The humble peanut may seem an unlikely object of passion. And “passion” could be overstating what is actually more of an addiction. Either way, I confess if asked on my way to the electric chair what I’d prefer for my last taste of food on earth, I’d go for peanuts. No need for prison catering managers to worry though, I’ll bring my own.
I’m not sure how, when or why this love affair of mine with the peanut began but as far back as I can remember I’ve loved them in any shape or form. Salted (or even un-), they pair perfectly with before dinner drinks (or during or after), and those cute glossily garbed beer nuts are the ideal foil for … what else, beer. (You just have to watch the little skins, bits of which have a tendency to stick to your teeth unbeknownst to you). Chopped, peanuts provide the best of all possible sprinkles over a chocolate sundae. In their shells they’re great to feed monkeys at the zoo (or monkeys anywhere for that matter). And the magic a spicy satay sauce brings to a juicy chunk of chicken can’t be described.
Then there’s the glory of peanut paste (or butter depending on your country of origin) which combines with any filling at all to make a scrumptious sandwich. (Toasted with loads of butter you don’t really need anything besides the PP). The paste must be crunchy though. There are lots of brands but Mayver’s make the best one I’ve tried. I discovered the Mayver’s brand thanks to my fellow blogger Tara of VegeTARAian. It’s a small, Australian family company that describes itself as “passionate about finding simple, delicious affordable ways for everyday Australians to enjoy a healthier, happier life.” Described as “100% pure-state super natural” their crunchy peanut butter is made from nothing but pure Australian peanuts and sea salt – absolutely no additives and the peanuts are handpicked (probably by monkeys).
In terms of addiction, salted peanuts really bring out the pig in me. I’ve tried to eat them genteelly, placing a modest amount in a tasteful bowl, picking up two or three and placing them individually in my mouth, nibbling thoughtfully before swallowing. I can’t do it. After those first few, I lose all control, up-end the bowl and pour the salty crunchy bounty into my mouth like a demented starving person, munch and grind them into mush and gulp them down before dispensing with the bowl and tossing what’s left of the packet down the hatch in one swift move. They’re crisp, crunchy, and so salty it makes your hair curl. They’re just greasy enough to leave you with sticky fingers that you’re forced to lick. Then you get the salty nut taste all over again and are compelled to go and buy another packet. It’s not pretty. It’s like an alcoholic falling off the wagon. It can’t be done in company and really it’s best to just not have the stuff in the house in the first place.
Fortunately, unlike alcohol, peanuts get a good write-up by my trusted authority, “The World’s Healthiest Foods“. Among other benefits, they’re rich in monounsaturated fats (the good kind), they’ve been found to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease significantly, and they’re a good source of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Indeed, the WHF website states that “roasted peanuts rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries” and they can help prevent colon cancer. Excitingly for peanut freaks like me, research has shown regular consumption of peanuts can provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. I’m off to the shop to stock up in bulk.
A really delicious way to enjoy peanuts is in peanut cookies. I’ve tried a few recipes, with mixed results. One (whose source shall remain nameless) was a complete disaster, the end result resembling small, tasteless stones, which went straight to the bin. Last weekend though I discovered a winner. These are buttery, with a texture like shortbread, an intense peanut flavour and easy and quick to make. If you’re even half as nutty about peanuts as me, I know you’ll like them.
- 125g butter (at room temperature)
- 275g (1 cup) crunchy peanut butter (I recommend Mayver's)
- 200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 260g (1 & ¾ cups) plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 110g (3/4 cup) unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped (I left mine in largish pieces)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
- Grease a baking tray
- Beat the butter and peanut butter in a mixing bowl with electric beaters until creamy
- Add the brown sugar and beat until pale
- Add the egg and beat until combined
- Sift the plain flour and baking powder together
- Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour mixture, salt and peanuts into the peanut butter mixture
- Lightly flour your hands then roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place about 4cm apart on prepared baking tray
- Flatten each ball slightly to desired thickness
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden and cooked through
- Stand on baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool
- Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 week (if they last that long)
by Anne Green