Thursday, 24 July 2014

Christmas in July smoky cheese and barley nut roast

Sylvia started it.  I love to celebrate Christmas in July but had no plans this year.  We had a quiet weekend at home to try and throw off our colds when Sylvia found the Christmas CDs and books.  (Must hide better next time!)  So began the craziness.  I told her we could play carols and watch a Christmas DVD and I would make Christmas dinner.  Why not when, baby, it's cold outside!

For those unfamiliar with Christmas in July, it is truly delightful in Melbourne to celebrate Christmas in the middle of winter and indulge in a decadent festive meal.  (Of course it is not about presents!)  We are feeling very wintery lately.  Sylvia is insisting on turning her calendar to August for the snowman picture.  We even have had snow in the hills outside Melbourne.  And I keep hearing wind and rain outside even when there is none.  You see, I have had an ear infection for the past week that is playing havoc with my hearing.

We needed a tree!  I wasn't committed enough to drag out Christmas decorations.  Instead we had a quick craft episode with a few rolls of colourful washi tape.  With a bit of guidance, Sylvia created a picture of a Christmas tree to put on the wall.  Her tree had bananas and the star at the top was sticking out its tongue! 

More effort on a Christmas tree was kept for our gingerbread tree.  We have a graduated set of 5 star biscuit cutters that we have used on another gingerbread Christmas tree.  Last time we used a gingerless gingerbread that was appropriate to our friend's intolerances.  On the weekend we used my favourite gingerbread recipe.  It has never let me down.  We smooshed together the stars with green icing.  Then Sylvia decorated it with Christmas sprinkles.

For the Christmas dinner, it seemed obvious to make a nut roast.  As those who know my blog will be aware, I love nut roasts and make them frequently.  I had some pearl barley and split peas in want of using.  I googled and found ideas.  In particular, a Jamie Oliver Cranberry and Pistachio Nut Roast.  It appealed because it suggested I could use barley instead of rice in the risotto base.  (The recipe omitted to note that it would take longer to cook barley than rice!)

I have decided my recipe is different enough to Jamie's to claim it as original because I made so many changes.  The main one is that I couldn't find fresh cranberries to top the nut roast.  They are rare in Melbourne at the best of times and I didn't have the energy to hunt them out.  I only went to the shops because I needed another course of antibiotics.  Our local shops don't sell wild mushrooms so I used portabello and button.  I used whiskey instead of wine, smoked vintage cheese instead of cheddar, walnuts instead of pistachios.  Even my breadcrumbs were different as I had kept leftover seasoned crumbs and cornflakes from some tofu nuggets.

Jamie says to leave out the eggs and cheese to make the nut roast vegan.  I would try mixing through a little tofu.  My nut roast took a lot of its flavour from the smoked vintage cheese.  To veganise this nut roast, I would add some smoked paprika and additional seasonings.  In fact the nut roast was so hearty that a small amount would suffice and it would serve quite a lot of people if need be.

I had promised Sylvia a Christmas dinner so it was a proper roast dinner with roast potatoes and pumpkin, brussels sprouts, gravy and cranberry sauce.  I had some miso lentil grave (from Isa Does It) in the freezer.  It was ok but a bit thick and intense for a nut roast.  The cranberry sauce worked well in lieu of freshly cooked cranberries.  The nut roast was so flavoursome that it needed the sweetness to cut through the seasoning.

And there were sprouts.  There are always sprouts in a traditional British Christmas.  I hated brussel sprouts as a child.  E hated brussel sprouts when I met him.  Yet both of us have come to love them.  More surprising is that Sylvia loves them.  She eats them first in her dinner because they are her favourite thing.  When I ran out this week she was demanding that I buy her more sprouts.  Am I alone in thinking this is odd behaviour in a child!  Not that am complaining.  Even so, it seemed ironic that I didn't cook all the sprouts that I bought for the meal and wished I had.  They were really good!

I dug out our tartan table runner and Christmas dishes.  Sylvia decided that dinner must be by candlelight.  She loves roast potatoes but was less impressed by a small piece of nut roast.  In fact the best thing she had to say for it was that if she ate enough cranberry sauce she couldn't taste the nut roast.  I suspect it was the candles and carols rather than the nut roast that made her exclaim that it was the best night ever. 

