Tag Archives: nuts

Crunchy, tasty, sweet and salty.

3 Mar

I’m one of those people who likes their sweets to be slightly salty.

Tasty homemade snack bars

Tasty homemade snack bars

I don’t cook with a lot of salt, preferring to use herbs and spices. I’ve bought into the ‘fact’ that too much salt is bad for you. However, there was a credible article in the Sunday Times the other week, highlighting new evidence which showed that the low sodium diet was as damaging as the high sodium one. My father has always just tipped the salt pot upside down and sprinkled it liberally over his plate, often then creating a small salt mountain on the side of the plate to dip forkfuls of food into. He’ll be 95 in a couple of months, so his super-high salt diet hasn’t exactly limited his life too much.

Anyway, although I like my sweets salty, I’m less keen on my savoury dishes being too sweet. I’m not a big fan of putting fruit into a stew or casserole. My exception is good redcurrant or rowan jelly with a roast meat. Or a not-too-sweet apple sauce with roast pork.

But back to the salty sweetness. When I was in the US last year, with a work colleague, we discovered Nature Valley’s Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bars. It was love at first bite for me. They aren’t available here in the UK, although there’s a huge variety of similar products. But I can’t be trusted in a sweet shop, so have to confess I haven’t tried terribly hard to find a suitable substitute.

I hadn’t thought of making my own. Why hadn’t I? I must be entirely mad.

Anyway, once the thought came to me, I flicked through all my recipe books and scoured the internet for the perfect sweet and salty crunchy nutty bars. And then I adapted. This isn’t entirely true. I can’t lie. What really happened is that I came across a recipe on Half Baked Harvest’s blog and decided it was time to get experimenting. This recipe is adapted from hers. It is the perfect crunchy, sweet, salty, nutty snack. But it’s not as healthy as eating an apple, so although they are addictive, try to ration them.

Crunchtastic sweet and salty nutty bars

  • 250g / 3 cups porridge oats
  • 35g / 1 cup rice krispies (or any puffed rice cereal)
  • 40g / 1/4 cup roasted salted nuts (peanuts is fine, but mixed nuts would work just as well)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g honey
  • 130g peanut butter
  • 30g butter or coconut oil (I prefer to use coconut oil these days)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F or GM4. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking tray with greaseproof paper. Leave an overhang of paper over one long side of the tin (to make it easier to remove the bars later)

  1. Mix porridge oats, krispies, nuts, salt, and bicarb of soda in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre
  2. Put the honey, peanut butter and butter (or coconut oil) in a small pan and warm gently till all the ingredients are melted
  3. Add the vanilla
  4. Stir the melted ingredients till they are all combined into a sweet and goopy sauce
  5. Pour all this melted mixture into the well in the centre of the dry ingreds.
  6. Stir well to combine it all together. Try to make sure there are no dry bits left in the bowl
  7. Pour this into the prepared tin. Get a big metal spoon (or a metal measuring cup) and lightly oil the back of it, then use this to press all the mixture down into the tin
  8. Put in the oven and bake for about 20 mins, or until golden brown. Watch out, it can go from perfect to ‘slightly burnt’ quite quickly.
  9. When you take it out of the oven, try to slide the whole lot out of the tray onto a heatproof surface, and then walk away from it for at least half an hour. (I’m only telling you to do this so that you don’t end up trying to cut the bars when they are still in your baking tray, and you end up ruining your tray, with knife scores across it)
  10. Once it is cool, try to cut it into pieces. You’ll need a sharp knife, and some of it might crumble a bit. Any extra crumbs left, pour into an airtight pot and use for sprinkling over yoghurt, or ice cream or in a crumble.
  11. Keep the bars in an airtight tin, for as long as possible. You may need to put them on a very high shelf, out of your reach. Or to give them to friends.

Suggested adaptations – you could add dark chocolate chips, or dried fruit (cranberries, chopped up apricots, raisins). Or desiccated coconut. Or, cinnamon would be nice, Or chopped dried apples, with some cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and some ginger. You could probably replace the honey with agave syrup, or golden syrup, although I’m not sure why you’d want to do that.

