What’s Cooking? Almonds!
Almonds are believed to have originated in regions in western Asia and North Africa but the Romans referred to almonds as the "Greek nut" which gives rise to the idea the Greeks were the first to cultivate them. And it’s little wonder they were keen to have a ready supply of these crunchy but buttery nuts which make a healthy and tasty addition to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Almonds are actually stone fruits related to cherries, plums and peaches - the seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. But be they seed or nut, almonds are concentrated in protein. A small handful contains more protein than an egg.
Don’t be scared off by their high fat content. Frequent nut eaters are thinner on average than those who almost never consume nuts - and they’re less likely to gain weight than those who avoid them. Almonds lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin after meals leaving you less likely to feel hungry and meaning they are great for diabetics too.
They are also brilliant for heart health having a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels. The flavonoids in almond skin contain vitamin E to reduce the risk of heart disease. The phosphorus in almonds helps build strong bones and teeth. And riboflavin and L-carnitine boost brain activity and may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re not a fan of the flavour of the nuts but want to include more almonds in your diet, almond milk is something worth stocking up on. It contains more nutrients than other dairy milk alternatives and contains the benefits found in the nuts themselves.
Why not try Lisa’s Almond Milk
Preparation time: 20 mins (Soaking time 2 days or overnight)
- 200g almonds with skins or without
- 2 pints cold water
- (enough water for covering almonds when soaking)
- 3-4 dates, pitted
- 2 tsp. Sweeteners like honey, sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup, to taste, optional
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (optional)
- Soak the almonds overnight or up to 2 days with enough water to cover they will plump as they absorb water
- Let stand, uncovered, overnight or up to 2 days (the longer the almonds soak, the creamier the almond milk)
- Drain and rinse the almonds from their soaking water and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water
- Combine the almonds and 2 pints of water in a blender
- Blend at the highest speed for 2 minutes then pulse the blender a few times to break up the almonds, add the dates then blend continuously for two minutes
- The almonds should be broken down into a very fine meal and the water should be white and opaque. (If using a food processor, process for 4 minutes total, pausing to scrape down the sides halfway through.)
- Line a strainer with either the opened nut bag or cheese cloth, and place over a tall measuring jug, pour the almond mixture into the strainer
- Press all the almond milk from the almond meal, gather the nut bag or cheese cloth around the almond meal and twist close
- Squeeze and press with clean hands to extract as much almond milk as possible (Oh, and don’t forget to keep your almond pulp on hand! There’s no use in wasting any of that goodness…)
- Taste the almond milk, and if a sweeter drink is desired, add sweetener to taste together with the vanilla bean paste if required
- Store the almond milk in sealed containers in the fridge for up to two days
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