Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Nuts: Hamper project no. 5

To good food
and good friends

and the occasions

that bring them together

A dedication to the convivial nature of eating, elegantly composed by the authors of this little gem, Gifts from the Kitchen. It has seen quite a few grubby hands and busy kitchens in its time, hence looking rather dog-eared. My mother acquired it in the States in the '70s, when she'd decided to embark on homemade treats for Christmas hampers, and recently passed it down to me. You can buy a secondhand copy online. The illustrations on the title page, pictured below, suggest that it was once wrapped in a beautiful retro dust jacket, from which it has sadly long been separated.
We're both fond of these two nut recipes: one sweet and zesty, the other sweet and spicy, and both wonderfully easy to make. If you can resist nibbling them all as they cool, bag them up as gifts in cellophane and ribbon. Both will keep well in sealed containers for a couple of weeks.

Orange sugared nuts
The book suggests walnuts and pecans, but pecans alone seem to better complement the sugary-orange crust, and they caramelize beautifully.
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp grated orange rind (I use double the amount suggested in the book.)
Put all the ingredients in a heavy-based frying pan, and cook over a medium heat until the water has evaporated (about 8-10 minutes). Pour the nuts onto a greased baking sheet, separating them quickly with a fork, and leave to cool.

Spiced nuts
Adapted from the printed version, using a variety of nuts, and a slightly simpler method.
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb mixed nuts (leave out brazil nuts)
Preheat oven to 140C. Whisk the egg white with the water in a clean bowl until foamy, but not stiff. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, allspice, cinnamon and salt together.

Put the nuts in the egg white and stir to coat thoroughly, then add them to the spice and sugar mixture. Toss well.

Pour onto a greased baking sheet, and cook for 20-25 minutes in the middle of the oven, stirring the nuts every 5 minutes to prevent them burning. Leave to cool.

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