Nutbutter, with almonds and hazelnuts

Nut butters are another one of my favorite spreads as a topping on basically everything. Not only do they taste great, they are also incredibly easy to make because all you need is a food processor, nuts, and a pinch of salt. You can make many different varieties of nut butters such as peanut, almond, macadamia, cashew, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed butter or even a combination of different nuts and seeds. This time, I decided to combine almonds and hazelnuts, which has a slightly sweet taste despite not having added any sugar.

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Before you add your chosen nuts to the food processor, you should roast them in an oven as this will add more flavor to your nut butter. I managed to buy a mixture of roasted (but unsalted) almonds and hazel nuts, weighing approximately 380 grams. Now all you need to do is combine the roasted nuts and a pinch of salt in a food processor and blend on the highest setting for 7-10 minutes, depending on the strength of your food processor. In the interest of full disclosure, the last time I made nut butter, I actually managed to destroy my old food processer by overheating it…oops. After an emergency trip to the department store, I left with a Magimix 3200 XL, which has never let me down! So make sure that your food processor is up to the job and definitely do not attempt this in a regular blender.

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During the blending process, your nut “butter” will go through various different stages, so don’t be shocked if it doesn’t look quite right, it just takes time. The first stage, pictured above, is the breadcrumb stage.

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Next, it will look like the mixture is separating and forming two different layers. Again, this is normal; it will take time for the oils in the nuts to be released and become one mixture, so just keep blending.

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At this point, the nut butter will stick to the sides. Just take a spatula and fold it all back into the food processor.

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You’re almost there, keep going! The contents of your food processer is starting to look a lot softer and is nearly a spreadable nut butter. You may notice that your food processer starts to fog up a bit and the butter is getting warm. Again, this is fine and the oils are being released from the nuts and the nut butter is starting to form.

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Look at that smooth nut butter. It is now done, yum! At this point you should taste it and add some more salt –if necessary.

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The amount I made fit exactly in this mason jar and you can store it at room temperature in a cupboard.

 

Ingredients:

  • 380 g (approx.) roasted, unstalted almonds and hazelnuts (or any other nuts)
  • Salt (to taste)

 

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a good-quality food processor
  2. Blend for 7-10 minutes, or until a smooth nut butter has formed.
  3. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
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Plantains!

Over the past few days I have become absolutely obsessed with plantains! I first tried them a while back in Panama where they are served with almost everything! Plantains are native to tropical climates and are immensely popular in the Caribbean and Central America. In Panama, they were usually served as baked plantain chips, or fried, although they are also used as an ingredient in traditional meals. As a relatively lesser-known fruit, the plantain is essentially a banana but less sweet and generally larger. The key difference being that plantains are used as vegetables and therefore cooked, while bananas are eaten raw as fruits.

So while shopping in the supermarket the other day, I spotted them from afar -next to the yuccas and the other exotic fruits and vegetables- and couldn’t resist buying a couple.

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I cook these for breakfast by lightly frying them in coconut oil. They taste a bit sweet (but less so than bananas) and are more starchy, kinda similar to sweet potatoes.

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To remove the skin, cut the plantain lengthwise and then peel the skin off. Then, slice the plantain in approximately 1 cm thick slices.

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Heat coconut oil in a non-stick pan and fry the plantain slices until browned and then flip them over to the other side and repeat.

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Serve with some cinnamon!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large plantain
  • coconut oil
  • cinnamon

 

Method:

  1. Cut the plantain in slices.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a pan and cook slices until browned and then flip over to brown the other side.
  3. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Caponata

Caponata is a Sicilian dish that mainly consists of aubergines and a range of other ingredients. It is a great vegetarian main, but can also be eaten as a side (last night I ate it with some beef chipolata sausages). The great thing about Caponata is that it tastes delicious when eaten both hot and cold! Last New Years’ Eve, I made this for my family’s tapas boards, and it was eaten as a cold antipasto along with tortilla española (Spanish tortilla), cured meats, cheeses, olives, and bread. This is an easy one-pan dish and takes almost no time to make!