And Sylvia loved the gingerbread Christmas tree.  She was very excited when it was time for dessert.  This was an easy and yet impressive way to finish our Christmas dinner.  And it made a festive touch to the table.  I enjoyed the gingerbread but I was so full from main course that it was a bit wasted on me. 

As a meat eater I once loved the leftover meat after Christmas dinner, and as a vegetarian I now love the leftover nut roast.  The following day we had plenty of nut roast.   Did I mention that I baked oat and seed sourdough bread around preparing for our Christmas in July!  It meant that I could eat wonderful leftover nut roast sandwiches.  Actually I overdid the cranberry sauce and roasted pumpkin in the sandwich.  It need a little less sweet flavours but with spinach and grated carrot was still lovely.  I also made some rice and nut roast, a bit like this recipe (without stuffing it in peppers).

And the next day I could photograph the nut roast in daylight.  Natural light for blog photograph seems very limited at the time of year.  For those in the Northern Hemisphere experiencing long summer days (or as The Age newspaper recently said, Britons experiencing a (sort of) heatwave), you probably don't feel very Christmassy at all.  Perhaps reading this post, you are feeling just the way that we do Down Under when it comes to Christmas in December: too hot to think about Christmas and finding it hard to feel in synch with those wintery weather that are the hallmark of the festivities.  For us, it felt just like right.  But even better without the annoying commercialism.  This is the sort of Christmas I wish for all year round!

I am sending this nut roast to:

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Christmas in July - Chocolate Shortbread and Sovereign Hill
Two years ago: Celery and blue cheese soup and Open House Melbourne
Three years ago: Mulled wine and chocolate cake
Four years ago: Christmas in July Cupcakes
Five years ago: Pudding, Parties and Plate Smashers
Six years ago: Miss Marple’s Tea Room – cosy charm
Seven years ago: Hubert the Hog’s Head

Smoky cheese and barley nut roast
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 to 8

2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
150g pearl barley
1/4 cup whiskey
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tsp stock powder
200g mushrooms, diced
100g walnuts, crushed with a fork
100g almond meal
150ml breadcrumbs
125g smoked vintage cheddar
black pepper, to taste
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 190 C.  Grease and line a loaf tin (mine is 22 x 13cm and was full to the brim with the

Heat between 1 and 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan.  Fry celery and onions over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Stir in garlic for a minute or so.  Add pearl barley and fry for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Deglaze with whisky and the stir in the 2 - 3 cups of boiling water and the vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the pearl barley is just cooked and most of the water is absorbed.  Add more boiling water as required.  (I originally added 2 and 1/2 cups of water and then added another cup when it was absorbed and not yet cooked.) 

Meanwhile fry mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and most of the juices have evaporated. (If you don't get to do this until your barley is cooked, you can do this in the same saucepan once barley is transferred to the mixing bowl.)

While the barley and mushrooms are cooking, prepare remaining ingredients and add to a large mixing bowl.  Add pearl barley mixture and mushrooms once cooked and stir together until well mixed.

Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf tin.  Smooth the top of it with the back of a spoon.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Turn halfway through the baking and check if it needs to be covered in foil.  My oven refuses to burn anything (except the odd chip) but I know others are more powerful.  I baked mine for 40 minutes at 200 C and it was a bit soft so longer would be better.

Allow to rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a serving tray.  You can make this a day ahead and keep on a serving tray covered in foil (once cooled) and reheat (covered in foil) on the day.  Serve with lots of roast vegies, greens and gravy or anyway you want.  I highly recommend some cranberry sauce.

