weird - do I really want to eat a slab of nuts for my Thanksgiving dinner?

    The thing is, I think I do

    It’s not so much the nutroast I love. After all, most British people seem to associate the concept with disappointment and derision. But I love the idea of nut roast. After all, we vegetarians don’t have Turkey, but it would be nice to have something that we can rely on at the holidays, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. And the nutroast can be all that and more: it’s a super chance to congeal all of the stuff we’ve come to love about seasonal British produce into a single loaf tin. And when the nutroast makes use of quality ingredients, is seasoned well, and comes with all the trimmings, you can actually achieve something has both great taste and irresistible kitsch appeal.

    I’m starting to see Thanksgiving in Britain as both an homage to the things I miss back home and a celebration of the things I love about Britain. So this Thanksgiving, yes I am making a nutroast, along with some of my other favourite British-grown discoveries like crown prince squash, wild mushrooms and cavolo nero. I might even bust out the celeriac.

    Alongside this will be a few nods to my American tradition with a few family recipes, including cranberry chutney and pumpkin pie.

    If you’re looking for a few vegetarian Thanksgiving recipe ideas, here are the ones that have inspired my own Thanksgiving menu this year:

    Cranberry and pistachio nut roast

    Cashew gravy

    Aunt Sue’s cranberry chutney

    Vegetarian Stuffing

    Crown prince squash, goat cheese and spinach pie

    Apple and celeriac quinoa salad

    Roast beetroot and sweet potato

    Raw cavolo nero and brussels sprouts salad

    Pumpkin pie

    Look out from more pumpkin recipes on Great British Chefs.  Which vegetarian dishes would make for a good Thanksgiving dinner or a celebration roast dinner?

  2. Thanksgiving kicks off the start of Turkey Season

    Delicious turkey from www.totallytraditionalturkeys.com - opened the Turkey season brilliantly.

    It’s the start of the turkey season. Our CEO at Great British Chefs, Ollie roasted this wonderful turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner with his American Dad & family. Our Turkey is from the TFTA (Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association) & is a “Totally Traditional Turkey”,  So we know it’s free range, reared to full maturity & produced by independent farmers.

    Their 12-point Quality Assurance Code guarantees that their turkeys are:

    • Reared and produced with the greatest care by independent farmers, dedicated to producing the finest turkeys
    • Grown slowly to full maturity
    • Fed rations containing at least 70 per cent grain with no animal protein and never given additives for growth promotion
    • Never given antibiotics except as prescribed by a vet
    • Housed in buildings giving both natural light and ventilation while providing essential weather protection with space at or better than Animal Welfare Code recommendations. Free range stock have open daily access to grazing for at least 11 weeks
    • Always handled with extreme care by experienced staff under the personal supervision of the farmer
    • Regularly bedded with comfortable straw or soft wood shavings
    • Grown on farms independently inspected to ensure that the code is met in full
    • Slaughtered on the farm to avoid the stress of long distance transportation
    • Always dry plucked and hung for at least seven days to mature and develop the natural flavours unique to this traditional type of production
    • Processed in facilities inspected by the local Environmental Health officer or Meat Hygiene Service
    • Individually inspected to qualify for the Totally Traditional Turkey guarantee
    • Supplied with a money-back guarantee in the unlikely event of consumer dissatisfaction
    If you had turkey for Thanksgiving, or are planning to have it for Christmas, where will you be getting it from?

    How important is it for you to know how it was farmed?  We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page

  3. Happy Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

    Great British Chefs, guest blogger Monica Shaw  is on a mission.  Her mission is to see whether, as a vegetarian, she can celebrate Thanksgiving with the autumnal comfort that the event represents.  Read how she gets on and help her on her mission.

    Can you have a Happy Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

    Photo by Monica Shaw

    Vegetarians often get the short end of the drumstick on Thanksgiving, a day synonymous with big turkey dinners where nearly every dish is either meat-based or destined for a generous dollop of meaty gravy.

    But why should we vegetarians miss out on the joyous gluttony of Thanksgiving?  I’m done scrounging on side dishes and enduring year after year of nut roasts. Don’t get me wrong: I love green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet yams (even when they come with marshmallows on top), but the sum of their parts do not make a main event.

    My mission: to find a vegetarian main dish that embodies the kind of autumnal comfort and celebration that Thanksgiving dinner is all about. An ideal veggie main should be spectacular to look at, utterly moreish and bursting with autumn veg.

    The best option I’ve found so far is the stuffed squash. For example, acorn squash stuffed with a savoury wild rice and cranberry stuffing is exquisite and proves that stuffing needn’t be crammed into a turkey to be gorgeous and delicious. 

    Mushrooms

    Photo by Monica Shaw

    Mushrooms present another option, gloriously autumnal and packed with that statisfying umami punch that Thanksgiving demands. Try serving them on cheesy squash polenta.  Or stuff your mushrooms in a pastry as in Vineet Bhatia’s recipe for Lafifa Mushrooms, Braised Spinach and Roasted Tomato Chutney.

    From Great British Chefs website - Vineet Bhatia

    The other matter for vegetarians is gravy. Yes, you can make a simple vegan gravy out of mushrooms or onions, but the ultimate gravy recipe in my world is a shallot and port gravy, the perfect accoutrement for mashed potatoes and roasted veg.

