They’re the perfect savoury accompaniment to a well-earned drink, or a high-protein, post-workout snack. You might spread them on your morning toast, or add them to a stir-fry. However you enjoy them, it’s fair to say that the humble peanut has a potential that reaches far beyond just a salty bar snack with cold beer.
Peanuts aren't actually true nuts, as they have to be dug out of the soil to be harvested. They are actually a legume and a member of the pea family; the pods develop after the pollinated flower stalk has grown down into the soil, where the nuts develop. They originated in South America and as early as 1500 B.C. and apparently the Incans of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life. The explorers took peanuts back to Spain, and from there traders and explorers spread them to Asia, Africa and beyond. While peanut oil is used extensively in cooking and for making margarine, the nuts themselves are eaten salted and roasted as snacks or made into peanut butter. Sales of peanut butter have soared in recent years and among fitness freaks, peanut butter is treated as something of a wonder substance, high in monounsaturated fats, which have been proven to help lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease and lower blood pressure.
The good news is peanut butter is really simple to make at home. Just pick up 500g of roasted, unsalted, already shelled peanuts and place half the nuts in the processor. Blitz them for about 15-20 seconds, so they break up and the machine stops jumping, and then add the rest (keeping back 100g or so if you prefer your peanut butter on the chunky side). Blitz for another 20-25 seconds, add ½ tbsp olive oil and let the machine run at whatever speed keeps the peanut fragments moving. Keep processing, and eventually – it could take 10, 15 minutes or more – you'll find that instead of powder, the blades are churning a moist paste.
You may need to add another ½ tbsp of oil along the way, but don't rush it. The nuts themselves contain oil that will be released by the processing. Stop the machine every so often and scrape the contents from the sides. When you're happy with the consistency, add the peanuts you set aside at the beginning and blitz just enough to break them up. Salt to taste (or not), add 1–3 tbsp honey if you have a sweet tooth, and run the machine as slowly as possible – just quick enough to mix everything together. Spoon into a clean jar and store in the fridge for up to a month. Job done!
Whole or chopped or in a creamy butter, peanuts are popular in Asian cuisine and give satay sauce its addictive quality. They're often served as a garnish on noodles and stir-fries. They also give their wonderful flavour to one of my favourite recipes…a delicious Panang Beef curry from Thailand. Try it and you’ll know exactly what I mean!
Panang Beef Curry
This Thai curry with tender beef in a creamy peanut sauce is also a big hit on the menu of our Fosh Food delivery service. Serve with some steamed rice to get that authentic flavour!
- 100g peanuts
- 25ml groundnut or olive oil
- 400ml coconut milk
- 4 lime leaves
- 25g dark brown or palm sugar(2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 500g sirloin or fillet of beef, cut into 2 steaks
- 8 wedges of lime
- Juice of one lime
- 1 handful basil leaves
- 200ml chicken stock
- 1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
- 200g green beans, chopped
- 2tbsp panang curry paste
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add a little olive oil. Season the steaks and brown on both sides for around 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and leave to rest. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel; add the peanuts and toast over a low heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan often, until golden and fragrant. Let them cool then roughly chop, or crush in a pestle and mortar.
Add the coconut milk, lime leaves, red chilli and chicken stock and bring to the boil.
Add the curry paste and cook to reduce for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the green beans, sugar and fish sauce, continue to simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Cut the steaks into thin slices and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes more and add the lime juice, then season the curry to taste. Remove from the heat and scatter with the peanuts, basil leaves and lime wedges. Serve with steamed rice.