Monday, October 17, 2011

Nut Week: Brazils.

I rather fancy a week of nuts, what do you think? I am going to start with the Brazil nut, for no better reason than that I recently read that it is prudent to avoid walking under the trees, as a falling fruit is can be a deadly missile.

What we refer to as the ‘nuts’ of Bertholletin excessa, are, botanically speaking, seeds. Several dozen (or more) of these large triangular seeds are contained in a fruit with a thick ‘shell’, and the whole thing may be as large as a child’s head. The massive tree is native to parts of the Amazon rainforest, and its life cycle demonstrates beautifully just how complex an ecosystem can be. The tree requires a particular species of bee to perform pollination. Only the female of this species can pollinate the tree – the male being too small to perform the task - proving that size does matter after all. The only thing that makes the male attractive to the female is the scent of a particular orchid, which he uses as a sort of insect cologne. While she is paying her conjugal visit to him, she finds the flowers of the tree attractive too, and during her snacking, she pollinates them. Did I mention the essential fact that the orchid lives in the tree? 

The intricacy of this system means that it has not, to date, been reproducible artificially, so that the Brazil nuts that we buy in the shops have been harvested from wild trees in pristine forests. ‘Aint that marvellous?

Brazil Rissoles.
3 ounces Brazil nuts without shells.
3½ tablespoons cream.
1 whole egg.
3 yolks ditto.
1 teaspoon Tarragon vinegar.
½ teaspoon salt.
¼ teaspoon white pepper.
1 teaspoon minced parsley.
Egg and bread crumbs.
After scraping off the brown skin pound the nuts to a paste in a mortar, add the other ingredients, and stir well altogether. Well butter six (or eight) little tin moulds, fill them with the mixture, stand the moulds in a baking tin which contains a little boiling water, and bake in a moderate oven for twelve or fifteen minutes. When cold, take them out of the moulds, brush over with egg and bread crumbs, and fry in boiling oil until a nice golden colour (about three minutes). Garnish with parsley.
New Vegetarian Dishes (1892) Mrs Bowditch

Brazilian Pudding.
Pound to a soft paste half a pound of new Brazil nuts; beat six ounces of fresh butter to cream; beat six fresh eggs; mix these together; add a quarter of a pound of loaf sugar in fine powder and a wineglassful of brandy; beat for twenty minutes. Make a paste as follows:- Beat six ounces of fresh butter to cream, add to it four ounces of baked flour, an ounce of rice flour, an ounce of sifted sugar, and two well-beaten eggs; knead well; butter a mould, line it with the paste, put in the mixture, and bake in a moderate oven an hour, or rather more. Turn out carefully, and serve, either hot or cold.
The young housewife's daily assistant: on all matters relating to cookery (1864)

Quotation for the Day.

Durian and Brazil Nut. An odd pair? Yes, but they have this in common, that you have to be careful they don't drop on your head.


Piet said...

The rissoles sound delicious! If I'm reading the recipe correctly, they're a sort of savory deep-fried timbale? I could see making them as a garnish for something bland and lean -- poached sole or chicken.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Piet, my aplogies for the disgracefully late response - i dont know where my time went the last week or so. In the original cookbook they are meant as a vegetarian meal, but I think they would work very well as you suggested, as garnish or accompaniment.