A professor I am not, but nutty I sometimes am. Chomping at the bit, many would be eager to challenge my admission of “sometimes”, keen to replace it with “all the time”, energetically (almost uncontrollably) claiming the latter is closer to the mark. Calm down! Remember your blood pressure and heart rate!
Anyway, those who dare dispute my assessment could very well be right, so I’ll zip my lip and not argue about what probably is a very fine point. I have to draw the line somewhere. I drew one once. It was a bit crooked, but I stepped over it. Some others followed, but I managed to lose them. In this case, I’m very happy with the status quo; I hope it remains.
When it’s all boiled down to the nitty-gritty (or the nutty-grutty) I’ve no other choice because I like being nutty, which is just as well. I’m not likely to change at this stage in my life. It is what it is; “I yam what I yam”, to once again quote my good mate Popeye. Being a nut adds flavour and flair to life. There’s nothing quite like a touch of nutty enhancement to liven things up a bit - improvement is nothing to be scoffed at. There is always room for improvement in every case.
I love nuts. I’m certainly not allergic to nuts; which again is fortunate because I very much enjoy being one.
Ever since I was child, which was eons ago, I’ve loved nuts of all descriptions.
Every Saturday night when leisurely window-shopping along Mary Street with our Nana after watching Gympie’s Scots Pipe Band march through the main street coming to a halt at Gympie’s Memorial Gates, on the return trip along the opposite side of the street, my brother and I bought sixpence worth each of boiled and roasted peanuts from Choy’s, an inviting shop run by a Chinese family. Graham has his own purchases, and I had mine. Our tastes – in food – were very similar. We enjoyed our Saturday night treats. Actually, we enjoyed our Saturdays...with the movie matinees in the afternoon ("pictures" as we called them in those years) and our Saturday nights window shopping, following the Pipers and buying (and devouring) our various goodies...always finished off at Webster's Corner store with a fresh fruit salad ice-block each!
In those days sixpence bought a worthy amount of the delicious peanuts. If we were flush with funds more than usual, we’d buy a shillings worth of each. The amount of our pocket money was dependent upon how many papers we sold to the corner store and/or how many empty soft drink and milk bottles we’d managed to gather in exchange for coins. Where possible we always paid our own way out of our own “earnings”.
I know peanuts are, in fact, legumes, but in some quarters they’re also known as groundnuts. There were times Graham and I even grew a couple of peanut plants in our own small garden plot just for the fun of it. It was fun watching the raw kernel sprout, and the process/progress from that point.
When I was a kid nuts such as Brazil, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and Queensland nuts (of which I am one) aka macadamias were available in their shells only; in their cases. (Perhaps that’s where the term “nut cases” originated....just a thought)! Every household had a nut cracker or two hanging about the place; and a hammer for use on macadamias. I still run when I see a hammer! Nut crackers were of no use whatsoever if you wanted to smash open a Queensland nut; only a hammer, a solid rock or brick would get the job done. We’re tough nuts to crack!
In 1961, as a 16-year old lazing and gazing on the beach at Mooloolaba, I was first introduced to roasted, salted cashews. Instantly I became addicted! I was a “goner” from that moment forth!
So much so the lifesaver – the fellow who introduced me to salted, roasted cashews – christened me “Cashew”. Fortunately, the name didn’t stick, but the addiction did! Not many girls were wooed by cashews, I’m sure!
To clarify - I fell in love with cashews, not the fellow. However, in saying that, he was a very nice fellow...a good friend.
At a restaurant in which I cooked back in the early Nineties a regular diner loved my peanut sauce which I made to go with an entree dish that was on my menu - Beef Satay. He loved it so much he asked if I’d make extra just for him. Always aiming to please the customer – particularly a regular who brought a lot of business to the restaurant - I used to prepare a special batch of the sauce just for him...to take home.
Along with fresh fruit, I eat lots of raw nuts. I've always a couple or more large jars filled with raw, mixed nuts; or empty of them if I’ve devoured my stocks. If the tide goes out on my nut supplies, my stress level rises. In haste, I must rapidly replenish my stocks before panic takes over.
The tide never goes out completely, though.
I only ever buy raw mixed nuts, as well as raw peanuts.
My local supermarket had a delivery mix-up, and for a couple of weeks their stock of raw mixed nuts was depleted. I almost had to be put into rehab; but, fortunately, I had enough back-up supplies here at home to see me through.
I’m a ‘back-up-supplies” kind of girl! Sometimes, I believe I run my own min-supermarket here at home. It’s very, very seldom I run out of anything – if ever. It’s just the way I am, and have always been. Working in commercial kitchens and managing island resorts added to my “habit”.
