Autumn is my favourite season, and the best part about it is the hazelnuts.
I only became a convert to hazelnuts when we discovered the mature tree in our garden. My previous experience – mostly in muesli – was that raw hazelnuts tasted soapy. I expect this is a result of the processing they get in Turkey, where industrial quantities are grown. The nuts I see in supermarkets look like they have been through some sort of brick-rumbling process.
By contrast, our own locally-grown filberts are wonderful. My husband dedicates himself to the task of shelling the entire harvest, which is a relief to me because when I try I usually sustain an injury. We leave the papery skins on, but they come off easily enough when blanched, if that’s what you prefer.
Our favourite way of eating hazelnuts is oven-roasted and still warm. They are easy enough to roast – just spread them on a tray, put them in the oven at 180oC and shake them occasionally over about 15 minutes. They get very hot so I don’t advise trying to eat them immediately.
We have a handful each as a pre-dinner treat, which seems to work particularly well if followed by an all-vegetable main course. No matter how many nuts we collect, we always make sure to reserve a decent bowlful for roasting at Christmas – they are that special.
Ground hazelnuts go well in sponge cake, but in my opinion the best use of hazelnuts in baking is for a multi-layer hazelnut meringue. No dairy, no flour – just egg, sugar and hazelnuts, with perhaps a chocolate water ganache in between each layer. Delicious.
Sadly, this year a neighbouring squirrel discovered our tree as well, so I had a running battle with it for the entire month of October. Perhaps next year I will have to supplement our harvest with some Kentish cobnuts.
Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.
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