Nuts

Slender young leeks are ideal for this dish, not the baby ones that resemble spring onions, and certainly not fat, mature ones with tough stalks. I usually buy a bunch of four or five organic leeks that are just so tender once cooked that you can eat most of the dark green stalk. Also, make sure that your walnuts are new or current season, and ideally crack them yourself, as the shell protects the nuts and keeps them fresh.

Ingredients

100 g walnuts
extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch medium leeks, organic if possible, washed well
2 bunches or 2 big handfuls finger-thick asparagus, trimmed
Skordalia
250 ml milk
200 grams walnuts
4 cloves garlic, 3 sliced, 1 whole
salt flakes
80 grams crustless rye bread
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon allspice
5 grates whole nutmeg
20 ml white wine vinegar
Pickled onion
100 ml white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons currants
1 red onion, trimmed, cut in quarters and layers separated

Method

Preheat the oven to 160˚C fan-forced or 180˚C conventional.

For the pickled onion, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and about 50 ml of water to a simmer in a small pot. Add the currants and onion and bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, though longer is better, and an hour wouldn’t hurt.

Spread 100 grams of walnuts out on a baking tray and roast for around 15 minutes until golden and fragrant. Toss in oil and season. Set aside. Turn the oven up to 180˚C fan-forced or 200˚C conventional.

For the skordalia, bring the milk and 250 ml of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the walnuts, sliced garlic and a pinch of salt, and simmer for 10 minutes. Tear in the bread and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain, reserving a little of the liquid, and add to a blender. Add the allspice, nutmeg, vinegar, oil and a pinch of salt. Finely grate in a little garlic to taste and blend until smooth, adding a little cooking liquid if needed. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

Place the leeks on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, season and roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Toss the asparagus in oil, season and add to the tray for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

To plate, smear some of the skordalia on a serving plate, arrange the leeks and asparagus on top, dollop on a little more skordalia, scatter over the walnuts, onion and currants, drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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Salted peanut & cashew brittle with Sichuan pepper & chilli

serves 700 grams (approx.)
difficulty moderate
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 10mins (approx.) + cooling time
main ingredient(s) cashews, peanuts, sugar, honey, Nuts
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Ingredients

1 egg white
½ teaspoon salt flakes
1 teaspoon ground chilli flakes
1 teaspoon finely crushed Sichuan peppercorns
150 grams salted cashews
250 grams salted peanuts
⅓ teaspoon baking soda
30 grams unsalted butter, softened
265 grams caster sugar
120 grams honey

Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan-forced (200˚C conventional).

Lightly whisk the egg white in a large bowl until foamy. Mix in the salt, chilli and Sichuan pepper. Add the cashews and peanuts and mix to thoroughly coat the nuts. Spread in a thin layer on a large tray lined with baking paper and roast for 5 minutes, stir through and roast for a couple more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Crush a large handful of the nuts to a rough powder in a mortar. Mix the crushed nuts and the baking soda through the whole nuts in a large bowl. Add the softened butter and set aside.

Bring the sugar, honey and 100 ml of water to a simmer in a medium pot. Cook until it forms a caramel and reaches 145˚C on a candy thermometer. Tip in the nut mix, stirring through until the foaming subsides and the butter is completely incorporated. Immediately pour the mix onto a tray lined with baking paper and, working quickly, spread flat with an oiled spatula. Lay a piece of parchment on top of the brittle and press down with a second tray until as flat as possible. Set aside to cool completely before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

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Raw & roasted beetroot salad with creme fraiche, sherry vinegar & smashed almonds

serves 4-6 as a side
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 15mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) beetroot, celery, mint, almonds, cinnamon, sherry vinegar, creme fraiche, Nuts, apple
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You can pretty much buy beetroot all year round, but when using raw try to buy young, sweet beets with bright fresh leaves attached.

Ingredients

2 large beets, cleaned and cut in quarters
extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
25 ml sherry vinegar, plus extra
3 small beets, trimmed, well washed and thinly sliced on a mandolin
3 tablespoons, crème fraiche
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small Granny Smith apple
2 stalks celery, strung
1 lemon
1 handful of mint leaves, large leaves torn
1 handful of pale yellow celery leaves
100 grams blanched almonds, toasted, oiled, seasoned and crushed

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced or 200°C conventional.

Toss the quartered beetroots in plenty of oil, season with salt and pepper and dust with the cinnamon, spread on a tray lined with baking paper and roast for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little sherry vinegar. Place on your serving dish and distribute the sliced beetroot over the cooked beetroot.

Make a dressing with 25ml of sherry vinegar, 80ml of olive oil, the crème fraiche and diced shallot, season and mix. Julienne the apple and celery, squeeze over some lemon, toss together and pile onto the middle of the beetroot. Finish with the mint and celery leaves and the crushed almonds. Spoon over the dressing and serve.

