Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Caramelised Chilli & Rosemary Nuts

You could toss any combination of nuts in this gorgeously sticky, spicy, crunchy glaze and the result would be equally or more wonderful.

I am mildly obsessed with finding the best recipe for this kind of warm, spicy nuts. I have tried a few different recipes but by far the best technique, I think, is to warm the sugar and spices in a large pan - the melted sugar bubbles and browns and sticks everything to the nuts, giving a good balance of flavour on every nut. Other recipes usually suggest warm butter to act as spice glue... but I find this always ends up in a big heap of butter and spice at the bottom of the dish. My way gives out crunchy nuts that are evenly coated - and suitable for storing in an airtight jar, ready for pulling out (and perhaps warming briefly on a baking tray) when visitors arrive. (and making you feel like a truly perfect hostess, despite the dust on the fireplace.)

500g mixed nuts - I buy these separately (macadamia, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts) - skinned. (To skin hazelnuts, toast in a low oven, then rub them in a tea-towel.)
2tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2tbsp brown sugar
2tsp Maldon salt
1tsp Chipotle chilli flakes
2tsp pink peppercorns (or 1/2 tsp black pepper)

Grind the salt, chilli and pepper in a pestle and mortar and mix in the rosemary. In a large pan, warm up the sugar slowly until it starts to melt on the surface. When at least half of it has melted, you can add the nuts. Toss quickly then sprinkle over the spice mix, and continue toasting in the pan until the sugar is caramelly and the nuts are starting to brown here and there. Tip into a bowl or baking tray to cool, then put into an airight jar. The sweet, salty, spicy combination is addictive!