Tag Archives: nuts

Nettle Pesto

Nettle Pesto

It finally seems like winter has left the building and spring is making itself known in the trees, in the hedgerows and underfoot. The grass is looking greener, buds are starting to appear on the elder shrubs and one of the first of the season’s finest forage-ables are coming into its own: the stinging nettle!

Young nettle leaves are already popping up all over my garden and now is the time to get in on their bounty: nettles are best when they’re young as older leaves tend to be woody and somewhat tough when cooked. But the young leaves, once boiled, are soft, delicate and hugely versatile.

Nettles

Nettle Soup is one of the more popular options. Rachel Demuth at Demuths Cookery School has been making Nettle Risotto and Nettle Fritters, Hank Shaw has been getting his pasta on with Nettle Ravioli and Strettine. My friend, Kanna, has even made Nettle Cordial.

The first thing I’ll be making with my nettles is something to go the distance: Nettle Pesto, a versatile condiment that’s great with pasta, as a soup garnish, on bread… basically anywhere you’d use conventional pesto. And the recipe is completely open to variation. My recipe is a vegan pesto, using no cheese (the toasted nuts give it plenty of richness), but you’re free to add parmesan, pecorino or any other hard cheese as you see fit. You can also play around with the nuts – I love walnuts but hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews or a mix are also terrific with this.

You can also combine the nettles with other herbs like parsley, basil or wild garlic (more foraging!) to make a mixed green pesto.

As to picking nettles, remember, they sting so use gloves and a carrier bag. Blanching the nettles gets rid of their stinginess so until you’ve blanched them, keep those gloves handy!

Nettle Pesto

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of nettles
  • 100g walnuts, toasted
  • 1 garlic clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 150ml good olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First, prepare the nettles. Wash the nettles then drop them in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the nettles and place immediately into a bowl of ice water to shock and cool.
  2. Squeeze out as much liquid from the nettles as you can (they will no longer be stinging!) then roughly chop.
  3. Put the walnuts and garlic into a food processor and process until finely chopped – but still with some granular texture.
  4. Add the nettles and blitz again to chop the leaves, then begin trickling in the oil, while the processor runs. Stop when you have a sloppy purée.
  5. Taste, season as necessary with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Store in the fridge – if you completely cover the surface of the pesto with oil so all air is excluded, it should keep for a couple of weeks.

This post also appeared on Great British Chefs.

Christmas Granola with Orchard Cottage Apples

Christmas Granola with Orchard Cottage Apples

So it’s that time of year when I get a little obsessed with homemade gifts and seem to wind up putting cinnamon and nutmeg into everything. I’m lucky to have an orchard, and so most of my gifts are inspired by that, and the hedgerows that surround it. Jam, chutney, sloe gin… you know the drill. But this year, my very generous friend, Kanna, loaned me a food dehydrator, glamorously named “The Excalibur”, which has taken my apple preserving – and my gift giving – to a whole new level.

Dehydrated Apples

Right about the time I’d amassed my third mountain of dehydrated apples, a neat kitchen-y thing arrived at my doorstep: this nifty recipe box from Instaprint, along with recipes from ten groovy foodies (including me and my recipe for Pear and Avocado Smoothie).

Christmas Granola with Orchard Cottage Apples

Flipping through the recipes, I came across Karen’s Maple Almond and Pecan Granola with Blueberries which instantly inspired me to create something similar with my apple stash. I liked the heavy dose of pecans, the wintery spices and the coconut action. And I really liked the idea of doing something OTHER than jam and chutney for my DIY Christmas presents this year.

Christmas Granola with Orchard Cottage Apples

I didn’t change much from the original recipe. I used honey instead of maple syrup and dried apples (plus a few dried cranberries) instead of blueberries.  I kept the dried apple pieces really big and left the pecans whole. I love the crunchy rustic-ness of it all. And I love how it smells! Just like Christmas. 

Christmas Granola with Orchard Cottage Apples

Christmas Granola with Apples, Almonds and Pecans

  • 125mls honey (use maple syrup or similar to make this vegan)
  • 25g Demerara sugar
  • 30mls rapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 400g jumbo oats
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 100g whole almonds
  • 100g pecans
  • 100g dried coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I use Maldon)
  • 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice (or ground cinnamon if you prefer)
  • 150g dried apples and cranberries

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Line three large roasting tins or trays with baking paper.
  2. Pour the honey into a large bowl and then add the sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Mix well before adding the oats, mixed seeds, almonds, pecans, coconut flakes, sea salt and mixed spice.
  3. Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients together so that all of the dry ingredients are coated in the the maple syrup and oil mixture.
  4. Spoon the mixture over the paper lined trays so that is is evenly spread and in a single layer. Bake it in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes or so and giving it a good stir. Make sure it doesn’t burn!
  5. The granola is done when it’s toasted to a light golden brown colour. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool completely before mixing in the dried apples and cranberries.
  6. Store the granola in airtight containers and use within 3 to 4 weeks.

Homemade Larabar Recipes

DIY Lara Bars

Or “Laraballs” as the case may be. In case you’ve never seen them, Larabars are raw snack bars made with dried fruit and nuts. It’s a pretty simple formula that results in an amazingly tasty snack. And unlike many snack bars, they aren’t full of weird ingredients. In fact, most Larabar packages will list only two ingredients on the package: dates and nuts.

Last year I came into possession of a box of dates that I didn’t know what to do with. I’m not a huge fan of dates on their own – I find them too sweet – but since it was Christmas time, I thought I’d turn them into by making homemade Larabars (aka “Monibars” or “Moniballz” depending on the form facator). With a food processor, these things are a cinch – and they’re tasty!