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Roasted blood plums with brown sugar meringues, walnuts & double cream

serves 8 desserts
difficulty easy
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 2hrs 30mins (approx.) + cooling time
main ingredient(s) blood plums, egg whites, walnuts, Nuts, cloves, brown sugar
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This dish requires a little bit of prep time but the assembly couldn’t be easier, making it a perfect dinner party dessert.

Ingredients

Roasted plums
12 ripe blood plums, split and pitted
4 tablespoons muscovado or brown sugar
1 lemon, juiced
Brown sugar meringues
80 grams brown sugar, plus extra to garnish
4 large egg whites
100 grams caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, finely chopped
To serve
double cream

Method

For the plums, preheat an oven to 180°C fan-forced or 200°C conventional.

Place the plums in a ceramic dish and mix through with the sugar and lemon juice, then let sit for ten minutes, cut side down. Bake for 25 minutes or until the plums are fully cooked and starting to collapse. Drain the liquid from the plums and reduce on the stove until syrupy.

For the meringues, preheat the oven to 100°C fan-forced or 120°C conventional. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the 80 g of brown sugar into a bowl and set aside. Beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks then rain in the caster sugar in 3 lots, beating until the whites are glossy and thick. With the motor still running, steadily rain in the brown sugar, again in 3 lots, then mix for 5 more minutes on high speed.

Spoon teaspoon sized blobs of meringue onto the lined trays, leaving space between each. Sprinkle over the ground cloves, toasted walnuts and extra brown sugar and bake for about 90 minutes or until the meringues have dehydrated and are crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar until the meringues are quite cold.

Serve the plums in glasses with a splash of the plum syrup, a dollop of cream and the meringues on top.

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Panforte bianco with pistachios, almonds & cherries

serves many, as part of a feast
difficulty moderate
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 1hr (approx.)
main ingredient(s) Nuts, dried fruit, sugar, chocolate, honey
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The term cake is a bit of a stretch really as this panforte has less flour in it than you would normally dust a bench with. The classic chewy texture results from being bound with a mixture of honey and sugar brought to ‘soft ball’ stage before being mixed with the dry ingredients. Panforte is delicious any time of year and will keep extremely well. Make sure your dried fruit, nuts and chocolate are very high quality, a good result depends on it.

Ingredients

100 grams blanched almonds
55 grams plain flour
10 grams cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground fennel
1½ teaspoons ground white pepper
140 grams Australian dried apricots, cut in quarters
120 grams dried cherries
100 grams shelled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons Amaretto or Frangelico
100 grams high quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
100 grams caster sugar
200 grams honey
1 packet rice paper, to line tin (available from specialty food stores)
icing sugar, for dusting
extra cherries, pistachios and almonds and glacé cherries (optional) for garnishing

Method

Roast almonds in a hot oven for five minutes. Blitz almonds in a food processor until well chopped (about one minute).

Sift flour and cocoa together into a bowl. Add the spices, dried fruit, ground almonds, pistachios, liqueur and the chopped chocolate and combine well. Preheat oven to 125°C fan forced (145°C conventional).

In a saucepan over a low heat bring honey and sugar to 118°C (measure with a sugar thermometer, it will come to temperature quickly). Remove from the heat and pour straight over the flour, nut and fruit mix and combine quickly. The mixture will be quite stiff and hard to work, but persevere.

Press into a round loose-bottomed cake tin approx 20-22cm wide, lined with rice paper and well dusted with icing sugar. Flatten the mix so that it is evenly spread and then dust the top well with icing sugar. Decorate with extra almonds, pistachios and cherries. Bake for 25 to 30 mins, it will swell slightly but won’t brown. Once well cooled, remove carefully from the tin and slice thinly to serve.

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Baked spatchcock stuffed with spiced couscous

serves 4 mains
difficulty moderate
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 3hrs (approx.)
main ingredient(s) chicken, raisins, Nuts, carrots, eggplants
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To spatchcock means to partially debone and flatten a bird before cooking but in common parlance, spatchcocks are small young chickens, also known by the French term ‘poussin’.

In this recipe the baby chickens aren’t spatchcocked, they’re stuffed with a full-flavoured couscous mixture that keeps the flesh moist as well as tasting great. This dish is a meal in itself, with its own spicy, buttery juices and the vegetables roasted with the poultry. As always, I look for free range and organic chicken.

Ingredients

For 4
1 cup couscous
2 bunches Dutch carrots, washed and trimmed
90 ml olive oil
salt flakes
freshly ground pepper
4 small chickens, about 400 to 500 grams each (often sold as spatchcocks)
2 red onions, cut in half moons
6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/4 bunch thyme
80 grams golden raisins
3 tablespoons ras el hanout, plus a little extra
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoon caraway seeds
350 ml verjuice
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon preserved lemon, finely chopped
80 grams almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
60 grams cold butter, finely diced
8 baby black eggplants, optional
2 tablespoons honey
100 ml water
For 2
1/2 cup couscous
1 bunch Dutch carrots, washed and trimmed
45 ml olive oil
salt flakes
freshly ground pepper
2 small chickens (poussin), about 400 to 500 grams each (often sold as spatchcocks)
1 red onion, cut in half moons
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/8 bunch thyme
40 grams golden raisins
1-1/2 tablespoons ras el hanout, plus a little extra
1 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
175 ml verjuice
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon preserved lemon, finely chopped
40 grams almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
30 grams cold butter, finely diced
4 baby black eggplants, optional
1 tablespoon honey
100 ml water

Method

Pour the couscous into a medium bowl and add half the oil and salt. Rub the oil into the couscous. Just barely cover it with boiling water, then seal the bowl tightly with cling film and steam for 5 minutes. Run a fork through the couscous to fluff the grains.

