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Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:35 AM
Strictly speaking peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. They don’t grow on trees, but their fruit pods develop underground. Known as groundnuts, they originated in Peru, where they were grown before the time of the Incas and were an important foodstuff. What we’ll call peanuts, because that’s how they are known here, came to Europe with Columbus and spread around the globe, becoming a major food, nutritionally important in some countries, with India, China and the USA the main producers.
They’ve also been known as monkey nuts, pig nuts and earthnuts and are called goober nuts in the southern USA, where boiled peanuts are a favourite snack (and very much an acquired taste!).
Peanuts are rich in protein and oil and are eaten on their own or processed into oil.
In New Zealand, they are most familiar as a snack – salted and/or toasted – in peanut butter or in confectionary, and where would the home baker be without the perennially popular peanut brownie?
Since Kiwis were introduced to Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, we’ve become familiar with peanuts as the main ingredient in satay sauce, for which they are roasted and ground to a paste. Indonesians use them widely in vegetable salads, in India they are made into a range of chutneys, while other nations use peanuts in a variety of ways and sauces.
Peanut flour is gluten-free, while the oil has high heat resistance and keeps well without going rancid quickly. As with all nuts, don’t buy too large a quantity at once; rather buy small lots more often so they don’t go stale or rancid.
Do remember that some people are allergic to even a tiny amount of peanuts, suffering a range of symptoms from watery eyes to the worst-case scenario, anaphylactic shock that can be fatal. So, if you’re using peanuts in any form, ask prospective guests beforehand…better safe than sorry!
Recipe - The subtle flavours of Thai food permeate this special sauce.
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