Recipe Almonds are full of health, and lend themselves to myriad uses
The almond is highly revered in some cultures. Though native to the Mediterranean, it spread to northern Africa and southern Europe, and then to other parts of the world.
While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also used in cooking. Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, and in pastries and cookies such as French macaroons and financiers (a small, French teacake).
They are also used to make almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter but less salty, popular among those with peanut allergy. Along with other nuts, it is often sprinkled over desserts.
The young, developing fruit of the almond tree, green almonds, can be eaten whole, when they are still green and fleshy on the outside, and the inner shell has not yet hardened.
Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute called almond milk; a soy-free choice perfect for the lactose intolerant and vegans.
The oil content in almonds is approximately 49 per cent. The oil is good for application on the skin, and has been traditionally used by massage therapists. It is a mild and lightweight oil that can be used as a substitute for olive oil.
Almond can be made into flour for cakes and cookies for low-carbohydrate diets or for those with diabetes. Almond flour is gluten-free, and, therefore, a popular ingredient in cookery in place of wheat flour for gluten-sensitive people and those with wheat allergies and coeliac disease.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E. They are also rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two good fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol. It is also claimed that almonds improve complexion, help in the movement of food through the colon, and prevent cancer.
Recent research associates the inclusion of almonds in diet with elevated levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) and reduced levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL). In Ayurveda, almond is considered good for the brain and nervous system.
Now, for a recipe.
Almond powder: 50 gm
Sugar: 125 gm
Egg whites: 120 ml
(about six egg whites)
Melted butter: 120 gm
Refined flour: 50 gm
Honey: 40 ml
Whip together egg whites and sugar till they form stiff peaks. This is called a meringue.
Mix together flour and almond powder, and gently fold into the meringue.
Add the honey and mix gently. Stir in the melted butter. Pour the mixture into a flexipan, or any rubber or shaped mould.
Bake at 180 C for about 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve topped with whipped cream, berries or fruit, or with ice cream.
Chef de Partie, Taj Connemara