Walnut

Walnut

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The walnut has a long history; the Romans considered it the nut of Jupiter, and food fit for the gods. Native to Persia (Iran), walnut trees were introduced to Rome by the Greeks, and Roman legionaries carried the nut with them to England, where they soon became established. Later, however, many trees in both Europe and England were cut down to satisfy the demand for walnut furniture. Walnuts contain a very high proportion of oil, and walnut oil is much sought after, especially for salads, where it imparts a mild but distinctive taste. Because of the high oil content, however, it is difficult to make cakes with ground walnuts, in the same way as with ground almonds.

There are countless uses for walnuts, both sweet and savoury. Try walnuts with a blue vein cheese, especially Roquefort; add walnuts to a salad of cos (romaine) lettuce; make a Waldorf Salad with walnuts, celery, apple and mayonnaise. Walnuts are combined with meat and chicken in Chinese cooking, and can be added into the stuffing for quail or other birds. Ground walnuts form the basis of several Middle Eastern sauces for cold fish or poultry.

Honey and walnuts make a superb combination in biscuits and desserts; in Greece, yoghurt is often served drizzled with honey and then topped with walnuts. Dates, raisins and other dried fruit go well with walnuts, and delectable caramel and chocolate fudges can be made with walnuts. Young green walnuts are sometimes pickled in a spiced vinegar, after first soaking in brine, and may be served with cheese.

To blanch (peel) walnuts: Walnuts are usually used unblanched, but for a few dishes such as Walnut Soup, the skin should be removed. Cover the shelled nuts with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Take nuts one at a time from water and use a sharp knife to peel off as much skin as possible. It is a time-consuming job. Peeled walnuts are also available in tins or from Chinese food stores.

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