Friday focus: Almonds

 

Almonds have numerous health benefits and contain vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre.

 

They also contain healthy unsaturated fatty acids. They boost the level of vitamin E in the body; Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which protects the cells against damage and prevents the oxidation of the arteries caused by cholesterol.

 

The protein, fibre and healthy fat present in the almond may help prevent cancerous changes to the cells and prevent cardiovascular disease.

 

Their high fibre content promotes a feeling of satiety; therefore, they are the perfect snack if you are trying to lose weight. However, they are quite calorie-dense so be mindful of your portions.

 

 

 

For the following recipe, please ensure that you use a sturdy, good quality food processor (fitted with its cutting blades) as the almonds need processing for quite a long time and the motor of the processor becomes quite hot. If the motor does become too hot, give your processor a 5 minute cool-down break from time to time.

 

 

 

Almond butter

 

Ingredients:

 

200g whole almonds (they do not need to be blanched)

 

3tbsp pure maple syrup

 

1 or 2tsp coconut oil (to help loosen the butter)

 

 

 

Method:

 

Place the almonds in a roasting tin and drizzle with the maple syrup. Ensure all the almonds are coated evenly.

 

Roast in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 7 to 8 minutes, until golden brown (keep an eye on the almonds whilst they are roasting as they can burn easily and quickly.)

 

Leave to cool for a few minutes, then pour the almonds in a food processor and start processing on high speed. First, the almonds will be reduced to the texture of coarse flour then finer powder.
As the natural oil in the almonds is released, the almond powder will start creeping up the sides of the processor’s bowl. Every minute or so, stop the processor and use a spatula to push the almond powder back down into the bowl, then resume the processing. Keep alternating between processing the almonds and scraping the sides of the bowl for approximately 10 minutes. The heat of the processor’s blades will release more of the almonds’ oil and the powder should start clumping together.

 

At this point, you may want to add 1 or 2tsp of coconut oil to help the butter on its way. Do not add more than that, as your almond butter would become too oily and runny.

 

Keep processing the almond powder for a further 7-10 minutes until it turns creamy and smooth. This is a very long process and it feels like you are never going to get the right texture, but trust me, you will get there! Give the oil present in the almonds time to do its job.

 

At the end of processing, the butter will be quite runny but do not worry, this is normal. It will actually feel warm to the touch due to the friction of the processor’s blade, but as the almond butter cools down, it will firm up a little.

 

Pour your almond butter in a sterilised jar. Now, in theory, you should keep your almond butter in the fridge – I don’t like it! The almond butter hardens too much and the cold numbs its flavours. Putting the almond butter in the fridge stops the natural almond oil from turning rancid. In my house, a jar of almond butter never lasts long enough to go rancid as it tends to get eaten in less than a week! So, my almond butter is kept in my cupboard and I’ve never had any problem with it going bad. But store it as you see fit – if you don’t think you’re going to eat it quickly then, by all means, keep it in the fridge.

 

My favourite way of eating almond butter (other than straight out of the jar with a large spoon!) is to use it as a dip with sliced apple or grapes. Try adding a tablespoon of it in your morning smoothie for a protein boost or spread it on wholemeal toast.

 

 
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