Three reasons to go crackers forwalnuts
Awalnut is a wonderful thing. Every year a huge tree near my house in east London grows heavy with the beautiful green orbs of not-yet-ripe walnuts, and every year I plan on picking them while still green and pickling them. I’m yet to succeed — it’s a fleeting moment when the nuts are not yet developed and the whole thing, shell and all, is suitable for turning into that eccentric little black pickle so well loved by proper British cooks like the great Fergus Henderson. I keep missing that moment: maybe next year.
This year, though, I am very much enjoying the nuts in their conventional state, dried but full of oils and flavours of the forest floor, of
wine- laden cellars, apples, and indeed autumn in general. I always have a lot of nuts in the house: they are loved by my two small boys and I think of them as perfect energy-rich healthy snacks. So, of course, they often find their way into my cooking, adding flavour, crunch and protein to pilafs, salads and breakfast.
Granola is a great home for walnuts and I am quietly proud of this recipe, not least because I must admit to having pimped out shop-bought granola with cardamom and walnuts in the past. Granola lasts well, and is a thoughtful present to take with you if you’re going to stay with someone, even if you secretly plan to consume most of the gift yourself.
This walnut cake is a wonderful little recipe. It’s gluten and (potentially) dairy-free but, as always with my recipes, it doesn’t compromise on flavour. It’s dead easy to make too and lasts pretty well.
Walnut pesto sounds a bit like a desperately trendy recent invention. It’s not, it’s a wonderful classic recipe and is particularly good with fresh green pasta as here. It works almost as well with shopbought pasta, though I would advise going for a long pasta rather than a short one.
All too rarely do these delicious little nuts find their way out of the classic salads and run-of-the-mill cakes but if, like me, you always have them in the cupboard they are a great autumnal ingredient for all kinds of exciting recipes. If you prefer your granola on the sweeter side, add more honey. Makes 750g 60g/2½oz coconut oil (or olive oil) 180ml/6oz floral honey 200g/7oz whole oats 200g/7oz walnuts, roughly chopped 75g/3oz sunflower seeds 50g/2oz pumpkin seeds Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, ground 100g/3½oz desiccated coconut 150g/5oz dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/ Gas 2 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Combine the oil and honey in a small saucepan and place over a low heat until they have melted.
Combine the oats, walnuts, seeds and cardamom in a large bowl. Pour over the oil and honey and mix well. Spread out on the baking tray and season lightly with sea salt. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring in the coconut and sour cherries after 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, before breaking up with your hands. This is a nice, simple walnut cake my mum makes. It’s also gluten free and can be dairy-free if you leave off the chocolate, or can find vegan chocolate
350g/12oz walnuts 4 eggs, separated 225g/8oz soft brown sugar Zest of 1 lemon 50ml/2fl oz amaretto 50g/2oz dark chocolate, finely chopped, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ Gas 4 and grease and line a 24cm cake tin. Place the walnuts in a food processor and grind until coarsely ground, the texture of sand.
Whisk the yolks and sugar together until well mixed and fold in the lemon zest, ground walnuts and a teaspoon of salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk the whites until you have stiff peaks.
Add three tablespoons of the whites to the walnut mixture, then fold the walnut mixture into the whites. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, then place in the oven for 45-50 minutes until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and use a skewer to pierce a few holes in the top. Pour over the amaretto. When cool, sprinkle over the chocolate. If you have the time, this is improved by removing the walnut skins – you can do this by soaking them in boiling water. You can find marjoram at greengrocers or in Waitrose, but if you can’t get hold of it, use more parsley or basil.
For the pasta 700g/1lb 8oz ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting 3 eggs 4 egg yolks 4 balls of frozen spinach, defrosted, water squeezed out and finely chopped (or equivalent of fresh spinach) Semolina flour, to dust
For the pesto 1 garlic clove 300g/10½oz walnuts, shelled, skins removed A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped A bunch of marjoram, leaves picked and finely chopped 3 tbsp stale ciabatta breadcrumbs, soaked in 4 tbsp milk, plus extra if needed 2 tsp red wine vinegar 150ml/5 fl oz extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra, to serve 75g/3oz grated Parmesan, plus extra, to serve
Make a well of flour and a pinch of salt on a clean work surface.
Just like mum makes: my mother’s walnut and Amaretto cake, above, is simple to make; granola, top right, is a great way to start the day; walnut pesto, bottom right, is a classical recipe, not a trendy fad