Tag Archives: hazelnuts

Leek and butter bean soup with crispy kale and bacon.

This is a lovely soup. What I also love about it is that you can leave the bacon off and it instantly becomes veggie/vegan. It’s stuffed full of probiotic-friendly leeks. It’s from the BBC Good Food magazine.

You need

4 tsp olive oil

500g leeks sliced

4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked

2 x 400g cans butter beans

500ml vegetable stock (or chicken if you like)

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

half a small packet of flat leaf parsley

3 rashers of streaky bacon

40g chopped kale, stems removed

25g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

You do

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan, add the leeks, thyme and seasoning and  cover and cook over a low heat for 15 mins until soft, adding a splash of water if need be – don’t let the leeks stick.

Add the butter beans with the liquid from the cans, the stock and mustard. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 mins until hot. Blend with a stick blender in the pan (or put in a blender). Stir through parsley, check seasoning.

Put bacon in a large frying pan, medium heat. Cook until crispy, set aside to cool. Add the remaining 1 tsp oil to the pan and tip in the kale and hazelnuts. Cook for a few minutes, stirring under the kale is wilted and crisping at the edge and the nuts toasted. Cut the bacon into small pieces and stir into the kale/nuts.

Reheat the soup, adding a bit of water if too thick (or have both operations going on at once) and sprinkle the bacon/nuts/kale on top.

Sonia’s Swiss crescent biscuits

Growing up, my mum made friends with a woman called Sonia, who worked in the dry cleaner’s kinda opposite our flats. The dry cleaning would be wrapped in this lovely navy blue paper, the like of which we seemed to have at home for years afterwards (I guess she gave us some).

We didn’t have a car, growing up, but we used to go out with Sonia and her husband, who drove a red VW Beetle. We would go to the airport and watch the planes take off, in the days when this was still possible. We also went to Windsor castle. I loved our trips out as they were the only car-trips out we had as children. (This isn’t meant to sound sad, we went to Italy a lot and I had a great childhood.)

I have a picture, of us at Windsor castle, me with a right sulk on (I peed on my mum’s lap on the way home, I think I might have done it on purpose, the shame), wearing a very flash red coat and a rabbit fur hat, Sonia and my mum looking really glamorous, but in a totally nonchalant way.

One of the things Sonia used to bring with her were these amazing little hazelnut crescent biscuits. She would have them, layer upon greaseproof-paper layer, in a tin, and as you opened the tin, the smell of them – they were coated with vanilla sugar – would hit you. They were not like any biscuits we could buy, or that my mum made.

Because they were so occasional, they were especially delicious. Sonia also used to bring  a flask of coffee, which I would drink (I was an early caffeine drinker).

When I was seven, my mum and dad opened up a coffee shop on London’s Bayswater Road. I started making cakes and biscuits for my dad’s shop. I started baking. I tried to recreate Sonia’s biscuits but I never could. For some reason I didn’t dare ask her for the recipe, or perhaps I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to make them less special.

Occasionally, these days, I will go to my mum and dad’s house, and Sonia will have been, bringing with her a box of her special biscuits. And just opening the lid of the biscuit tin (she always brings them in a biscuit tin) will transport me back to being a very little girl, sitting in a red VW Beetle, watching planes taking off, treading that fine line between showing my appreciation for her biscuits and eating a fair few, but not toppling over into greed. It’s still a line I struggle with balancing on.

The other day, I saw Sonia and I plucked up the courage to ask her for the recipe. I don’t know why it’s taken me four decades to do so. Amazingly she had it written down (none of that “oh I do it from memory”) and she gave it to me, and, here it is:

250g plain flour

200 butter, unsalted, fridge cold

100g ground hazelnuts (I buy the chopped, toasted version and then grind them, it really makes a difference, but you can use pre-gound hazelnuts or almonds, but it won’t be *quite* as good as if you toast and grind them yourself)

80g icing sugar

5g vanilla sugar (Sonia says you can buy these in little packets but I leave this out and just add a tablespoon of vanilla essence)

Pinch of salt

Caster sugar for after (vanilla sugar if you have it)

In a food processor, pulse the butter and flour until like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, salt and nuts and then pulse until it comes together in clumps. Don’t over mix. It will work out I promise. Of course you can do this all by hand, but I’m lazy.

If you’ve made it in a processor take it out now and, by hand, bring the mixture together. Chill for 20/30 mins.