On the Stereo:
White Christmas: Bing Crosby

44 comments:

  1. Oh how fun!! It all looks amazing. That gingerbread Xmas tree is adorable, I'll definitely do one with my Sylvia this Xmas. I love festive food and occasions any time of the year :)

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    1. Thanks Kate - the gingerbread tree is great - very little effort but very impressive and fun for kids. Hope you have fun with it

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  2. Your Christmas in July celebrations look like lots of fun. Love Sylvia's tree with bananas and a cheeky star. Your nut roast looks tasty.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - the washi tape tree is something I have seen on pinterest and wanted to try - a nice easy idea for when there is no real tree

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  3. oh that is just full of mega-yum! I totally forgot about doing Christmas in July with my family, I guess I better get a move on huh!

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    1. Thanks Veganopoulous - yep there are still a few days to go - make the most of it :-)

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  4. Haha how fun! Love this loaf!

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    1. Thanks joanne - it was lots of fun

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  5. I loooove the bananas hanging from the christmas tree!

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    1. Thanks Caeli - don't know where the banana idea came from - kids are crazy :-)

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  6. Brilliant idea! I was actually just thinking yesterday how time was flying and that soon it would be Christmas again, and then Christmas appears here!
    You really went all out with the food and decorations. Love your gingerbread tree especially.
    I'm slightly confused why the Peppa pig calendar August pictures is of Christmas though...?

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    1. Thanks Emma - ha ha - yes I am sure there will be christmas decorations in the shops soon :-) I wondered if the snow picture on the the peppa pig calendar is there because it is an Australian version of the calendar so it has some winter picture in our winter - it is always weird to get Northern Hemisphere calendars and have the seasons all upside down.

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  7. I have never celebrated Christmas in July, and perhaps as a result, it has always intrigued and appealed to me. It seems you did it justice! Your nut roast adaptations are really impressive and the gingerbread tree is fantastic. Hopefully it brushed the cold (and ear infection?) cobwebs away.

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    1. Thanks Kari - maybe now you are in the UK you can have summery Christmases in July to remember your Aussie Christmases :-) Seriously, perhaps it is not such a big thing in Perth because it doesn't get as cold but I have found Christmas in July celebrations becoming more common in places like restaurants and kids tourist attractions. Our dinner definitely cheered me up after my ear infection.

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  8. How absolutely fantastic! I would love to sit at that table with you all and enjoy all your fine cooking :) Thank you for linking up with the No Waste Food Challenge!

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    1. Thanks elizabeth - I would love to have you sit at the table with us too.

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  9. Oh, barley..what a great idea! I bet it feels really moist and a great option as I always worry that all those nuts are way out of the realms of moderation x

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    1. Thanks Deena - barley was a great base for this. Interesting your comment on the nuts as I find that a lot of nut roasts actually have only a small amount of nuts in them - a little goes a long way.

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  10. This looks delish! It's been too hot here for much cooking and I've been crazy nut roast something crazy

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    1. Thanks Cate - never think of Germany as really hot but am sure when winter sets in you will have plenty of nut roast weather :-)

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  11. The Christmas Tree is gorgeous. What a lovely idea. I always love Christmas in July - it's always such a fun event. And your nut roast looks really good and how lovely to have enough left over for sandwiches xx

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    1. Thanks Charlie - Christmas in July is a great idea - I think Christmas really helps to get through a northern winter and we don't have anything to get us through our winter like that so it makes sense to have a little festive cheer

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  12. I'm in the UK so it's nice to hear about rituals taking place in Melbourne! I love Melbourne... must get back there soon! Thanks for linking to #ExtraVeg

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    1. Thanks Nadine - you should come over to Melbourne in July - last year we went to Sovereign Hill for christmas in July and the fake snow was hilarious!

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  13. Aww I bet Sylvia absolutely adored this! I mean the idea of having two Christmases a year must be brilliant for a kid! :D

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - yes two Christmases a year is just fine with me - oh and Sylvia loves it too

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  14. You're incredible - I'm not sure I put that much effort into Christmas in December, and you did it all with an ear infection! Mother of the Year!

    By the way, our kids (particularly our son) have always loved Brussels sprouts. When he was about 13, we would leave him asleep while we went to the market. One late autumn morning when we got home, we called out, "Guess what's in season?" "Brussels sprouts?" He called out hopefully. I shook the bag at him and he pumped his fist in the air and said something like, "YES! Awesome!" It was at that stage that I wondered whether this was totally normal behaviour. It seems that we're raising a new generation of sprout lovers! :-)

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    1. Thanks Linda - I think I embraced the idea because a week of feeling ill was no fun and I needed some cheering up. And nut roasts and roast veg are my easy dinner - I kept it simple really - when I go all out I do the cauliflower cheese and make my own gravy!!!

