Saturday, December 22, 2007
Lets get Nutty - Add some nuts into your life
Nuts are seeds that are covered with a hard shell. Most are the seeds of trees, but the seeds of a few other plants that are not strictly nuts will also be considered here as they can be conveniently classified with nuts for culinary purposes.
Nuts can be used in many ways. Whole, flaked and ground nuts and nut butters are widely available. A classic vegetarian savoury is nut roast and many vegetarian cook books give a recipe for one, which can be endlessly varied with different herbs and flavourings and different combinations of nuts and cereals. Nuts can be added to sweet dishes, cakes and biscuits, and nut butters can be added to soups and stews to thicken them.
Nuts in general are very nutritious, providing protein and many essential vitamins, such as A and E, minerals, such as phosphorous and potassium, and fibre. Nuts are also high in carbohydrate and oils, so shouldn't be eaten in excess.
Whereas pulses all belong to the legume group of plants, nuts come from a variety of different plant groups, so the nutritional content is more varied too. A brief description of individual varieties is given below, together with the main nutrients they contain.
Nuts should be stored in cool, dry conditions in airtight containers away from the light. Because of their high fat content, many of them benefit from storage in the fridge or freezer to deter rancidity.
Almonds - Almond oil is used for flavouring and for skin care preparations and is extracted from the kernel of the Bitter Almond. The Sweet Almond is grown for nuts for eating.
Brazils - Brazils are high in fat, which causes them to go rancid very quickly, and protein.
Candle nut - A hard oily nut used to flavor and thicken Indonesian and Malaysian curries. The name arises because the nuts, when threaded on the mid-rib of a palm leaf, are used as a primitive candle. Similar in size and shape to a macadamia. Do not eat raw. Store in the fridge.
Cashews - The nut grows in a curious way on the tree, hanging below a fleshy, apple-like fruit.
Chestnuts - The nuts can be used in soups, fritters, porridges, stuffings and stews, as well as being roasted or boiled whole. Available fresh (in autumn), dried, canned - whole or pureed, or ground into flour. Dried chestnuts need soaking for at least 1-2 hours and boiling for 45-60 minutes, fresh need boiling for 40 minutes before being peeled. Preserved in syrup they become the famous delicacy, Marron-glace. High in starch, but low in protein and fats.
Chironji nuts - Small brownish nuts that looks like a little large sunflower seeds, sometimes ground with other nuts, such as almonds and cashew. White poppy seeds is sometimes added to enrich some dishes. The flavor is similar to that of hazelnuts. Almonds and hazelnuts are good substitutes.
Coconuts - Unripe nuts contain coconut milk. The nutmeat can be eaten fresh or dried (desiccated or flaked coconut) and is also available in blocks of creamed coconut. A valuable oil is also extracted from the nut meat and used for cooking (although it is very high in saturated fat), margarines, soaps and detergents.
Hazels - Used in sweet and savoury dishes, they are available whole, ground and flaked, or made into oil and nut butter. They are lower in fat than most other nuts.
Litchi nuts - A sweet, white fruit about 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. It has a dark red hull which must be removed before eating. Also comes canned and dried. Use as a garnish or as a fruit.
Macadamia Nuts - Notoriously difficult to extract from their shells, they are expensive but have a delicious creamy flavour and crunchy texture. Low in carbohydrate, but quite high in fat.
Peanuts - Also known as groundnuts or monkey nuts, peanuts are actually legumes. It gets its name groundnut because as the pods ripen, they are actually forced underground. Peanuts are high in protein and contain 40-50% oil. The oil is used in cooking, as salad oil, in margarines and the residue is fed to animals. Whole peanuts can be eaten raw or roasted or made into peanut butter (look out for brands which do not contain hydrogenated oils, which are highly saturated).
Pecans - It is used extensively in ice cream, cakes, nut bread and confectionery. The flavour is rather like a mild, sweet walnut.
Pine Nuts - They are very difficult to harvest, hence their cost. They are vital for pesto sauce, and are delicious lightly toasted. They become rancid very easily and should be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Pistachios - The kernels are green and are prized as much for their ornamental colour as for their flavour. Also sold roasted and salted in their shells. They are more expensive than most other nuts.
Walnuts - It is grown for timber as well as its nuts. Walnut oil has been used for centuries in the preparation of artists paints. High in fat, they go rancid very quickly and should be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Pumpkin - Can be eaten raw or cooked in both sweet or savoury dishes. Delicious toasted and sprinkled, while hot, with soya sauce and served on salads. They are rich in protein, iron, zinc and phosphorous.
Sesame - An oil is extracted from the seed and used for cooking, salad oil and margarines. It is also available as toasted sesame oil for oriental cooking. The whole seeds can also be eaten and are most often seen as a decoration on cakes, confectionery etc. Sesame seed paste, tahini, is used in many dishes e.g. hummus. Halva, a sweet made from sesame seeds is often found in health food shops. A good source of protein and calcium.
Sunflower - The oil extracted from its seeds is used in margarine, varnishes and soaps but the seeds can be eaten whole, raw or cooked. They can be added to breads and cakes or sprinkled over salad or breakfast cereals. A good source of potassium and phosphorous.
Now for some Nutty Recipes!
Nut Masala Recipe
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cardamon seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece fresh gingerroot, grated
2 oz blanched almonds or unsalted cashew; nuts, chopped
1/4 cup boiling water
Heat oil in a heavy skillet, add spices and cook over medium heat 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown, stirring constantly. Add garlic and gingerroot and cook 2 minutes more, then cool.
Put spice mixture in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add almonds or cashew nuts and water; grind to a smooth paste. Cover tightly and keep in a cool place for up to 1 month.
Mixed Nuts Katli
25 g cashew nuts
25 g pecans
25 g almonds
25 g pistachios
1 can condensed milk
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon rose essence
1 teaspoon ghee
Soak all the nuts separately in warm water for 3-4 hours.
Drain and grind them together into a very fine paste using very little water if needed.
Grease a marble or wooden surface with ghee.
Mix together the condensed milk and nuts paste.
Cook in a pan on medium flame.
When the mixture thickens, reduce the flame.
Keep stirring till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
Remove from the fire immediately.
Mix in the rosewater and turn it onto the greased marble or wooden surface.
Roll thinly with a greased roller.
Spread the silver sheet (silver warakh) over if desired and cut into diamond shaped katlis.
Serve and enjoy!
Date and Nuts Delight
1 cup rice
1 tablespoon butter
Remove stones from dates.
Mash up the"stone-less" dates.
Wash rice and soak for 5 minutes.
Roast rice in a heavy bottomed pan.
DO NOT OVER-ROAST.
Then, powder the roasted rice in a grinder/blender.
Mix this powder with the date fruits.
Warm butter in a frying pan.
Add butter to the powder-date mixture.
Grease your palms with a little butter to avoid sticking of the mixture.
Make small balls out of the mixture.
Decorate each ball with cashews and pistas.
Serve with tea.
Cajun Cocktail Nuts recipe
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 to 3 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 pound unsalted peanuts
1 pound raw cashews
2 pounds unsalted, raw pecan halves
Heat oven to 275 degrees F. Mix butter, Worcestershire, chili powder and pepper sauce in glass measuring cup.
Combine nuts in large roasting pan and drizzle with butter mixture, stirring to coat. Bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread out on paper towels (labeled for use with food) to dry. Season with garlic salt and black pepper.