Sunday, 13 January 2013

Christmas nuts, and a recipe for the use of the same

I grew up in a household where we did not eat nuts. Both my parents were allergic to nuts and there was a suspicion that my sister and I would also develop nut allergy if we ate them so there was to be no nuts in the house. I never really spent much time thinking about this – it was just the way things were, and in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s it was actually not too hard to avoid them.

My paternal grandparents (“farmor och farfar”) always had a bowl of nuts out at Christmas time. I should perhaps not say bowl – it was a low and wide breadbasket, woven from strands of birch bark and rendered a dark colour from much use and love. A mix of nuts would be laid out in this bowl, to be munched by my not-so nut allergic cousins. I did find it fascinating to see when others grabbed the nut-cracker and cracked the shell of some of those nuts. My young self observed that there always seemed to be mainly hazelnuts left, their shiny exterior almost reflecting each other like moist pebbles in the sea surf. But despite my fascination I never touched the nuts.

It is only in the last two or three years, since farmor and farfar have passed away, that nuts have become something of importance for me to have in my own home at Christmas time. I buy the nuts, and with a vintage nut cracker picked up at a flea market in Sweden a few summers ago I display those nuts on my sideboard, or with bowls of citrus fruit and chocolates on the coffee table. The only thing is that although I now eat nuts, I never seem to get stuck in with cracking them, despite having ample supply. Now that Christmas is long past I came up with a recipe for using up some of the left-over nuts.

Linguine, and brightly coloured walnut and rocket pesto. Photo: Helene Frössling

Walnut and rocket pesto for two

10-12 walnuts in their shells, or around 70 g of ready-shelled ones
50 g of rocket
50 ml rapeseed oil (cold pressed)
one small garlic clove
a lemon, for squeezing

Crack and shell the walnuts left from Christmas. Toast in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes, taking care to not burn the nuts. If you can be bothered, rub off the skins while the nuts are still warm. I personally think it is worth the effort as the skins can be a bit bitter.

In a mini chopper, chop up around 50g of fresh rocket. Add the toasted walnuts, and chop more until it is coarsely chopped and mixed. Add in around 50ml of rapeseed oil, a crushed garlic clove, and a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice (say from half a small lemon). Taste to see if you need to adjust any of the quantities. There shouldn’t be a need to season.

To serve, cook pasta according to instructions. I like linguine for its ribbony-ness and twirlability, but do pick your pasta of choice. When the pasta is almost done, reserve some of the cooking liquid – around 100ml or so. Drain pasta quickly in a colander, and return to the saucepan straight away – the more of the cooking liquid that comes along the better. Slowly stir in the walnut and rocket pesto, and add a little of the cooking liquid to loosen up. Sprinkle over finely grated parmigiano reggiano (I prefer freshly grated there and then, but if you are of the type that like to buy ready-grated, use that. Just stay way from the powdery, dried stuff!) and stir a little bit more. Dish up the pasta on warmed plates or in bowls, and sprinkle over more grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, a little drizzle of rapeseed oil and a turn or two on the peppermill. 

No comments:

Post a Comment