    Some vegetarians opt for something altogether different for their veggie main: lasagna, moussaka, savoury tarts and quiches. But these dishes don’t really say “Thanksgiving” to me. And they certainly don’t go with gravy.

    Hit me with some inspiration: What are you serving the vegetarians in your life this Thanksgiving?  We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  4. Talking ‘First Class’ Turkey for Thanksgiving

    Our Great British Chefs Feastive App is turkey free, but we know that turkey’s still a good option for Thanksgiving & Christmas.  Find out what happened  Great British Chefs guest blogger Chris Osburn, visited a turkey farm to see whether it was possible to have a turkey with taste.

    Photography by  Chris Osburn

    Love it or hate it, there’s a good chance you’re going to be tucking into a roasted turkey sometime soon. The mandatory centrepiece for a proper British Yuletide feast here, turkey isn’t necessarily a maligned meat but is often considered to be among the most ‘meh’ of main courses.

    Which is kinda crazy if you think about it. Christmas dinner is one of the most important meals of the year, right? And the most essential part of that once-a-year meal? Gobble gobble. So why is it that the actual turkey chosen is so often a last minute purchase with little thought put into the flavour of the bird (not to mention its welfare and origin)? You can actually purchase decent tasting turkey in the UK.

    But hold on a second. Before we get to Christmas dinner (and I really hate how the festive season build-up seems to get earlier and earlier every year), I have something to admit … I’m an American. And the stateside tradition I grew up with and which is still very near and dear to my heart is to have my turkey (and eat it too) at the end of November for Thanksgiving Day .

    American Thanksgiving is a lovely time. More or less devoid of the commercialized frenzy that encroaches upon Christmas and essentially about taking the day off, spending it with your family and eating copious amounts of home cooked food, it’s a tradition I’ve tried to sustain with varying success over my years here in London. 

    And this year, I’m hoping to have a couple of friends over and make my own Thanksgiving meal. The turkey’s already been chosen and is in the freezer awaiting its defrosting. It’s from Copas Turkeys, a family owned turkey farm that I visited last month out in Berkshire.

    DSC_2877

    The Copas family has been living in Cookham, Berkshire since the late 1600s. But it wasn’t until 1901 that they started farming and not until 1957 that they got into the fowl business of raising turkeys. What began as a new project for a young Tom Copas is now the primary business for his family, whose ‘first-class’ premium product turkeys are sold at quality stockists throughout Britain as well as at their farm on December 23rd for Farm Gate Day. Yes, Copas produces its turkeys for the traditional end of year season only. It’s still a year-round job though, with a particularly epic workload that’s about to start up for the Copas and crew right about now. 

    Any other Yanks out there keen to cook a juicy bird for your fourth Thursday of November chow session should give them or their stockists a buzz ASAP as they do cater to a small but growing American Thanksgiving market.

    While down on the farm, I not only got to check out how the birds (all 40,000 of them) live but also how they taste. Livin’ la vida free range in the Copas family’s cherry orchards seems to yield a particularly succulent meat. But that’s just one slice of the story. 

    Among the Copas’ thousands of fowl, you’ll only find traditional breeds sourced from specialist British hatcheries, allowed to grow at a natural pace and fed an ethically sourced oat-rich diet free of growth promoters and the like. The birds are aged between five to seven months as opposed to the industry standard of two. According to Tom Copas, a fuller life results in denser meat with a ‘superior fat cover’. 

    DSC_3062

    The mature bird’s natural fat layer also means that dry plucking the birds by hand is possible. Dry plucking by hand is apparently a slow and labour intensive process but keeps the turkeys dry, thus enabling the farm to game-hang them for an extended period for extra tenderness and depth of flavour. And what this adds up to is that that Copas Turkeys don’t need to be basted, buttered or covered with bacon to be succulent. 

    DSC_3092

    Yeah, that’s right, no nothing to be added. And unless I really cock things up, I reckon my turkey should taste as good and be as tender as the one I had at the Copas’ family home.

    Find out more about the ‘very,very special turkeys’ at Copas Turkeys and how to purchase one of them at www.copasturkeys.co.uk

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Chris Osburn

    What are your views on turkey?  Is it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving without turkey?  What are your tips for a succulent turkey? We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page

  5. Pumpkin Pie Recipes

    We asked our Facebook fans, for some dishes to make using seasonal pumpkins that are currently in shops for Halloween.

    Pumpkin Pie

    Brenda Lyons Tinker shared this wonderful recipe from Pumpkin Pie which, our Head of Social Media, adapted slightly using a Pumpkin Pie recipe from Antony Worrall Thompson with fresh pumpkins, which she roasted rather than steamed to make the pumpkin puree (thanks Nigella & Nigel Slater) & she also made the  pastry shell herself.

    Pumpkins

    Pumpkin Pie

    1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
    1 cup half-and-half
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
    1 piece pre-made pie dough
    Whipped cream, for topping

    Some Pumpkin Pie Ingredients

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Place 1 piece of pre-made pie dough down into a (9-inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about 2 pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color.

    Baked Blind pastry case

    Baked Pumpkin

    For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined.Pumpkin Puree

    Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.

    Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.


    She’s bringing the pie in to Great British Chefs HQ for us all to share.  Question is do we then re-heat it or keep it chilled.  We’re discussing this & other Pumpkin Pie queries over on Facebook.