If I want roasted, mildly salted nuts I roast my own; and I always have a supply of those on hand, too. I also boil my own peanuts. I love boiled peanuts.
So you see – there is no point denying it - I live in a nutty household, with me being the biggest nut of all. No nuts are safe around me!
Now that I’ve professed all, I’ll crawl back into my shell.
Fruit & Nut Salad: Whisk 1/2c x-virgin olive oil, 2tbs red/white wine vinegar, 1/2c unsweetened pomegranate juice, 1tbs honey, 2tsp mustard, salt and pepper in bow. Put roughly-chopped lettuce, 1 sliced green apple/pear, 1/4c fresh pomegranate seeds, 1/2c chopped walnuts, 1/2c chopped dates, 1/2c dried cranberries and 1/2c crumbled goat cheese in salad bowl; toss with dressing. You can toss in some spinach leaves, if you like, and substitute blue cheese for the goat cheese, if preferred.
Macadamia Chicken with Pawpaw-Pineapple Relish: Whisk 1/2c soy, 1-1/2tbs brown sugar, 1tbs mirin, 1tsp minced fresh ginger, 1 minced garlic clove and 1tbs x-virgin olive oil. Season 6 boneless, skinned chicken breasts; add to marinade; chill 1h; turn occasionally. Combine 1c finely chopped macadamias and 3/4c panko breadcrumbs; put 2/3c plain flour in separate shallow dish and 3 large, lightly beaten eggs in another. Preheat oven 200C. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Dredge chicken in flour; dip into eggs; dredge in crumbs. Heat 2tbs olive oil and 1tbs butter in pan over med-heat; cook 3 breasts 4mins; turn, cook 3mins; transfer to oven pan; add a more oil and butter to pan; repeat process with remaining 3 breasts; bake in oven, 17mins or until cooked. Relish: Place 1c each diced pawpaw and pineapple and 1/3c sugar in saucepan; bring to boil, stirring; reduce heat; simmer uncovered, 20mins; stir occasionally. Serve with the chicken.
Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Cashews: Heat oil in wok; add 1 bay leaf and 1 finely chopped onion; fry until onion is translucent; add 1tsp pepper, 1/2tsp cayenne, 1c cooked, cubed sweet potato and 1c shredded coconut. Fry until aromatic; add 1tbs raisins/ cranberries, ½ raw cashews; cook approx 10mins. Mix in 1c cooked quinoa; leave on med-heat, 3mins. Eat!
Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce: If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water 1 hour before using. Cut 1kg beef fillet or quality rump steak into 1x2x3cm pieces. (Substitute with chicken thigh meat, if preferred). For the marinade; place 4 sliced finely stalks (soft part only) lemongrass, 1 chopped medium red onion, 1cm galangal, chopped and 2 sliced garlic cloves in a food processor; blitz until it forms a fine paste. Place into a bowl; add 4tbs brown sugar, 1-1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp dark, sweet soy, 2tbs ground coriander, 1tbs ground cumin and 4tbs peanut oil. Stir well to combine. Add the meat and stir thoroughly so as all the pieces are coated. Marinate overnight. Skewer the meat; barbeque or grill, continually turning so it doesn’t burn, until the meat is just cooked. Peanut sauce; place 2 medium, chopped red onions, 8 garlic cloves, 2cm piece galangal, chopped, 15 dried chillies, rehydrated and 2 stalks lemongrass (pale parts only) into a food processor; blitz to form a fine paste. Don’t be tempted to add water as this will make the paste difficult to caramelise. Set aside. Heat 150ml vegetable oil in a heavy based saucepan or wok over medium heat; pour paste in. Fry, stirring continuously to make sure the bottom isn’t catching, until there is very little steam rising from the sauce and it’s caramelising and has become aromatic. Be patient with this step as it’s vital for the onions etc., to be well cooked and golden before proceeding. Add 1c water; bring to boil. Add 1-2 tamarind paste, 2tbs fresh lime, 2/3c brown sugar, 1tsp salt and 250g salted, roasted, crushed peanuts. Bring to boil again; then simmer until thickened. Remove from heat; set aside till required. When you’re ready to serve, re-heat and stir through the remaining crushed peanuts (250g).
Pecan Biscuits: Preheat oven 160C (320F). In food processor, process until creamy, 125g butter, 2tbs caster sugar and 1/4tsp vanilla essence. Add 1 cup plain flour, sifted before measuring; process until well blended. Put mixture into a bowl; add 1c pecans, ground finely in a blender; mix well. Form into small balls; cook on buttered trays in oven, 20 minutes. Remove from oven; carefully roll gthe balls in icing sugar; return to the trays and bake for a further 20 minutes. Roll again in icing sugar; cool on cake cooler. Store in air-tight container.