The right stuff

Now, nuts are a good snack, right? Theo likes nuts. Trouble is, he likes KP nuts, which are, let’s say, pretty salty. (Interesting, however, that when you click on “Nutritional information” on KP’s website you’ll only get told how good for you nuts are: not how much salt is in each serving. It’s too small to read on the packet. Answer: every 50g serving — that’s not a lot — contains 12 per cent of an adult’s recommended salt intake.)
So I said to Theo: I’ll roast you some nuts. I headed out to the wonderful Taj Stores on Brick Lane where a big bag of peanuts can be had for just a few quid. I measured a cup of peanuts (I’d bought the red-skinned kind) into a bowl, poured a tablespoon of oil over them and about half a teaspoon of salt, not much more, swirled it around till the nuts were well coated, and then turned them out onto a baking tray I’d lined with foil (I’d only lined it with foil because I’m lazy and didn’t want to wash up the tray). I’d set my oven to 190C, and in went my tray — for not very much more than 5 minutes. Maybe 7. I kept a close eye on them; nuts go from nicely toasted to burnt pretty swiftly.

There! Lovely, crunchy, roasted nuts! Taste! I said to Theo, who did — and made a face. I like KP nuts, he said. They’re really nice and salty.

Sigh. So what to do with my tray of roasted nuts? How about…. make peanut butter? Did I know how to make peanut butter? I did not. But I figured it out. I’ve refined it since those early days and added in some other nuts, too. I promise you: once you make your own peanut butter you will never, ever buy commercial peanut butter again. It’s nothing to do with cost, but this is much cheaper than commercial peanut butter too. And as for Theo: this is how he’ll eat my roasted nuts, and no mistake.

I’m using American cup measures here: Delia has a nice conversion chart if you need one.

1 cup peanuts
1/4 cup cashews or pistachios or whatever you like
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt, or a little more if you like; I use sel de Guerande, now
2 tbsps dark brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil: or you can fill your cup measure almost to the top with vegetable oil, and then top it up with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil

Preheat oven to 190C.

Put all the nuts in a bowl; swirl the oil around them, and the salt. Turn out onto a baking sheet, lined with foil if you like; pop into the oven for about 5-7 minutes (if you keep your nuts in the freezer, like I do, it may take a few minutes longer). When they are nicely toasty, take them out, and let them cool down a little.

Now dump them into a food processor with the brown sugar. Switch it on (it will be loud!) and pour the oil down through the chute while it’s running. Keep it running until it’s the consistency you like; you’ll need to scrape down the bowl a few times and make sure the oil doesn’t pool at the bottom but is mixed in with the nuts. It will never be completely smooth: it will be grainy, which, I learned, after reading Jon Krampner’s wonderful history of peanut butter, Creamy and Crunchy, is how all peanut butter used to be.

This makes about a jam-jar full. And, indeed, I put the peanut butter into a cleaned-in-the-dishwasher but not sterilized jam jar. It may separate a little; just give it a stir. I keep it in the cupboard, not the fridge. Maybe it would go off eventually… but it’s never lasted long enough for me to find out!