The almond tree is a native of the east Mediterranean and has been cultivated in southern Europe and West Asia for many centuries. Today it is grown in almost all warm climates. Spain and Italy are particularly large producers.
The fruit of the almond surrounding the nut is tough, fibrous and edible when it's ripe, but when it is still young and the stone is soft, it has a pleasantly sour taste and is often eaten as a local delicacy. Sweet and bitter almonds are the two basic varieties of almonds.
Nutritional and medicinal properties
Almonds are extremely nourishing and have long been valued as a good muscle and body-building substance. They are high in fat, carbohydrate and protein and their calcium content is particularly valuable for building children's teeth and bones.
Now for some recipes using almonds.
Blanch and skin as many large almonds as you require. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sweet almond oil over each 240 gms prepared almonds. Bake at 110 degrees C for 45 minutes until the almonds turn pale gold. Have a large piece of grease proof paper ready scattered with 1 tablespoon coarse rock-salt. Turn the almonds on to this. Mix them well and leave for a few hours.
Before serving, shake off any excess salt and sprinkle just a little cayenne pepper over the nuts.
Flour – 230 gms
Sugar – 115 gms
Butter – 115 gms
Egg yolks – 2
Almond essence plus a few almonds
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Milk, if necessary
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add a few drops of almond essence. Beat the eggs and add it with the flour. The baking powder must be mixed with the flour. Work up with the hand into a slightly stiff paste using a little milk if necessary. Roll out rather thinly. Stamp it out into small rounds with a cutter and place them on a greased and floured tin. Bake in a moderate oven until a golden brown colour. After the biscuits cool, brush them over with a mix of egg white and sugar. Sprinkle with the almonds which should be chopped and browned. Return to the oven for a few minutes to dry.
Almond Ice Cream
Milk – 2 cups
Sugar - 115 gms
Egg yolks -4
Egg whites – 2
Beat the egg yolks and mix in the sugar. Bring the milk nearly to boiling point. Take it off the fire. Add it to the egg mixture stirring all the time. Return the saucepan to the fire and stir carefully until the mixture thickens. But do not let it boil or the egg will curdle. When cold, add the essence and a pale green colour. Just before freezing, stir in the whites of eggs beaten to a stiff froth. Blanch 60 gms almonds - microwave in a bowl of water for 2 minutes. Grind the almonds to a paste. Add it to the custard. Mix well and freeze.