Ask Peter: Nuts
I have recently gone on a fructose-free diet and have found myself eating a various assortment of activated nuts. Do you have any ideas on what savoury dishes or snacks I can createor enhance by using nuts? Thanks, Stellar.
Activated nuts, thankfully, still seem to be viewed as a good idea — and it’s no wonder this so-called fad hasn’t waned.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, raw nuts (and they must be raw) are soaked in filtered water for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours. Some folk say you should add a teaspoon of salt per 300g nuts, others say it’s not necessary. I’d say add it. The nuts (which are simply the seeds of nut trees) are drained and patted dry, then slowly roasted at 65C until completely dried out again, which takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending on the size of the nut.
If you are going to do this yourself, you really do need to make sure you dry them out completely or you can run the risk of mould growing on them when stored, which is a definite no-no. If you were to try this soaking process with roasted nuts you'd find it fairly pointless as the initial roasting of the nuts, obviously done as a temperature above 65C, kills them. A raw nut is exactly like a seed from a tomato or lettuce — it’s naturally dried at a low temperature until desiccated.
The soaking of the nuts causes two things to happen, both of which are really beneficial to people suffering from various digestive system disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease. The germination process kicks off (as it does when you soak a tomato seed) which means that the starch and fibre present begins to convert into proteins and vitamins — essential for the seed to sprout and which we humans can more easily absorb. If ever you’ve eaten a 500g bag of nuts and wondered why you feel quite bloated, you’ll know what I mean.
Secondly, nuts naturally contain an enzyme inhibitor that unfortunately prevents us from absorbing all the benefits from such goodies. The water sucked up into the nuts dilutes this inhibitor, which is passed back into the water they are soaking in and when you rinse the nuts it’s washed away. It’s because of this soaking process that you can absorb more of the healthy fats and minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium. For vegetarians who rely on eating nuts to get a good proportion of their dietary protein, this is a blessing.
As to what nuts are good in — I have to say EVERYTHING.
- A vege salad benefits from walnuts, pecans and almonds.
- I like to add a handful of cashews to a beef or lamb casserole, and roughly chopped macadamias or brazil nuts to a chicken tagine.
- A salad of hot-smoked fish, potatoes and watercress is even better when some peanuts are added, along with some chilli and grated ginger in the dressing.
- Pulse blitz a handful of nuts briefly with some garlic, mint and coriander until a coarse paste, then mix into thick yoghurt with some lime or lemon zest and juice and use as a dip, or dollop it on to a grilled lamb chop.
- Roughly chop a mixture of nuts and sprinkle on to an omelette along with crispy fried bacon and chunks of avocado before folding in half.
- A generous amount of coarsely chopped nuts mixed into a coconut rice pudding served either hot or chilled, along with some berries, is really delicious.
Just one last footnote regarding nuts in general. Peanuts are not the seeds of nut trees found hanging from branches, they are in fact a legume, thereby related to the pea, and they actually grow in their pods under the soil. Just so you know.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.
Recipes to try
A selection of savoury dishes incorporating nuts such as cashews, macadamia and walnuts.