Three rea­sons to go crack­ers for­wal­nuts

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

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

Serves 8-10

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.

Serves 6-8

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

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