Preheat oven to 190C

Take small bits and roll into crescent shapes. I weigh each one to make sure I don’t end up with tiny/huge biscuits, roll into sausage shapes and taper the ends, curve into crescents. If you’re interested, I do them so mine weigh about 21g in raw dough.

Put on a parchment lined trays and cook for 10 mins. Cool and then coat in vanilla caster sugar if you have it, (I put a vanilla pod in a jar of normal caster sugar and just keep it there for, like, ever) normal caster sugar if you don’t.

Then don’t eat four whilst you’re writing a blog post, because that will make you feel really, really sick.

Store in a biscuit tin, each layer interleaved with greaseproof paper.

(Sonia calls these traditional Vienna biscuits but as she’s from Switzerland, I call them Sonia’s Swiss crescent biscuits.)

Pear and Hazelnut cake

I am a fiend for cutting recipes out of magazines and filing them in big Muji PP document files, which I then mark things like ‘Puddings’ or ‘Everyday’ or ‘Christmas’. People who come to visit look at my bookshelves and I know they think I’m bonkers. I AM bonkers. But, it does mean I have custom made books.

And it was in such a book, called ‘Cakes’ that I found a recipe I’d cut out years ago. Most unassuming it was and by the lovely Nigel Slater. It involved pears. I’m usually a bit suspicious of people who say, when I ask them what sort of cake they’d like me to make them, “something with fruit in it”. I think a cake is a cake and if you want fruit, eat fruit. But there are exceptions, of course, and this is one of them.

And it is an exceptional cake. I must have eaten half of it all by myself which is really rare for me. I customised it by using:

a) ready toasted and chopped hazelnuts which seemed like such a luxury it made me feel quite heady. Because my packet came in 100g, I then scattered 20g of the chopped hazels onto the crumble topping and…

b) the cake calls for 165g of flour and I substituted half of that wholemeal, adding a quarter teaspoon of baking powder as the wholemeal flour I have is plain.

c) I also used about 40g of wholemeal in the crumble topping. The cake didn’t suffer for it at all. By that I mean it didn’t become overwhelmingly worthy. But I do like to avoid 100% white flour cakes if possible. The thought of adding wholemeal flour may scare, but as long as you don’t overdo it and do it in appropriate cakes – i.e. NOT ones like Victoria sponge – then it just adds a lovely dimension to your baking and a good flavour.

This is lovely warm, with cream. It reheats easily with a ten second blast per slice in the microwave. I don’t know why it’s so addictive exactly but it is. A superior cake. Eat it and cry gently.

 

 

Hazelnut and truffle gelato (aka Ferrero Rocher ice cream)

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A few weeks ago, we were all up and needing to watch something suitable for all the family that wouldn’t be too scary or sexual or violent. We stumbled upon a food channel and there was a woman on there doing the top ten Italian favourites in this country. Or some such.

Anyway. I’d never seen her before – she was called Michela Chiappa. And she was so sweet and happy and we all ended up completely entranced by the programme, and her. And later on, I made much of what was on her show, too.

One of the things she made was this Baci and hazelnut gelato. Baci by Perugina are very famous Italian chocolates, not easy to find here. They are a hazelnut, a-top some praline and then coated in plain chocolate. I love them and whenever I go to Italy I buy some and bring them back. You can get them here (do a search) if you really want to use them, but they tend to be quite pricey when you do, so you can, as you’ll see in a minute, use alternatives.

Anyway, Michela made this baci and hazelnut ice cream, the recipe for which is here. It’s egg free and you don’t need an ice cream maker. Double joy if you can’t eat the former and don’t have the latter.

It isn’t how I usually make ice cream. As you can see if you go to the sub-groups over on the right and search for the Ice Cream section, almost all the ice cream I make has totally fresh ingredients in, like fresh eggs, cream, milk etc. This gelato of Michela’s uses condensed milk, which is a processed product.

But you do need to make this ice cream at least once because it is amazing. Like frozen chocolate mousse. I didn’t use Baci I used Ferrero Rocher, which were lovely but messy to chop up and put in. You can see from the comments below the original recipe that lots of people have also had the idea of substituting Ferrero Rocher (and I thought I was being so clever). But I have also since made it (because, ahem, this has become a bit of a favourite ice cream in this house and one that everyone loves) with these Monty Bojangle Roasted Hazelnut Truffles. And the result was amazing and the chocolates are much easier to chop up than Ferreros. Whatever you do use, however, I would recommend it’s a soft chocolate, not anything hard which would affect the eating of this ice cream.

