Sunday, 19 September 2021

Making pâté from foraged hazelnuts

We're lucky to have timed our French visit this year to perfectly coincide with hazelnut season and there must be at least a dozen fruiting shrubs all within easy walking distance of our static caravan, all with an excellent harvest. No one else seems to be interested in gathering up the nuts either so the local red squirrels and I have them pretty much to ourselves. Remembering Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass advice, I'm careful not to be too greedy so am only gathering what we can eat within the next few days, rather than setting up stores for winter. The shops over here have plenty of good food on the shelves which is a relief after the past couple of months in England!

You might have spotted in the photo above that I'm using a combination garlic press - olive stoner to crack the hazelnut shells. It's the garlic press functionality that works a treat for this. I know I could buy a dedicated nutcracker for the task and have considered this, but why clutter up the kitchen drawers with more utensils when we already have something to do this job?

After shelling a bowlful of hazelnuts, I was left with about 100g of fresh kernels which I toasted in a medium-hot, dry frying pan for about ten minutes. It's really important to keep the nuts moving in the pan once they start to become fragrant. I wanted crisped golden hazelnuts, not blackened, burned ones which would have had a very different flavour. I didn't bother with the toasting stage last autumn because I figured it was too much extra faff for no reward, but having tried it once this year I am now a convert and have toasted all the nuts I collected prior to using them. I now think that the difference in flavour really does warrant the time spent.

While the frying pan was still warm, I finely diced half an onion and gently fried it in a tbsp of rapeseed oil with a pinch of celery salt until it was translucent and very soft.

Once the hazelnuts were toasted and cooled, I poured them into my mini chopper, blitzing them for about forty seconds until they were minced into fairly fine particles. If you have a proper food processor you could continue blitzing until the nuts release their oils and resemble a paste - hazelnut butter. I added the cooked onion to the blitzed hazelnuts, chopping them together for about twenty seconds.

Removing the blitzed nuts-and-onion to a mixing bowl, I added 1/2 tsp each of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic granules, 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast, 4 tbsp of vegan mayonnaise and 2 tbsp of tomato puree. I used Follow Your Heart Vegenaise because I had a jar that needed finishing up. After taste testing the mixture and adjusting the seasoning to suit my preferences, I scraped my finished hazelnut pâté into an airtight tub and refrigerated it overnight to allow the flavours to infuse and the texture to firm up. I planned to just serve myself the pâté straight from the tub, but if you wanted to make yours more glamorous you could put it into a greased bowl or mould to set, turning it out onto a decorative plate for the table.

I thoroughly enjoyed my hazelnut pâté served on Ryvita crackers for a lunch and also on slices of freshly baked pain complet bread from the local boulangerie. The batch lasted for three good lunches and I also used about a quarter of it stirred into homemade tomato sauce to make Hazelnut Bolognese for a quick weeknight dinner. It's a versatile pâté!

See more of my vegan recipes on my Ko-Fi page

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