The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

kale, quinoa and nut roast en croute

jump to recipe

Well, now it’s December I reckon it’s probably safe to start talking about Christmas.

And for those of you looking for a vegetarian alternative to the ubiquitous turkey, here’s a recipe for a stunningly good, meat-free Christmas dinner.

In our household Christmas is a busy and often raucous occasion, with usually anywhere between 10 and 16 for Christmas dinner, which is always followed by a loud and raucous Christmas quiz where we are joined by some of our neighbours. After cooking the dinner I act as question master, and such is the level of competitiveness that I have taken to using a referee’s whistle in recent years in an effort to keep order.

Here’s a question which won’t be featuring in this year’s Christmas quiz, but as it’s food-related I wonder if you can guess the answer…

Q: What do the following seven countries have in common:

North Korea

Give yourself a pat on the back if you got the answer right: these are the only countries in the world that don’t have a McDonald’s restaurant.

The stories of how each of them achieved this creditable status vary considerably.

For example, McDonald’s has never actually operated in three of these seven countries – Ghana, Zimbabwe and North Korea.

In Bermuda, McDonald’s is not allowed to operate because of the country’s Prohibited Restaurants Act, which outlaws foreign food franchises.

In Iceland, the McDonald’s franchise closed five years ago, when the country’s financial crisis led to a realisation by the burger chain that it would no longer be able to operate at a profit there.

In Macedonia, all McDonald’s restaurants closed suddenly and mysteriously last year, apparently as a result of licensing problems with the company running the Macedonian McDonald’s franchise.

But my favourite of what I personally regard as this “magnificent seven” is Bolivia, where after 14 profitless years McDonald’s finally gave up and left the country completely way back in 2002.

The reasons for the company’s failure to attract Bolivian customers is is not totally clear, although in a documentary entitled Why McDonald’s Went Bankrupt in Bolivia”, various Bolivian historians, cooks and nutritionists suggested that it was principally cultural factors behind McDonald’s withdrawal from the country.

One of those interviewed for the documentary explained it like this:

“fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be. To be a good meal, food has to be prepared with love, dedication, hygiene and proper cooking time”.

kalegarlickale and nut roast mix

I like that definition, and this seasonal recipe delivers a dish that I would like to think fits that Bolivian description of a good meal.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the nut roast, although it’s fair to say that in amongst some pretty bland and forgettable versions I have eaten the odd really tasty one in my time.

But I’m really pleased with this version. The inclusion of iron-rich kale adds both flavour and texture whilst quinoa gives lightness to the overall structure of the roast.

I’ve used fresh herbs in the recipe simply because I prefer to do so whenever I can, and because some of them are still flourishing, thanks to this mild UK autumn. Rosemary is a wonderfully dependable herb, available all year round, but the gentleness of the weather has meant that other less, hardy herbs are still going strong down on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, including my flat leaf parsley. In fact autumn has been so mild this year that I was still harvesting tomatoes at the beginning of November!

Serve this roast with vegetarian gravy. If there is any of the roast left (you will find meat eaters around the Christmas dinner table wanting to try it), it would be delicious served cold on Boxing Day with cranberry sauce or a good relish and a simple salad.

kale, quinoa and nut roast en croute


180 g kale
200 g cooked chestnuts
60 g quinoa
70 g hazelnuts, ground coarsely
70 g cashew nuts, ground coarsely
70 g vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 free range egg
250 g puff pastry

to glaze

1 free range egg, beaten


1. Steam the kale for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain, cool and chop finely. Set to one side.

2. Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions. Drain, cool and set to one side.

3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, carrot and celery and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring every so often, or until the carrot and celery are tender. Remove from the heat and set to one side.

4. Place the chestnuts in a large mixing bowl and crush roughly with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Add the kale, quinoa and the onion and celery and carrot mixture, along with the sea salt, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, rosemary, parsley and Cheddar. Finally add the egg and mix to combine the ingredients. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Roll out the puff pastry into an oblong shape, about ¼ cm in thickness. Remove the kale and nut roast mixture from the fridge and place lengthways in the centre of the pastry. Cut strips in the pastry every 2 cm, running out from the edge of the filling to the pastry edge. Fold the two ends of the pastry oblong over the filling, then along the length bring the strips of pastry over the top in alternating, overlapping layers. Brush with the beaten egg and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the pastry has become golden brown.

Categories: vegetarian

Tags: ,

25 replies

  1. This kale, quinoa and nut roast is absolutely gorgeous – and a unique alternative to the traditional turkey! I have bookmarked this to try during the holidays, and I have a feeling it will go over VERY well, so “Thank You” in advance!
    I have to commend the Bolivians for their stance on “real food” – I wish us North Americans would go back to viewing food the same way and give McD’s the old heave-ho, or at least think a little bit more about handing our dollars over to them.

    • Hi Kelsey, and thank you for your lovely comments on the recipe. The meat eaters in my house loved it as much as I did, and at least one has opted to have it instead of turkey on Christmas Day.

      The Bolivian rejection of McDonald’s is a great story, but isn’t it depressing to realise that there are just seven countries on the entire planet that don’t play host to at least one of their “restaurants”?