And apologies if you don’t have digital weighing scales. I was old-school for YEARS, but bought a digital set recently (so I could weigh out my 7g of yeast to make home made bread) and it has entirely changed how I bake. Just pop the bowl on the scales and add the next ingredient. Easy peasy. They’re not expensive and take up hardly any room in your cupboard. Isn’t it time to treat yourself?

Want to find more of my recipes? Take a look here: Shewolffe’s Recipes. If you like this, you’ll probably like my salty nut brittle, but go see what else is in there.

Sweet and salty nut brittle

18 Jan

Is salted caramel still on trend? A couple of years ago it seemed to be everywhere. And I was happy. I love that combination of sweetness and saltiness. I adore peanut butter, adore it even more on hot buttered toast with marmite. Or incorporated into a sweet with chocolate and a biscuit base.

So, a simple salty, nutty caramel brittle is pretty much the perfect sweet to make. And it turns out it was pretty much the perfect home-made Christmas present to give to nephews too! (Although obviously not for you, if your nephews have nut allergies).

Salty nut brittle 

  • 340g mixed nuts, preferably not salted. The type of nuts doesn’t really matter, but why not buy a bag of peanuts, of brazil nuts and pecans. Or hazelnuts, and macadamia and almonds. Whatever you prefer.
  • 400g sugar. Ordinary granulated sugar is fine, or you could use caster, or golden caster
  • 120mls water
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Maldon sea salt (there are other brands, but please use a good quality salt in flakes, not ordinary table salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / GM 4
  2. Spread the nuts onto a big baking tray, as big as you’ve got – you’re aiming to get them into a single layer, if possible
  3. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 8 minutes, give or take. You’re looking for a golden browniness, not burnt.. and there’s a relatively short window of opportunity between the two. To make it easier in a minute or two, pour the nuts onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper or kitchen foil, or a bowl (this is so that you can QUICKLY pour them from whatever receptacle they are in, into a pan of hot hot hot caramel later on). While you’re at it, get another sheet of greaseproof paper, and line the baking tray with it, and leave to one side. You’ll need it soon.
  4. Now put the sugar, water, butter and golden syrup into a heavy based saucepan, and gently heat, stirring till the butter is melted and the sugar has all dissolved.
  5. Pop a sugar thermometer into the pan, and leave it in there while the mixture heats up to the boil. Keep it boiling, and stir occasionally if you can’t stop yourself
  6. Keep an eye on that sugar thermometer, and as soon as it reaches 150C (which incidentally is between ‘soft crack’ and ‘crack’ on my thermometer) take it off the heat, and quickly stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
  7. It should all swoosh up a wee bit which is exactly what you want it to do. Work quickly – pour in the nuts and stir them in. And then pour the whole lot out onto a baking sheet, with a piece of greaseproof paper on it
  8. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture nice and thinly … but not TOO thin
  9. Sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes
  10. And now walk away for a while. Leave it be. Come back when it’s cool
  11. Break it up with your hands and store in an airtight container. Then hide it somewhere you can’t reach, just to save yourself from eating more than you really should

I popped great big shards of this into kilner jars as Christmas present this year, and they went down a treat. If the shards had been smaller, I might have considered dipping them in chocolate to add to the sugar-salt-nut treatiness. It wasn’t required, but just imagine it enrobed with lush dark chocolate. Mmm.

For more recipes, go to my index here.

 

Nibbles

4 Dec

Are we counting down to Christmas yet?  I am.  In my house, that means practising various recipes to make sure they are up to scratch as Christmas gifts.  And today is nibbles testing.

First off were some cheesy sesame biscuits, which aren’t yet in the oven (they’re doing that resting in the fridge thing, so beloved of pastry-type goods). They were ridiculously easy, and have persuaded me of the value of my food processor.  I’ve owned the food processor for bloody years.  It usually lives on a shelf, just out of reach, under the stairs.  I last used it when I attempted one of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals.  He likes to use a lot of gadgets and I knew if I wanted to be in with a chance of having two courses served up within 45 minutes the food processor would be needed. I actually would have needed two, but that’s another story. It was delicious!

