Rachel Allen

Ev­ery week, only in LIFE

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS -

We were driv­ing through Ma­jorca a few years ago on a lovely, sunny sum­mer’s day (as if there is any other kind of sum­mer's day in Ma­jorca). We found our­selves driv­ing past rows upon rows of trees laden with bril­liant-white blos­soms. Th­ese were al­mond or­chards, and the gor­geous flow­ers would soon give way to the green fruits with their de­li­cious, sweet ker­nels; nuts that have been trea­sured for mil­len­nia.

The al­monds we ate in Ma­jorca were so im­pres­sive: colos­sal, crisp and full of flavour. They have long been cul­ti­vated in the area and around the Mediter­ranean. Over the years, they have found their way in var­i­ous guises into all sorts of dif­fer­ent dishes in Mediter­ranean cui­sine.

I love to eat a few toasted, salted al­monds on their own, to re­ally savour the flavour, though I wouldn't say no to a chilled glass of fino sherry, too! The whole nuts are good in sal­ads, stir-fries or even chopped into soups.

When ground to a fine pow­der, al­monds make an in­cred­i­bly use­ful in­gre­di­ent. They can re­place the flour in cakes for a more moist and del­i­cate sponge. The Span­ish make a sim­ple al­mond cake that is a won­der­ful ex­pres­sion of the al­mond’s flavour, but my recipe on the op­po­site page adds choco­late for a richer take on the dish. It's also es­pe­cially di­vine with the sweet, boozy brandy cream.

Pear and al­mond is a clas­sic com­bi­na­tion beloved of both Ital­ian and French cooks. This tart is an es­pe­cially handy recipe, as you don't need to make pas­try. In­stead of pears, I also like to make this tart with two peaches — per­fect for a warm sum­mer's day. This no-pas­try tart uses ground al­monds as well as flaked al­monds, which are lightly browned in the oven to re­ally en­hance their flavour.

Of course, al­monds make for a fab­u­lous ad­di­tion to savoury dishes, of­ten com­bined with a lit­tle spice. This chicken dish is so easy to make and is handy if you're cook­ing for lots of peo­ple. The paste can be made a few days in ad­vance and kept in the fridge, or even in the freezer, where it will keep for up to three months. It makes for a re­fresh­ingly easy sup­per — just heat up the paste again, then add the chicken, lemon juice and co­rian­der. Serve sim­ply with boiled rice.

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