  2. Hi! I read your blog with interest, though haven’t commented before. This sounds really delicious and may well be our Christmas dinner this year. We’re a veggie family; our three girls have been brought up vegetarian, which makes life soo much easier, at meal time, as in everyone eats the same. I don’t usually cook with nuts these days as my husband is a little sensitive to them, but I think finely ground it’ll be fine. Looking forward to trying! Lovely to have someone else do the recipe thinking, so thank you!! Not sure how MDs and other junk food outlets get away with calling themselves ‘restaurants’. Their ubiquitousness is indeed depressing. I must grow more herbs next year, perhaps in pots by the back door, though I wonder if they’d do better in the raised beds of our veg patch…hmm, must find out! Jen

  3. Hi Jen

    Great to hear from you, thank you for commenting, and I’m certain you will really enjoy this dish if you do make it for your Christmas dinner. You can chop and change the ingredients pretty easily, so if there are particular types of nut to which your husband is sensitive you could replace them with others, or perhaps with an equal quantity of breadcrumbs.

    Herbs will grow reasonably well on the windowsill during the colder weather. They’d be fine too, in raised beds (but don’t plant mint there or it will take over). I have two raised beds devoted to herbs on my allotment and although most have now died back others – most notably parsley and chives – are amazingly still doing well.


    • Hi I am just about to make this, thank you! But I forgot to get quinia. What might I replace with? Rice, breadcrumbs?

      • Hi Jill. Yes, rice, bulgar wheat, breadcrumbs etc should all work. I’d be inclined to go for a mixture of half rice, half breadcrumbs to keep it fairly light, as it is when using quinoa. Good luck! Steve

  4. I have decided this is the nut roast for me this Christmas (I’m a lifelong veggie always on the search for the perfect nut roast!), but due to time constraints on Christmas day (meat-eater boyfriend and guests), I was wondering if the nut roast filling can be made beforehand and either kept in the fridge or frozen?

    • Hi, great to hear you’re going to go with this recipe for Christmas. The filling could certainly be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge. If you’d prefer to make it more in advance and freeze it, then I would recommend making the recipe right up to the point of encasing the filling in the pastry and then freeze at that point. On the day, it would need time to defrost, then a quick brush with the egg wash and into the oven.

      I do hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Merry Christmas!


  5. Our mouths are watering here in India!

  6. I made a gorgeous nut roast last year for the one vegetarian, and everyone not only wanted some but asked me to repeat it every year. Yours looks beautiful too, so I might make this version this year just for a change. I have been to Bolivia and as soon as I read that they don’t have a M I understood that it would be completely out of place there. Bolivian food is anything but ‘fast food’ and I have some very good memories of the meals we had there. Good for them for sticking to their own real food.

  7. This indeed is delicious and fairly easy to make. The en croute is mouth watering and satisfying. I have made it a couple of times and both times I had to double the time in the oven to achieve that nice brown crust. Perhaps turning the broiler on for a few minutes at the end would work too.

    • Hi Jess. Thank you so much for your kind comments and the feedback about the baking time. The time it takes to brown will of course vary according to the type of oven, although needing twice as long is surprising, so I will check next time I make this. The main thing, as you have said, is to get the lovely golden brown crust. Steve

  8. I am on my third year of making this fabulous alternative to the main meat dish for our holiday feasts. It pairs well with vegetarian gravy and makes excellent leftovers the next day–when there are any slices left. It takes a bit of forethought to make this, but it is not difficult to do. As mentioned earlier, it does take about 35-40 minutes to heat through and brown in my oven, but I have learned to allow those extra minutes. This has become a favorite for the vegetarians (I use milk based cheese) and meat eaters at our holiday meals. Thank you for offering this tasty and visually appealing alternative to the oh-so-boring usual nut loaf.

    • Hi Barbara. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to comment. I am so pleased to hear how much you like this dish. It will probably be gracing our Christmas table again this year, although I am working on a vegan recipe which I hope to publish in a couple of weeks’ time, which I think might run it close. Steve 🙂

  9. This looks truly stunning and I’d like to make it for our New Year’s eve dinner. Any suggestions for how to replace the eggs? Thanks.

    • Thank you! I would suggest using ground flaxseed in place of eggs. When combined with water, ground flax seed is a very effective binding agent. It is also rich in Omega 3 oils and a range of important trace elements. Steve

      • Many thanks and Happy Holidays to you! May 2019 be filled with peace and love for everyone, everywhere.

  10. Another question. What size should the oblong be when you roll it out? Thanks.

    • Hi Anna. The shape and size is basically up to you. The important thing is that the pastry needs to be fairly thin, around a quarter of a centimetre. On Christmas Day I find the meat eaters always want to try this too, so you may find it all disappears on the day. If there is any left it will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and can be eaten cold. Hope this helps. Have a great Christmas, Steve


  1. 20 Vegetarian Christmas Centrepieces | Foodies 100
  2. vegetarian gravy | The Circus Gardener's Kitchen
  3. Saturday Six | Vegetarian Thanksgiving Edition | Vegetarian Guy
  4. 20 Vegetarian Christmas Centrepieces - Foodies 100

Leave a Reply