I have to admit a guilty pleasure—buying second hand cookbooks online. They’re just such beauties. I recently ordered Looneyspoons and The Vegetarian Epicure. The Epicure, a 1970s cookbook by Anna Thomas, was exactly as I remembered it from my mum’s collection—a bit tattered around the edges, smoothed corners from plenty of use, yellowing pages, and a spine which seems to crack every time you open it but somehow all the pages are still intact. Even better, whoever had owned it before me had taped in various other useful recipes (“90 minute beer bread,” “Zucchini breakfast cake,” “German mustard”) and there are even a few notes in margins (including “yum yum” over the recipe for Cheese & Scallion Quiche). I love books with character like this. I feel like I’m peeking into someone else’s warm kitchen every time I open this book.
This recipe is just one of many delicious ones I plan on sharing from The Vegetarian Epicure. My mum has both the first and the second volumes, and I grew up peering with interest at the beautifully type-set pages (Optima in all its glory! can you tell I’m a typophile at heart?) and whimsical drawings. Anna Thomas wrote the first volume while in university, and it was snapped up by Vintage Press straight away. (I’m so jealous; why didn’t I think of writing a cookbook while in university?) She wrote volume two while in grad school. I absolutely love how she describes learning to cook, as it was “In self defense! I needed to eat, and who could afford to go out?” Oh Anna, I hear you loud and clear! I recommend taking a look at her website which has a sampling of other recipes and excerpts from her other (also vegetarian) cookbooks. I’ve included the Amazon link at the bottom of this post so you can get your very own copy!
These roasted walnut balls are (surprise, surprise) nutty, smooth, and entirely satisfying. They are vegetarian and delicious, and even being a meat eater, I crave these on occasion instead of meatballs! These go great as a vegetarian option for a holiday meal, or really any other time you feel like something a bit different.
Roasted Walnut Balls
Slightly adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure, p. 199
Makes: 24 balls
Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts, almonds, or pecans, or a blend
- 125 g grated sharp/tasty cheddar cheese (about a cup grated)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 onion
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 tbsp parsley, fresh preferred
- 2 eggs
- about 3 cups white sauce (see my recipe here for an easy and effective no-lump white sauce)
- salt & pepper to taste
Make your white sauce in advance. Hint: tired of butter? You can make the white sauce with olive oil instead of butter if you want!
In a food processor, blend the nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, wheat germ, egg, and onion together until fairly smooth in texture. If you’re not using a food processor, pulverize / finely chop the nuts, cheese, and onion and blend together with the bread crumbs, wheat germ, and egg. Add the parsley (and any other herbs and spices that you might wish, plus some salt and pepper). Slowly add the milk and either mix by hand or pulse in the food processor until the mixture holds together and is slightly sticky, but not glopy, in texture.
Lightly grease a baking dish, and form your dough into meatball-sized shapes, to form about 24. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and set aside while your oven preheats. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 F / 180 C until lightly golden on top. Remove from the oven and pour the white sauce over, bake for another 15 minutes (or so, use your judgement) until the tops of your roasted balls go a bit golden.