A slightly dull blog page title but I was thinking of a way of of avoiding an obvious nut double entendre. I have some Turkish hazelnuts lining a street near where I live and most people don't twig (excuse the pun) that it has edible nuts.
When Ray Mears did his Wild Food series with Gordon Hillman I was taken by a process for roasting hazelnuts using embers and sand. I have the book that accompanies the series ans whilst there is a long passage about the process it has no timings. I have recently visited the Lee Valley Almost Wild Camp so what better time to try this?
On the day I was going to collect the hazelnuts after work I noticed a squirrel nearby, usually they don't touch them (they have very hard shells) so as a back up I purchased some Cobnuts in case I was out of luck. I was lucky and found a lot of hazelnuts strewn on the floor in their peculiar casing with just the one split by a squirrel.
On the camp I laid out the two nut types ion four sections with the idea being that each would be revealed after a certain time. Larger chestnuts can take as little as ten minutes so my timings were based around this..
I got a good supply of embers ready, then covered in a layer of kiln dried sand with probably a centimetre or so covering them.
The embers were then raked over the top with a check to make sure that they were even in depth and spread.
Each batch was recovered after the set time, starting at, and going up in increments of five minutes.
The poll on my tomahawk proved a match for the super tough Turkish hazelnut shells. not a single one had a nut in so either the squirrels got all the good ones or they opened one and realised that it wasn't worth it, I hope it was the latter.
This is a half deshelled Cobnut around the five minute mark which was palatable but didn't seem that cooked.
The nuts pulled out at around the 12-15 minute mark seemed better. If you look closely at the left hand side (the area near the radicle) it appears that some oils have been liberated and it tasted warmed through.
I threw a handful directly onto the coals for five minutes of direct heat but didn't find that they had changed significantly. The Mears/ Hillman book suggested that the nuts were cooked and possibly stored for some time and some appear blacker than mine in the article.
In the video of the Wild Food programme Ray seems to build a big small stick fire but doesn't leave the embers on long, suggests that the nuts will have changed colour slightly and were a little scorched, covers the nuts with sand to the same level as I did (but I didn't line with sand underneath), suggests that they have had a quick cooking and that they taste of potato which mine did.
Maybe I've roasted them to an eat know level like a street vendor would have done and perhaps a longer roast experiment would be worthwhile...Sadly that now won't happen until next year!