Be warned. I never usually gorge myself on ice cream but it’s too easy to do with this. So here, slightly adapted, is the recipe.

500ml double cream

A can of condensed milk (397g)

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

50g cocoa powder (I use Green and Black’s)

100g hazelnut truffles, Baci, Ferrero Rocher etc, chopped up

100g hazelnuts

2 tablespoons of icing sugar

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Put the 100g hazelnuts and the icing sugar in a frying pan and constantly stir on a medium to high heat until the hazelnuts are brown and the sugar caramelised. This takes me about five mins. Watch it so the hazelnuts don’t burn. Chop the hazelnuts so that you get a few chunks and a few fine bits.

Put the condensed milk, double cream and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk. As it’s about to form into soft peaks, add the cocoa powder. The thing you have to watch is that you don’t whip the life out of the cream before you’ve added the cocoa.

Now all you do is add the caramelised hazelnuts and the chopped up chocolates, stirring through gently. I save some, as suggested in the original recipe, to sprinkle over the top of the ice cream before you put it in the freezer.

That’s it. Put in in the freezer for as long as you can bear before having some.

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Home made Nutella

Not the most amazing pic but it’s real life home made Nutella-type spread in a jar, look!

I know this doesn’t look good; two consecutive posts concerning chocolate.  There is tons of other stuff I could be writing about, I’m just not very fired up about them though. And as this is a blog, and I’m not being paid, it has to be a bit enjoyable for me.

In Italy Nutella comes in glass jars you can use, when you’ve scoffed the lot, as glasses to drink out of. They come in pretty patterns. I think you could get them here at one point too, but I don’t see them anymore.

I used to eat Nutella out of the jar, on a spoon. I can’t believe this now as I find it quite disgustingly sweet. The ads sell it to you as having slow release energy thanks to the 1.5 hazelnut you get in every serving…we have Nutella in our house but I loathe it now. It’s laden with sugar.

So when I saw Annie Rigg’s book about Edible Presents and saw there was a recipe for Chocolate and Hazelnut spread in it, I jumped.

You probably can do this without a food processor, but I don’t.

Makes 1x 450g jar

75g blanched hazelnuts
100g 70% cocoa chocolate
100ml condensed milk
1-2 tablespoons of hazelnut oil
a pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons of hot water (if you even need this much)

The recipe asks for you to use sterilised jars. I use them straight out of the dishwasher, if it’s good enough for Nigella, it’s good enough for me.

Toast the hazelnuts; you can do this in an oven or in a dry frying pan. Until they’re golden. Cool slightly and then  grind to as smooth a paste as you can get in your food processor.

Melt the chocolate, condensed milk and hazelnut oil, very gently, in a saucepan. When the chocolate has melted and it’s all mixed up nicely, pour this into the food processor, add the pinch of salt (I always use ground up rock salt in sweet things) and blend. Add as much hot water as you need to give it a thick, spreadable consistency. Don’t panic if, like me, you see it has gone really runny. It firms up in the fridge. That said, you shouldn’t overdo it, I’m just saying don’t go into a tizz if you have (you can always use it as super luxurious ice cream topping if it does go wrong).

Spoon into a jar and keep in the fridge. Rigg says it keeps for up to two weeks. I doubt it will last that long.

Now, I didn’t want to interrupt the recipe further up, with my tales of hazelnut essence, but I bought some from Bakery Bits.  I was wary because, unlike the excellent other ‘essences’ I have from there (Aroma Panettone and Aroma Veneziana are exceptional) which have natural oils in them, the ingredients listed seemed decidedly un-natural. Stupidly I thought it was like extract of hazelnut or something (this is probably impossible to do). Anyway, the jury’s out on whether it’s nice or not but my verdict is: disappointing. Its aroma is rather synthetic and artificial. I liked it at first, but you need to go really easy on it as it can become very overpowering; and I’m not sure I’d use it again. My partner’s nose is far more sensitive and he found it overwhelming.

This recipe doesn’t call for essence of any kind, but because I had it I added a few drops – about four. My seven year old loves this spread but says it’s too ‘hazelnutty’ which is probably accurate. I think this essence is good for when you really need to convey ‘this is made of hazelnuts’ without actually adding that many real nuts and that isn’t the case for this spread, or anything I’m likely to make.

This spread is, anyway, delicious and whilst still not a health food, is a damn sight healthier than shop-bought.

Mmmmm. Eat on toast, or on a croissant or straight out of the jar with your fingers.