Maple candied walnuts

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I love walnuts.  Perhaps this started with the grand old walnut tree in our garden when I was little.  When I wasn’t swinging from it or chasing the chickens that lived at its feet, I was happily crushing walnuts between concrete blocks so I could prise the nuts from their wrinkly little shells.  I still remember the pang of pride the day Mum put the mangled results in a small dish at the dinner table for everyone to share, even though the results of my efforts were mainly bits of concrete with the odd bit of bruised walnut flesh.

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So I felt a very lucky person indeed when I was offered some walnuts recently, still in their green casings.  Of course I jumped at the chance. One of the things I love most about walnuts is their versatility – they will happily partner with savoury or sweet, and can turn an ordinary salad or muffin into something that little bit more scrumptious and gourmet.

I fancied something autumnal and sweet, and after a little research settled on experimenting with candied walnuts spiced up with some maple and cinnamon, borrowing heavily from the caramelising talents of BraveTart who I have learnt from with my candied sugar experiments in the past.  And here’s how I got there:

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Ingredients:

  • 12 walnuts – of course whole is ideal, but I was whacking mine with a hammer to get them out of their shells and some where less than whole, which didn’t seem to matter too much
  • 12 toothpicks
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 4 T white sugar
  • 1 T water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

Put toothpicks into the walnuts.  They get their pretty little stalagmite-like shape from being hung upside-down, so I put a wooden board along the edge of the sink to hang them from and some baking paper in the sink to catch the drips.  I also prepared some strips of masking tape for taping the toothpick ends to the board.

Put all of the other ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, swishing the pan to stop it sticking.

When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns amber, put the pot on the wooden board.  Take each tooth-picked walnut in turn and dip it into the sugar, coating it generously.  Turn it upside down over the the sink so the caramel drips off.  Secure and tape the other end to the wooden board.  It may look a little like a Game of Thrones-style torture chamber for walnuts, to be honest.

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When the caramel has hardened and cooled, pull the toothpick out and you will have pretty little maple walnut teardrops to use as garnish or gobble up as is.  They are lovely with ice cream.

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Re-rising to my Edmonds Challenge: introducing broccoli with almonds

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You could be forgiven for thinking my Edmonds Challenge had gone off the boil somewhat…truth is, it had, and for that I apologise. But, dear readers, we are back on the boil, quite literally in fact, as today’s recipe includes broccoli, boiling water and a saucepan.

A while ago, I promised a run of almonds as I worked my way through almond recipes in the ‘A’ section of our national treasure the Edmonds Cookbook, and indeed they did as I grabbled with some new treats, including devilled almonds and almond biscuits.

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Today we greet the last entry in the ‘Almonds’ section, Broccoli with Almonds. And can I say, what a delight. Lightly cooked broccoli covered with lemony butter and toasted sliced almonds. Oh yum.

This happy marriage of food with butter and nuts has its own official culinary term, ‘amandine‘, which means food cooked with butter and seasonings and garnished with a sprinkling of almonds.

Edmonds’ own take on this delight, a ‘Broccoli Amandine’ if you like, is a little gem. Easy and tasty, it would be a classy and delicious accompaniment to any supper. I chose to accompany mine with a little brown rice for lunch and can report this was a very satisfactory pairing.

The recipe is below…enjoy.

Edmonds Broccoli with Almonds
500g broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Cook the broccoli in salted, boiling water until it is just tender.
In another saucepan, melt the butter and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Drain the broccoli.
Add the almonds to the butter mix and spoon this over the broccoli.

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Devilled almonds

I promised you that there would be more almonds to follow as part of my Edmonds Cookbook challenge, and I did not lie.  We now find ourselves at devilled almonds.

When you put your mind to it, there is a considerable number of food items prefaced by ‘devilled.’  Devilled eggs and devilled sausages, to name but two.  I also came across a recipe for devilled kidneys in my travels through the internet, which sound slightly less appetising.

Letting my imagination get the better of me, I surmised that the ‘devilled’ part of devilled almonds may refer to naughty, n’er do well-type almonds as depicted:

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The Oxford dictionary informs me, however, that ‘devilled’ means ‘cooked with hot seasoning.’   These little almonds are no exception, with a good sprinkling of chilli powder.  The essential ingredients for Edmonds‘ Devilled Almonds are:

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 cup of blanched almonds
  • 1/8 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

One begins by heating the oil in a frypan.  The recipe does not specify which type of oil one should use – I used plain old vegetable oil and it worked fine.

Then, add the blanched almonds.  You may recall I have had adventures with blanched almonds not so long ago – as discussed then, blanched almonds are naked, skinless almonds; their clothes removed through a boiling water process.

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Stir these almonds until they turn golden.  They smell delicious during this process.

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Remove the almonds and drain them on absorbent paper.  Combine the chilli and salt and toss the almonds in this mixture to coat them, adding more chilli if you so desire (I did).  Leave them to dry before use.

These little guys are scrumptious!  Really, how can you ever go wrong with fried nuts?  Not often, in my savoury-toothed world.  I think there is plenty of potential for some delicious variation with this recipe.  It would be delicious with some freshly ground pepper added, or some cumin and ground coriander.  I’m even wondering about the possibility of a little wasabi powder.  Varying the oil used could also yield bountiful tastiness.

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They would make a lovely little gift for the nut-lover in your life as they are quite pretty as well as delicious and look cute all done up in a jar.

Enjoy!  Especially with a cold beverage before dinner.

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