The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

parsnip, cranberry and nut roast

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This week’s recipe is for parsnip, cranberry and nut roast, a delicious vegan alternative Christmas dinner.

An enormous amount of meat will be consumed, and discarded over the Christmas period this year. Aside from ethical considerations about the slaughter of other sentient life, there is no doubt at all that our current levels of meat consumption are contributing directly to climate change.

The government’s own Committee on Climate Change is on record as saying that the UK needs to reduce the number of sheep and cattle on our farms by up to a half because of their contribution to greenhouse gases. If the committee’s recommendation was followed, around seven million hectares of land would be released from sheep and cattle farming. This land could instead be used for reforestation or organic farming, both of which help combat climate change by absorbing CO2 through the medium of trees, plants and the soil itself.

If we are to make serious inroads into the challenge of climate change before it is too late then we have to make radical changes. The single most important change that we can each make is to our diet.

If each of us gave up meat, or at the very least reduced our meat consumption by half, there would be a significant, positive long-term impact in terms of land use in the UK and in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

It would also have an impact on our collective health: there is now incontrovertible evidence of the link between meat consumption and a range of illnesses, particularly between red meat and bowel cancer.

Why wait for the government to act when we can make a change now that would benefit the planet as well as ourselves?

Onto the recipe, then. For this delicious vegan celebration dinner you will need dariole molds or ramekins. You could cook a larger version and divide it up (in which case add longer to the cooking time in the oven), but I like the way the individual puddings look when they are turned out, with the cranberry compote sitting invitingly on the top.

You’ll probably need to make a few extra too. If your Christmas household is anything like mine, the meat eaters around the table will be unable to contain their curiosity and will ask to try it.

parsnip, cranberry and nut roast

200 g organic parsnips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
75 g organic chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
50 g ground almonds
50 g pecan kernels
50 g cashew kernels
20 g rice or corn flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150 g fresh organic cranberries
100 ml maple syrup


1. Lightly oil four dariole molds or ramekins. I like to line each mold with a thin strip of greaseproof paper, overlapping the edges of the mold. This helps ease the finished roast out of the mold at the end.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Place the cranberries in a saucepan. Add the maple syrup and place over a medium heat. Once the contents of the pan start to simmer, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the mixture is starting to resemble a fruity jam. Remove from the heat . Carefully divide the mixture between the four molds. Set to one side.

3. While the cranberries are cooking, peel and chop the parsnip into large chunks, removing any tough woody parts from the centre. Steam for 8 minutes or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the heat and set to one side to cool. Once the parsnip is cool enough to handle, use a potato ricer or masher to mash the parsnips and then place them in a mixing bowl.

4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for five minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms, garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary and sea salt and cook for a further five minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl containing the mashed parsnip.

5. Place the pecan and cashew nuts into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Tip this mixture into the mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, rice flour, smoked paprika and the soy sauce. Mix thoroughly, then divide the mixture between the four molds, carefully placing it onto the cranberries in the base of the mold.

6. Place the molds in a deep roasting tray and very gently pour boiling water into the roasting dish around the molds to a depth of about 5 cm. Carefully place the roasting dish in the pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the top of the roasts is crisp and golden. Check periodically and top up the water in the roasting tray if necessary.

7. Remove the roasting tray from the oven and, using oven gloves, carefully take the four molds out of the roasting tray. Leave to cool for 3-4 minutes, then tip each mold upside down on a plate. Tap the bottom of each mold before gently lifting it off. Serve with vegan gravy and the usual Christmas trimmings.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: ,

31 replies

  1. Beautiful! What a perfectly festive looking dish. The combination of ingredients has my mouth watering. Thank you for another tasty alternative to meat. I love your creativity!

    • Thank you Pam. I’m really pleased with the way this idea turned out. Steve 🙂

    • This is our absolute go to nut roast, Christmas or not – made it first a couple of years ago, and many times since – the only thing I do a wee bit differently is add fresh horseradish as we like a bit of bite – fantastic recipe!

      • That’s great to hear, thank you for leaving a comment Kate. I love the idea of adding horseradish too! Steve 😊

  2. This sure sounds great! I have pinned it to give it a try for a special occasion. Thanks for your recipes *and* your awareness of the surrounding issues. <3

  3. I agree with you about meat production. Just one example of the complicated story – If we only kept cows for milk and if we only kept Jersey cows we could reduce a huge amount of methane gas. The Jersey produces half the amount of gas than other cows for the same amount of milk. But I can’t see it happening. I think that ship has sailed.

  4. Sounds divine. I wish it was easier to buy cranberries in Australia.

    • Thank you Peggy. I’m struggling to come up with a suitable substitute, although it should still taste good even without the cranberry topping.

  5. A recipe I certainly want to try. Paprika, thyme, soy . . . unusual together: want to taste . . .Perhaps not for Christmas dinner, which, here in Australia, where seafood often is the mainstay anyway . . . not that some of that is not farmed ! Am afraid that I would have some difficulty in foregoing meat altogether, both as a nutritionist and a foodie . . .but I have already made strong inroads in both the number of non-meat meals, the portion size of meat, eating nose-to-tail and using wild game as oft as I can source it . . .

    • Hi Eha. I understand your position on meat eating, and I applaud you for the changes you have made. If more of us did the same it would make a significant difference. Steve

  6. Do you think these would be OK to make and keep in the fridge for a day or so?
    Thank you for your observations each week, always interesting and thoughtful.

  7. Another winner, Steve. I tried these today in anticipation of making them for a family dinner party next week. They’re now definitely on the menu as starters. Not too big though as they’re quite filling. Cheers, Malcolm

    • Many thanks, Malcolm, I’m so pleased you like this dish. It will also be on our table at Christmas. Steve 🙂

  8. I love your food photos. You make Ms. Parsnip positively sexy. 😀

    Hear, hear .. to eliminating farmed animals from our plates, our economies. ‘Vegan’ is like duct tape: 101 good uses for it.

  9. This looks really lovely. What would you suggest using instead of mushrooms?

    • Thank you Anna. Try using finely chopped aubergine instead of mushrooms, either roasting or frying the aubergine until tender. Steve

  10. Not vegan myself but made for our annual girls Christmas lunch. Really lovely. Looks pretty and tastes great. I have frozen the left over Uncooked nut mixture will make fresh cranberry sauce to go with this for my Xmas day vegans.

    • Hi Kay. Thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely feedback. I’m so pleased to hear this recipe has gone down well. Have a wonderful Christmas. Steve

  11. Is it possible to make this in a rectangular loaf form instead? That’s all I’ve got in the cupboard.

    • Hi Peta, yes you can do that. Depending on the size of your tin you will probably need to adjust the cooking time. Steve

  12. Has anyone frozen these uncooked with the cranberry topping? I froze the nut mixture a couple of years ago and assembled them on the day before baking with fresh sauce. I’m doing some batch cooking for a neighbour and would like to know 1) if I can prepare them completely and freeze ? And 2) could they be cooked from frozen? Or do they need to defrost first? If so timings please 🙂

    • Hi Kay. Cranberry sauce survives freezing, so it should be fine to freeze the whole dish. I would however advise defrosting before cooking, then follow the timing in the recipe. Steve

  13. Love these but can’t get parsnips. Can you suggest another vegetable I could use? Would sweet potatoes or carrots work?


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