Cooking Tips: Knowing about nuts
Removing hazelnut skins
Bake the shelled nuts on a tray in a hot oven or in a microwave until the skins split, or toast them under a hot grill, shaking occasionally. Rub the nuts in a dry cloth to remove the skins.
To get rid of the skins, slit the chestnuts with a sharp knife down one side. Place them in boiling water and bring slowly back to the boil. Drain and peel the chestnuts while they are still hot, and scrape away the inner skins at the same time.
If you have a microwave oven, slit the skins, place the chestnuts in an open container and microwave them on High (100 per cent power) for one or two minutes, stirring once. Return any which do not peel easily for a further 30 seconds.
The shells will crack more easily and you will be less likely to break the nuts inside if you give them several hours in the freezer before cracking.
Cracking a coconut
The easiest way to crack a coconut is to find its natural fault line. First pierce the eyes with a skewer or a corkscrew and pour out the liquid. Hold the coconut with one hand and turn it round while you tap
along the ‘equator’ with a kitchen steel or a hammer. Eventually a crack will appear. Keep tapping until the coconut breaks.
Place the nuts in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and pinch off the skins.
Freshly crushed almonds have a much better flavour than the ready-ground nuts sold in packets. Grind your own blanched almonds whenever you need them in a food processor.
Cooking with whole almonds
If you want the nuts to stay crisp in a cake or cooked dish, toast or roast them until light golden-brown first.