Cooking with Almond

Cooking with Almond

An edible nut mentioned in the Old Testament, the almond is probably native to the eastern Mediterranean. It is much prized in the Moghul style cooking of northern India with its Persian influence. Almonds are eaten fresh, used as a base for fudge-like candies, ground into a nourishing beverage and used to thicken sauces in braised meat dishes like korma. They are also made into rich, creamy desserts such as creamed almonds.

Since they do not grow well in the tropics and prefer the cold climate of Kashmir and Afghanistan, their lavish use is confined to northern India. In other parts of Asia, cashews and other nuts take their place.

Purchasing and storing : Make sure almonds are fresh by purchasing from a vendor whole stock moves quickly. If buying more than you will use fairly soon, store in the freezer to keep them sweet and fresh, because nuts, being high in oil content, are likely to go rancid if left at room temperature through summer months. Almonds are available in their shells, natural (shelled but with the brown inner skin left on), blanched (skin removed) either whole or in halves, slivered, flaked (sliced), chopped or ground. Never has a nut been easier to purchase in whatever form you may wish to use.

Preparation : Natural almonds have more flavor than blanched ones, but when blanching is necessary it is quite easily done by dropping the almonds into a small pan of boiling water for 1 minute, then draining and plunging into cold water. Press firmly on the skins and the almonds will pop out. If not using at once, dry thoroughly, but it is recommended to blanch almonds only as you need them.

Freshly ground almonds are nicest, but this depends on your having the time and the requisite appliance to grind nuts. High-speed electric blenders are not very successful as they make the almonds oily. There are small, quite inexpensive nut graters which do a good job, and some of the larger appliances have fine graters which work well.

Medicinal : High in protein, almonds are looked upon as nourishment, not merely a treat. During hot weather in India, a cool almond drink is considered as sustaining as a meal, and mothers with school children who are sitting for examinations make it a point to serve this drink to them, for it is supposed to nourish the brain. The traditional way of making it involves much pounding using mortar and pestle.

Almond Recipes -

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