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Firstly, get three large aubergines, and roughly chop them into large cubes. Coat a large pan in a thin layer of olive oil and cook the aubergine cubes along with the oregano, salt and pepper. Cook until browned, which is approximately 5 minutes. Then, dice a red onion and finely mince or press three garlic cloves and add these to the pan. It is important to keep stirring or else the aubergine may stick to the pan and burn (which may or may not have happened to me once or twice…).

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When the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant, add a large hand-full (or two) of olives, and two tablespoons of capers. At this point, the aubergine has probably absorbed a lot of the olive oil in the pan, and if you feel that it is too dry you can add some more olive oil, but be careful because it could make the aubergine oily and heavy. Next, add 5 large roughly chopped tomatoes (I usually use vine tomatoes, as they are quite juicy compared to roma tomatoes). Then add three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and simmer while stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the skin starts falling off.

 

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While this cooks, toast about two table spoons of almond slivers in a dry pan, to use as garnish later on. Chop some parsley (flat leaved parsley is better but I only had the curly kind, and used that instead -if you do use curly parsley, use less than the flat parsley as it is stronger in flavor.) and use this as garnish together with the toasted almond slivers.

As I said before, it is great with chipolata sausages, but the cold leftovers are also super yummy.

 

Ingredients: (Serves 4 as main, 6 as side)

  • 3 large aubergines
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
  • salt and peper (to taste)
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 handfuls of green olives
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds (toasted)

 

Method:

  1. Cut aubergines into large cubes. Coat a large pan in olive oil and add the aubergine, oregano, salt and pepper and fry for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Finely chop a red onion and mince the garlic and add to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the olives, capers and cook while stirring for another minute or so.
  4. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and cook simmer for 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the skin starts falling off.
  5. Toast slivered almonds and chop parsley to garnish dish and serve.

 

 

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s: “Jamie’s Italy”.

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush (basically hummus, but then using aubergine/eggplant), is one of my all-time favorite dips! For those who don’t know, Baba Ganoush is a Middle-Eastern dip made from grilled aubergines, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. At the moment I’m supporting my mom on the Whole30 diet, which is more or less a Paleo-based diet,  I decided to make this aubergine-based dip instead of hummus, as chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are off-limits.

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Firstly, get yourself some large aubergines. I used three this time, but if they’re particularly small I’ll use 4-6 aubergines. You should then preheat the grill on the hottest setting possible. Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and place face-down on a baking sheet. Grill for about 10 minutes, until the skin is charred, and then turn over and continue to grill the other side until browned, approximately 5-7 minutes.

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The grilled aubergines should be soft, and once cool enough to handle, scoop the insides into a food processor with a spoon. If any of the purple skin comes off with the aubergine, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.

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Add the remaining ingredients: 2-3 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of tahini (light or dark, or a mixture of both), the juice of one lemon, and some salt (to taste). I used pink Himalaya salt, as I had it lying around the kitchen, but any salt will do. Then use your food processor until the mixture is smooth. I think it is very important to taste everything while you’re making it, just to make sure all the flavors work! So often I realise I’ve forgotten to add one of the ingredients, or haven’t added enough of an ingredient. So by tasting on the go, you make sure that nothing is forgotten and everything tastes great! And if you really like a garlic-y taste, or if you prefer having a stronger tahini flavor, feel free to add more (or less), and alter it to your own taste! Most Baba Ganoush recipes will include the addition of olive oil, but personally I don’t think that it needs any.

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Mmmmm so smooooooth.

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This dip is great with vegetable crudités such as carrot, celery, cucumber and sticks, or with  bell pepper strips, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, and asparagus spears. Its also great on wraps or on Middle-Eastern style breads! (although I can’t have any right now because of the Whole30 diet).

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Oh yeah, and I’m a bit of a messy cook sometimes….

Ingredients:

  • 3 large aubergines/eggplants (or 4-6 small ones)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp tahini (light or dark)
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 tsp salt

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven grill at the highest setting
  2. Cut aubergines in half lengthwise and place on baking paper and grill face-down for 10 minutes. Flip aubergines and grill for another 5-7 minutes until browned.
  3. Scoop the insides into a food processor and add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt, and blend until smooth.
  4. Taste for flavor and adjust if necessary!