Making MONiBARZ

If you Google ‘homemade Larabars’, you’ll find loads of recipes and limitless flavour combinations, but these are the ones that worked the best for me (my personal favourites are Banana Bread and Cocoa Mole):

Cashew Cookie

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup dates
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

Ginger Snap

  • 8 oz. dates, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cloves
  • 4 1/2 oz. almonds
  • 3 1/4 oz. pecans

Banana Bread

  • 1/4 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup dried banana (Trader Joe’s sells these as “Nothing But Banana, Flattened”, or you can follow Oh She Glows‘ method for drying your own)
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds

Cocoa Mole

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/16 tsp cayenne pepper

Cherry Pie

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

The method for making any of these is the same:

  1. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they’re crumbled into small bits, but not completely ground into a powder.
  2. Remove the nuts and put the dried fruit and any spices into the food processor. Pulse a few times so that the dried fruit forms a sticky goop.
  3. Put the nuts back into the food processor and pulse until everything comes together.
  4. Shape into balls or squares using your hands or a square container as a mold (see below).
Tips:
  • If your food processor isn’t doing a good job of goop-ifying the dates, try a blender on low speed.
  • If in step 3 the mixture doesn’t seem to come together, turn off the food processor and use your hands. Squeeze the mixture and see if it comes together that way. If not, you might need to add another date or two to the mix.
  • Try to get good, soft dates. The dates from Medjool.co.uk worked well, as did these Natural Delights Dates. Both were sticky and squishy to touch. I’ve used other dates that were almost smooth and hard on the outside – these didn’t work so well in the food processor and I had to use the Vitamix to goopify-them.
  • It helps to wet your hands before shaping the bars / balls.
  • All those people who take pictures of their Larabars (or other bars) artfully stacked and tied together with cute little ribbons must not live in the real world. Wrap them up individually in cling film or wax paper so that they’re practical and easy to transport.
  • The bars are easiest to shape by using a container lined with cling flim. Push the fruit-nut mush into the container, then remove and slice into whatever size you like:

Making MONiBARZ

Making MONiBARZ

I prefer “bars” to “balls”, but my mom likes the balls because they’re bite-sized (I won’t read further into that).

The nice thing about these DIY Larabars is that they keep for ages so they’re handy to stash in the car or backpack as an “emergency snack”. They’d also make perfect high-energy portable treat to take on long hikes or bike rides: a good excuse to go trekking if you ask me.

Thanks to these helpful sources: Tastebook, Oh She Glows, So I Married a Chef, edible sound bites, This Chick Cooks

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast

Pistachio & Cranberry Veggie Roast

I’m back in Chicago for Christmas and have been happily very busy, mostly with things involving food. As I’ve written previously, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect veggie roast. Thanksgiving was good practise – and great fun – but Christmas adds an extra layer of “special” since I’ll be spending it with my family.

The veggie loaf I’ve settled on is this Pistachio and Cranberry “Nut Roast”, adapted from Anna Jones’ recipe in the Jamie Oliver magazine of all places. But I really do love it. She bills it as a “nutroast”, but there’s a whole lot more going here – a risotto-style base of barley (or arborio rice), mushrooms, cheese, pistachios of course, plus lots of Christmassy herbs like rosemary and sage. The best part, though, is the cranberry “glaze” on top that makes it actually look pretty appealing, rather than just a vomitty-colored lump of congealedness on a plate. Plus, cranberries are great with pistachios. And cooking the rice in a risotto-like manner with white wine, wild mushrooms and porchini mushrooms gives the loaf that super umami flavour that you really need on Christmas.

I made this for the Thanksgiving crew and everyone enjoyed it. I’ve adapted it slightly to include lentils for added texture. A slice of this veggie roast requires cashew gravy and, if you’re me, my aunt’s killer cranberry chutney.

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast
 

Ingredients
  • A small handful of dried porcini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 90g risotto rice or pearl barley
  • 60g puy lentils
  • 100ml white wine
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 200g mixed wild mushrooms
  • 100g pistachios, toasted
  • 100g almonds, toasted
  • A handful of breadcrumbs from sourdough or ciabatta
  • 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 225g ricotta cheese
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sprigs each of sage, rosemary and thyme, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 200g fresh cranberries

Instructions
  1. Cook the puy lentils in boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the risotto base: Soak the dried porcini in a little boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Cook for a minute or so until you hear it snap, crackle and pop, then add the wine and stir until absorbed.
  4. Drain the porcini, sieve any grit from the liquid and add this to the risotto pan, stirring until absorbed. Finely chop the porcini and add to the pan.
  5. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring each one in until it has been completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir as much as you can – this is what will make it creamy. Once the rice is al dente (when you break into a grain, it should be almost cooked through but still have a white fleck in the middle), transfer to a bowl to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Fry the wild mushrooms in a little olive oil over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes, until they are just starting to crisp. Bash the nuts into coarse pieces, or quickly pulse in a food processor.
  7. Once the risotto has cooled, add all other ingredients except the sugar and cranberries, season, and mix well.
  8. Butter a 20cm loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Cook the sugar and the cranberries in a pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, then tip into the tin and spread evenly. Pile on the nut-roast mixture and pack it down with the back of a spoon.
  9. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. Once it’s golden brown on top, remove the nut roast from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes.
  10. Use a knife to loosen the tin, then place your serving platter or board on top. Cover your hand with a tea towel and flip the whole lot over, then carefully lift the tin off. Serve with cashew gravy and all the trimmings.

 

Image credit: Many thanks to Emily for snapping the above picture on Thanksgiving. A very happy moment captured!