But back to the cheesy sesame biscuits.  They are from my new favourite cook book: Ham, Pickles & Jam by Thane Prince.  It’s a glory of a book – full of reminders of (mostly lost) traditional kitchen skills, like preserving with salt (gravad lax and preserved lemons in this section) and drying (oven-dried tomatoes and beef jerky here).  Sadly most of the drying recipes require a dehydrator, so I may take a while before I get to testing that section.

Oh my, now that I’ve brought the recipe out again to type it up, I see I’ve omitted a key ingredient in the biscuits (how can I do this when there are only 5 ingredients?).  Read on and you’ll see.  And you’ll see my adaptation too.

Cheesy Sesame biscuits

  • 4oz SR flour, or use plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder.  Gluten-free is evidently best, so that is what I have used
  • 3oz butter
  • 3oz blue cheese ( I used a distinctly average dolcelatte from tesco’s but would like to try this with some oozingly yummy gorgonzola next time)
  • 3TBsp parmesan, grated
  • 2-3 TBsp sesame seeds
  1. Place all ingredients except the sesame seeds in the bowl of your food processor and whiz, using short bursts of power, till it combines to make a dough (I forgot to add the parmesan, thinking it was going to be part of the sesame coating at the end… ooopsie)
  2. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / GM7 and grease or line a baking sheet
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll cherry-sized pieces of dough into balls
  5. Roll the balls in sesame seeds (or for me, the mix of sesame seeds and parmesan) and place on the greased baking sheet.  Make an indentation in the centre of each ball with your thumb, or a teaspoon
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack
  7. Perfect with an aperitif!!!  A nice wee sherry I think.

So… I clearly failed that recipe, but I suspect they will be tasty all the same. While the dough has been in the fridge (and I’ve made our Christmas cake, and lunch) I also made some spicy nuts.  Also from Thane Prince, but to be honest I went a bit off-piste with this recipe too, which I think is the whole point of this one.  But, if you want to make your own roasted spicy nuts, here you go:

Roasted spicy nuts

  • 250g nuts (I used a mixture of cashews and blanched almonds)
  • some olive oil
  • 1 tsp raw egg white (not sure this is entirely necessary)
  • 1 TBsp salt flakes – use the best quality salt you can find
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and finely ground

Preheat oven to 150C / 300F / GM2

  1. Drizzle some oil on a baking sheet
  2. Place the nuts on a single layer on the baking sheet
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, till a pale golden brown
  4. While they are in the oven, use a teeny tiny whisk and try to whisk up the wee bit of egg white, really just to break it down a bit
  5. And use a pestle and mortar to grind the salt and mix with the cumin. I went off-recipe and just threw some cayenne pepper in with the salt once I’d ground it a bit with the pestle and mortar
  6. As soon as the nuts are out of the oven, turn them in the egg white, which is meant to turn them glossy.  I didn’t notice any glossiness, but it doesn’t seem to have done any harm, and I had a spare egg white from the biscuits I made yesterday, so that was ok.
  7. Once you’ve tossed your nuts in the egg white, throw the salt and spice mix over them and toss some more.  The flavours will dry on as the nuts cool
  8. Keep in an airtight container, unless you are eating immediately with drinkies.  More sherry I think!

I suspect that both of these will end up as Christmas gifts. Further copies of the book might too, if books are allowed in our homemade Christmas again this year.

Next weekend I’m baking a ham. Any suggested recipes or just general ideas for what to do gratefully received (and brutally altered to fit whatever I have in the cupboard and what mood I’m in).

later…

OK… I baked the cheesy sesame biscuits and they are just scrumptious! They are light and crumbly, and have a great blue cheesy flavour, with that typical ‘back’ flavour that comes with a strong blue cheese.  Make them!  they are delicious,  and would be even nicer with a wee glass of something to accompany them.  Pictures will follow.

A few days later… and here is a promised picture.  OK, I know I promised pictures, but you’re just getting one for just now.

Nummy nibbles

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