Be prepared to be addicted…
If you’re not liking the theme of recipes here then I suggest a break for a few months while I work my way through At My Table – I still have a way to go but there are already fast and firm favourites emerging and this recipe is no different. I’m a big fan of the Union Square Cafe bar nuts from Nigella Bites and the Christmas-spiced version; I find starters awkward – too filling and you take away from the glory of the main course, too sparse and they look a little sad, plus you have to think about what goes with what and the bread factor if that’s served alongside it.
Pre-dinner nibbles, for me, are the way to go. If there is anyone who dislikes a cocktail on arrival and a little bowl or platter of something tasty that requires no cutlery, I have yet to find them (or, more likely, they have not been invited). The Union Square nuts, if you haven’t tried them, are spiked with a divine salty, butter-brown sugar and rosemary mix with cayenne pepper and I deliberately always make more than I intend to bowl up so I can stash leftovers away for post-guest snacking. They keep so well (not that they last long) and you can always warm them in the oven to toast them back to life if you need to. The seasonal version is similar but uses garam masala, olive oil and celery salt for a festive, warming spice.
With Mr T still eschewing carbs, but missing a Friday-night nibble, it was never going to be long before this recipe was tested. Another low-effort, maximum pleasure success, there’s barely more involved than bunging the almonds in the oven and preparing a post-roast spice bath. The spices here are all earthy best friends: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cayenne for heat and honey, vegetable oil and salt to sweeten and season. The game-changer though is the lime zest.
The citrus tang is perfect against the spices and give the nuts a punchy pizzazz all of their own. They were not nibbled; they were devoured. Having made them an hour before Mr T was due home from work, I left them spread out to cool and ‘set’ a little before he tried them. Needless to say his nose found them pretty quickly as soon as he came through the door. The feedback? Moreish doesn’t quite do the reaction to this recipe justice. These are the Sofia Vergara to the Sophia Loren Union Square bar nuts. I know we could easily have eaten our way through the whole batch, but these nuts are the kind of good that they force you ignore the (overwhelming) urge to devour the lot because you want everyone else to try them too. A little bag of them even made it into Mr T’s office, where they received a combination of glowing praise and cross-examination on the recipe. One of those times when you don’t want to give away how little fuss something is to prepare, but simultaneously want to pass the triumph on. A quandry testiment to all my favourites, which now includes these crunchy bad boys.