      Love the story about your son and brussels sprouts. I agree that we are raising a new generation of sprouts lovers. No doubt it helps that we serve them quite differently from our mothers. Though I sometimes wonder if because Sylvia doesn't have all that meat that she appreciates her vegies more - when I was young the meat was the main attraction and the vegies almost an afterthought

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    2. Yeah, I didn't like vegies much, but I do remember being really excited on the rare occasion Mum cooked beans or lentils. They seemed a bit exotic to me. :)

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  15. So cute! I love the pictures =) Looks like you had a lovely Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Kimmy - it was a lovely way to spend an evening - and none of the stressful planning!

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  16. Thank you so much for entering again in this month’s No Waste Food Challenge - I think Christmas in July sounds so much fun! I must give nut roast another go :)

    Anne’s Kitchen

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    1. Thanks Annie - yes try nut roast again - there are so many ways to eat it - I am up to number 29 in my nut roast list and always love it - http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com.au/2008/03/neb-at-nut-roast-invitation.html - and it is a great way to use up scraps of food to avoid wasting it.

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  17. Merry Christmas to you guys, that’s brilliant that you celebrate Christmas during July ! How’s the weather in Melbourne during Dec-Jan? I will be heading there and staying there in central Melbourne!

    Darn that nut roast looks utterly delicious with your own substitutions - so cool that you used barley, it’s a very nutty and hearty grain!

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    1. Thanks Rika - It can be really hot in Melbourne during December and January but at least we have good air conditioning to cope with it :-)

      I was really pleased to use barley in the nut roast - it is such a delicious grain but I don't use it enough so am always pleaded to find new ideas for it

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  18. I have never actually celebrated Christmas in July but always thought it would be fun too!
    Now I just want to make a veggie loaf so I can put the leftovers on a sandwich hahahaa

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    1. Thanks Sandy - winter is the perfect time to make veg loaves - highly recommend you do if only for that sandwich of leftovers!

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  19. Hi Johanna!
    It seems Christmas in July is pretty popular in this part of the world also. I just left a post from Dottie that had a theory about how it all began. Who knew, lol...

    I must admit, I am not in a Christmas in July mood, or should I say I wasn't until I saw this lovely post of yours. How could one not get into the mood after seeing this showcase of Christmas crafts and goodness. I also love that you love nut roasts! It seems like you really have made this one all your own. Look out, Jamie!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Johanna...I do hope you and your family are on the mend:)

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    1. Thanks Louise - what I don't understand about christmas in july is why it is celebrated in July and not in June when the winter solstice occurs - but I am always up for a christmas in july celebration and a nut roast - glad to put you in the festive mood :-)

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  20. I was mildly outraged by the idea of Xmas in July until I read this recipe and now I'm hunting out the tinsel. I'll be making this soon. Just YUM! As a veggie, my tastebuds thank you. Thanks for linking up to #recipeoftheweek - sorry I'm a bit late over! Have Pinned this post and scheduled in a tweet. New linky just went live for this week :) x

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    1. Thanks a mummy too - happy to spread some nut roast love - hope you find that tinsel :-)

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  21. Gosh, Christmas in July? Sounds like a good idea though. I never did get my head around wondering around in shorts and a tea shirt and eating ice-cream on Christmas Day, the year we were in the antipodes. Always love your nut roasts and I'm now desperate to try whisky in mine - a good combination with the Smokey cheese I would have thought.

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    1. Thanks Choclette - after growing up spending Christmas in summer but being told it is a winter celebration it is odd albeit comforting to spend it in the northern hemisphere so I can imagine how strange it is to spend it in Australia. Highly recommend whisky in nut roasts - we don't have wine in the house often lately but we have whisky that goes down very slowly so I feel justified in using it up in cooking :-)

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