Boil water in a large saucepan. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

Trim excess fat from the chickens, dry with paper towel and season the inside and outside by rubbing with salt.

To make the couscous stuffing, place a large frypan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic. Season with a little salt, add half the thyme and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are caramelised.

Add the raisins, ras el hanout, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds and fry on medium heat for 1 minute. Add half the verjuice and simmer for a minute or two then take off the heat. Grind in lots of pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice, then tip this mix into the couscous. Stir through the lemon zest, preserved lemon and almonds, then taste. It should be really full flavoured as this is a stuffing not a salad.

When the coucous mix is cool, add the butter and fill the cavity of the birds, packing the mix in very firmly.

Preheat oven to 200˚C.

Take a roasting dish that will fit the meat quite snugly and lay the carrots (and eggplants, if using) in the bottom. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with honey and top with the chicken. Sprinkle with extra ras el hanout, pour in the extra verjuice and the water. Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue roasting, basting the chickens every 10 minutes for a further 30 minutes or until golden. Remove and rest for 5 minutes before serving with pan juices, carrots and eggplant.

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Roasted plum, blackberry & almond cake

serves 10 desserts
difficulty moderate
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 40mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) plums, blackberries, Nuts
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Roasting the fruit first really brings out its flavour. Almond meal is used in the cake batter and flaked almonds add crunch to the baked topping, a little crunchy hit which really pushes this simple cake into special territory.

Ingredients

Roasted plums
400 grams plums, stoned and sliced in quarters
1 lemon, zested and juiced
60 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Cake
85 grams flour
85 grams self-raising flour
100 grams ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams unsalted butter
150 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
100 grams blackberries
Topping
30 grams butter
25 grams brown sugar
1 orange, zested and juiced
30 grams flaked almonds

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C.

To roast the plums, gently toss them with lemon zest and juice, sugar and the vanilla bean in a ceramic dish and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Roast for 15 minutes until slightly softened.

To make the cake, combine the flour, self-raising flour, almonds and baking powder. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients.

Spread the cake mix over the base of a lined 26 cm springform cake tin. Spread the roasted plums and the blackberries on top, reserving the juices. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked around the edge and still a little soft in the middle. Reduce the oven to 160°C.

Melt the butter, brown sugar, orange zest and juice and add the flaked almonds. Pour the mix over the cake and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve with a little reserved plum syrup drizzled over the cake.

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Ingredients

1.5 to 1.8 litres chicken stock
100 ml olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
salt
500 grams arborio rice
200 ml white wine
60 grams unsalted butter, diced
90 grams parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 lemon, plus 1 lemon, juiced
55 grams hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
100 grams ricotta

Method

Have the stock in a saucepan and keep it just off the simmer.

In a heavy, wide-based medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the oil, bayleaf, onion and garlic. Stir. Season lightly and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat every grain in oil. This is important to heat and seal the rice so you don’t end up with gluggy risotto. When the grains of rice are hot to touch, add the wine and quickly follow with a ladle of hot stock. Stir with a wooden spoon and then add a couple more ladles of stock.

Continue the process of stirring and adding stock for another 15 to 20 minutes then add half the butter. Gradually add the cheese, stirring. Check your rice: it should have a nutty centre. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, check seasoning, and let it sit for 2 minutes in the pot.

Put a small frypan on the heat and add the rest of the butter. When it’s melted add the nuts. Season and cook the butter until it is golden and smells nutty. Take it off the heat and add the lemon juice.

Serve risotto on plates and crumble ricotta over the top. Finish by spooning the nutty mixture over the risotto and serve immediately.

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Salted chocolate peanut cookies

serves 30 cookies
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 50mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) sugar, chocolate, Nuts, oats
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Ingredients

300 grams rolled oats
125 grams butter
60 grams smooth, salty peanut butter
125 grams caster sugar
125 grams brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt flakes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
125 grams flour
300 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped
185 grams salted, roasted peanuts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a food processor, blitz the rolled oats to a powder and set aside.

Cream butter and peanut butter with the sugars, then add the egg, spices, vanilla, salt and honey. Mix, then add the baking powder, flour and oatmeal and combine. Tip into a bowl and stir through the chocolate and nuts.

Roll into large walnut-sized balls (about 50 grams) and press to flatten a little. Place on baking paper and bake for 14 minutes. Flatten the cookies a little more when they come out of the oven.

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