The Gourmet Edit: Nuts About Food

March 1, 2016

The Gourmet Edit: Nuts About Food

Crunchy, salty and sometimes sweet; crushed and dusted over a cake, toasted and ground into a dukkah crumb or stirred through granola – nuts are incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking and they have wonderful health benefits to boot.

I was never one to use nuts when cooking, aside from in something obvious like a satay sauce, but once I started tossing a handful of cashews into my roasted vegetable, kale and feta salad, or coating a chicken breast in crushed macadamia nuts, garlic and herbs, my senses were introduced to new flavour combinations and possibilities.

Little did I know, this simple addition was also improving my heart health – Nutrition Australia recommends 30g of nuts a day to help you meet your daily nutrient needs and maintain your health.

So how much is 30g? Let’s break it down into individual nut varieties – 20 almonds, 10 Brazil nuts, 15 cashews, four chestnuts, 20 hazelnuts, 15 macadamias, 15 pecans, two tablespoons of pine nuts, 30 pistachio kernels unshelled, nine walnuts, or if you prefer to mix it up, two of each of the above 10 nut varieties equates to 30g.

While I often incorporate nuts into my savoury dishes, I love the taste of almond and hazelnut meal in cakes, and they’re a great adaptation to use instead of white flour (although it is higher in fat).

To make sure your cakes don’t fall flat, make sure you add one teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of almond/hazelnut meal when replacing self-raising flour.

With Easter just around the corner, I thought I would share my favourite carrot cake recipe with you, which you can impress friends and family with over the holiday season (or anytime of year) – just make sure the Easter Bunny doesn’t eat it all!

CARROT CAKE
Ingredients
Cake:
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 2 medium carrots, grated
– 3/4 cup caster sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 3 eggs
– 2 1/2 cups almond meal
Cream cheese frosting:
– 500g cream cheese
– 400g icing sugar
Method
– Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease the base and sides of your cake tin with olive oil or line with baking paper.
– Grate the carrots (I find it’s quicker and easier to pop them into a food processor) and place the carrot pulp in between a couple of sheets of paper towels to absorb the liquid – it’s important to do this as I forgot once and the cake mixture was too runny.
– Place the sugar and oil in a bowl and using a whisk, mix together. Then add the vanilla and eggs and mix until well combined. Fold in the almond meal and grated carrots.
– Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle).
– Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.
– To make the cream cheese frosting, place cream cheese and icing sugar in a large bowl and using an electric mixer, mix until smooth, or another tip for making silky smooth icing is to blend it in a food processor, it gets all the lumps out.
– Once the cake is cooled, spread the frosting over the cake using a spatula. You can decorate the top of the cake with crushed walnuts.

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