Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s double chocolate pecan praline cookes: ‘I always have space for pecans, tender and mild and luscious with anything sweet.’ the Guardian
When sat in a lecture, nibbles are always great to have at hand so as I’m on a budget making some delicious treats seemed like a wise idea. After being to the dentist and being told I was to wait a good month before I start chopping on my favourite gorge of nuts mix, I felt that about now was the right time to pix those bad boys back into the shopping basket. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall creation of this wonderfully tempting trio which i perfect for roasting, toasting and sharing as the days draw in.
Still we have to appreciate the fact Hazels are a big favourite right now. The nut, with a mild bitterness that gives it great versatility which is Fab with fruit, hazels are also very good with vegetables: try them scattered over roasted roots or crushed into the breadcrumb topping of a gratin supply a great nutritional balance to any diet.
Almonds are another standby: delicate, subtly sweet and mildly milky, their full character is revealed by toasting. They’re excellent flaked, as a crunchy topping on cakes and biscuits, and over spicy savoury dishes. Left whole, lightly toasted and given a slick of olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper and a pinch of sugar, they’re addictive nibbles. Some people who reject almonds are shy of the pungent flavour that characterises marzipan and amaretti biscuits, but that distinctive taste in fact comes from an extract of bitter almonds, which are toxic. The sweet almonds we use never have more than a hint of that flavour, and often none at all.
Cashews, which are sweet, shaped like cartoon commas and about as soft as a nut can be, these make the perfect, tender foil to crisp, bitter leaves such as chicory or pungent flavours such as garlic and chilli. I always keep a space, too, for big buttery brazils (I love them dipped in dark chocolate) and pecans, the gentlest of the group, an entry-level nut, tender and mild and luscious with anything sweet.
A great healthy alternative for the oily olive oil is nut butters and the new vogue rice milk for those who are interested in new sweet but healthy options to making a diet still tasty and results successful. A recipe great for homemade nut butter wholesome mixtures that can be whipped up in minutes: put 200g nuts (raw or lightly toasted) in a food processor with a pinch of salt and whizz until finely chopped; add a tablespoon or two of rapeseed, sunflower or coconut oil, and process to a creamy paste. (You can sweeten it with honey or sugar, but I rarely do.)
Ready-shelled nuts are inarguably convenient, but shell-on ones often have the edge in terms of freshness and flavour. Nuts are rich in oils, and exposure to light will eventually turn them rancid, so keep in a cool, dry, dark place (even the freezer) and, with the help of today’s recipes, use them up quickly.
However have a go at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s nutty recipes:
Double chocolate pecan praline cookies
Use dark chocolate, and these taste really quite grown-up; milk or white chocolate gives a sweeter result with after-school appeal. Makes about 20.
- 125g soft, unsalted butter
- 175g soft brown sugar
- Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod (or 1 tsp good vanilla extract)
- 150g plain flour
- 25g cocoa
- 1 tsp baking powder
- large pinch of salt
- 1 large egg
- 100g dark, milk or white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- About 20 pecans, to finish
- For the pecan praline
- 100g caster sugar
- 75g pecans, roughly chopped
Start with the praline. Line a baking sheet with nonstick parchment paper. Put the sugar in a heavy-based pan (with a light-coloured base, so you can see the sugar change colour) and put on a medium-low heat. After a couple of minutes, it will start to melt at the edges. Shake and swirl it gently as it starts to liquefy (you can stir it a bit, but be restrained, else it may crystallise). By the time all the sugar has melted, some of it will be quite brown. Keep cooking for a minute or so, swirling gently, until all the syrup has turned a rich caramel colour. When it reaches this point, take it off the heat, stir in the chopped pecans and tip the lot on to the parchment-lined tray; take care because the caramel will be extremely hot. Leave to cool and set, then coarsely chop the praline.
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, add a tablespoon of this to the butter and sugar mix, together with the egg, and beat smooth. Add the remaining flour mix and work it in with a wooden spoon, then work in the praline and chocolate.
Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the baking trays, shaping them roughly into rounds and leaving plenty of room for spreading (bake in batches, if necessary), and press a whole pecan into the top of each. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and leave on the tray for about five minutes, so they firm up a little, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Apple tart with hazelnut pastry
The addition of ground hazelnuts makes sweet pastry deliciously short, and their subtle nutty flavour complements the apple beautifully. Serves six to eight.
For the pastry
Apple tart with hazelnut pastry
- 50g skin-on hazelnuts
- 175g plain flour
- 25g icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 100g cold, unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 egg, separated
- A little cold milk (or water)
- For the apple purée
- 1kg cooking apples
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
- For the topping
- 2 large eating apples (about 300g)
- 25g butter, melted
- 15g soft brown sugar
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the nuts on an oven tray and roast for five to eight minutes, until the skins split. Put in a tea towel, rub to remove the skins, leave to cool, then chop very finely in a processor.
Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly to combine (or mix in a bowl). Add the butter and process (or rub in with your fingers), until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the nut mix, then work in the egg yolk and just enough milk or water to make it come together in clumps (no more than about two or so tablespoons).
Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 23cm-base diameter tart tin, letting the excess hang over the edge. Line with baking parchment and baking beans, place on a baking sheet and bake (still at 180C) for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans, and bake for 10 minutes more, until lightly golden. While still hot, brush with a little egg white, to seal it. Trim the excess from the edge.
Peel, quarter and core the cooking apples. Slice them into a saucepan, add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and put over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook briskly for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples have broken down into thick purée. Leave to cool a little.
Spread the apples in the pastry case. Quarter and core the eating apples, cut into slices and arrange in concentric circles over the purée. Trickle over the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake (still at 180C) for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold, with clotted cream, crème fraîche or plain yoghurt.
Carrots with almonds and cumin
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s carrots with almonds and cumin: ‘Very good with fish or chicken.’: Guardian. Very good with fish or chicken, and I love it with hummus and flatbread, in which case I often add some segments of orange and a squeeze of orange juice. Serves six.Carrots with almonds and cumin
- 500g carrots, peeled and sliced about 4mm thick on the diagonal
- 100g whole, blanched almonds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the carrots, cook for five minutes, until tender, then drain.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Toast the almonds, tossing frequently, until golden all over. Transfer to a mortar. Toast the cumin in the same pan for a few minutes until fragrant, add to the almonds, then lightly bash. Put the still-warm carrots in a bowl, add the nuts, seeds and oil, season, toss, transfer to a platter and serve.
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