Toasting hazelnuts gives them an extraordinary depth of flavour, very nutty and toasty with an almost coffee-ish edge. Put them in a shallow ovenproof dish and toast in an oven preheated to 180°C (350°F) for 10–12 minutes, or until you can see the nuts have coloured through the burst skins. Tip nuts onto an old clean cloth, bundle up and rub vigorously to remove skins. They can be stored in a container once toasted, either in the fridge for several weeks or in the freezer for several months. They don’t freeze solid, so can be used straight from the freezer.
All nuts are nutritious, containing a range of minerals and vitamins, and a good amount of protein. Nearly all contain Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.
Most are high in fat, but fortunately it’s mostly unsaturated fat, the healthy kind that lowers harmful cholesterol (pine nuts contain approximately 34% fat of which 60% is polyunsaturated, 20% monounsaturated and 7% saturated; hazelnuts total fat 32%, and 10%, 79%, 7.7%; almonds total fat 28%, and 25%, 62%, 8%; walnuts total fat 34% and 69%, 18% and 8%, respectively).
Rancid nuts should be avoided because they can cause stomach and digestive upsets, and if eaten regularly will have a harmful toxic affect. Rancid nuts are easy enough to detect because they smell like ‘off’ butter (butter which has been left in the sun, or left for too long at room temperature), and will show signs of yellowing (most nuts when fresh are creamy-coloured). If any mould, traces of dirt or insect infestation is present, discard the nuts.
Nuts in the shell will keep fresh for up to a year. Whole nuts with their skins on will keep fresher for longer than blanched, sliced, slivered, chopped or ground nuts. Store nuts in an airtight container away from light either in the pantry or in the fridge. For longer storage keep them in the freezer and use them straight from the freezer; they do not need thawing.
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com