MAPLE CHICKPEA LOAF WITH MARMITE ONION GRAVY

A roast is non-negotiable.

When I decided to be the worst meat eater ever and become a part time vegetarian (so not a vegetarian at all really, but you get what I mean) I remember saying to myself that a Sunday roast was not a place to be a part-time vegetarian. A roast is an all-or-nothing type of gig and if there’s no animal sacrifice, then I won’t be plating up.

Then I realised I was being ridiculous.

My mother was coming over of a Sunday (to clean my windows for me, don’t judge me – she has a good machine thing) and requested one of my roasts. I was six seconds away from grabbing the nearest dead chicken to cook when I thought to myself… I wonder how I could do this meatless?

Meatless Sunday roasts are virgin territory to me as I consistently rely on meat products to source my flavours (gravy, potatoes etc) so without a burning piece of flesh, I really had to bang my head against the pantry to get everything I wanted at no sacrifice of flavour.

This ‘meatloaf’ really is a triumph. Own-back-patting aside, this really is such a good addition to a Sunday roast that doesn’t really feel as though you being too aggressive with the removal of meat. The syrup in the loaf gives that roundness to the flavour and a moistness to the bite, yet it still holds its shape so you are able to have that ‘cutting into’ feeling you want from a roast.

Although an accompaniment that goes with this (that I didn’t photograph because I’m sloppy) was a Marmite Onion Gravy. The deep, pungent (almost meaty) tang of the marmite gravy coating the maple spiked loaf provides a fantastic gutsy gravy coating that you want from a gravy made from a meat product. The meal went down extremely well.

I’m also chuffed to bits that this requires the same amount of cooking time as the roast potatoes in the oven so it is actually SO much easier to roast this loaf alongside the potatoes and make one vegetable and the gravy on the hob.

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So preheat your oven to 200C. Finely cut up a small handful of shallots (about 3 small ones) and soften them in a little butter and celery salt. Once they are soft, remove from the heat and allow to cool. In a food processor, blitz a small handful of dates to a mush. Now pour in two cans of drained chickpeas and blitz. Now add a peeled carrot, 2 garlic cloves, a generous squeeze of tomato paste and the cooled shallots. Blitz again. Now add a cup of breadcrumbs and pulse again. Now add your liquid flavourings which is a quick dash of soy sauce, a generous squirt of maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a final twist of salt and pepper before blitzing one last time.

Grab yourself a standard sized loaf tin and grease the sides/ line with paper. I do mine very sloppily, as you can see. Spoon the loaf mixture into the tin, smooth the surface and put to one side until you’re ready. When you are ready, the loaf only takes 35-40 minutes to bake.

This loaf is versatile. You could just to go have in sandwiches or just with some chips and an egg. But if you are using it as part of a roast, by which case, put this in the same time as your potatoes and do the gravy while they roast.

For the gravy, all you want to do is soften a red onion in a little butter and some salt until it begins to lose its colour. Sprinkle over a tablespoon of flour and quarter of a teaspoon of ground all spice and cook for a further 2/3 minutes. Now add half a litre of vegetable stock and grab yourself a whisk, stirring until the liquid begins to thicken. Once the gravy has begun to thicken, add a generous tablespoon of Marmite (or Vegemite) and stir again until the gravy takes on its glossy, dark hue.

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As part of a roast you could roast some lime-flecked carrots alongside the potatoes and loaf or even throw some Yorkshire puddings in the oven (all of these things take the same time to roast) and all you need to then do it make the gravy on the hob) But like I said, this loaf is perfect just for egg and chips, sandwiches – even a picnic or something! It’s definitely satisfied my need for a meaty bite with a roast and definitely no compromise on flavour.

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