W is for walnuts

walnutsLike cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamias, Brazil nuts and pistachios, walnuts are tree nuts (peanuts, by the way, are legumes).

Guest blog by Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Although high in fat and, therefore, calories, the tree nuts are a concentrated (and portable) form of nutrition and you can get the health benefits with just a small handful each day.

Like the other tree nuts, walnuts are rich in minerals and contain omega-3-fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, which are anti-inflammatory and thus good for the heart and brain. Walnuts also contain some unique antioxidants – namely, juglone, tellimagrandin and morin.

Studies (in animals) suggest that walnut consumption reduces the growth of prostate and breast tumours. Meanwhile, trials in human subjects showed that adding walnuts to the diet (or using them to substitute other foods) aided weight loss.

Walnuts can be bought either fresh (sometimes known as ‘wet’ walnuts) or dried. They can also be roasted, which does not take away any of their health benefits. However, ageing can oxidise the healthy fats in walnuts, so if you do buy dried walnuts, keep them in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge and buy in small amounts from a reputable source.

For my salad, I was lucky enough to find a marvellous stall in the Duke of York Square food market in Chelsea, where there were four different varieties of fresh walnuts on sale (see picture). Cracking them was a bit of a chore (years since I’ve used a nutcracker) but worth it for the flavour in a dish where (unlike the smoothie or roast) the nuts are used raw and unprocessed.

Berry Walnut Smoothie

This is the first time I’ve used nuts in my Nutribullet and I wasn’t sure whether to use the milling device on the walnuts first. In the end I just chucked them in with the other ingredients and the result was fine – a lovely pink drink high in protein and antioxidants. You could use strawberries or blueberries instead of the raspberries or a mixture of two or three berries. Equally, you could substitute any other nut milk or coconut milk for the almond milk.

Serves one

1 carton fresh raspberries
1 banana, sliced into large chunks
250 ml unsweetened almond milk
Around 10 walnut halves
1 tsp berry powder(I used acai, pomegranate and blueberry, but there are many other combos)
Blast the lot in a Nutribullet or similar blender. Drink immediately.

Winter walnut salad

Serves two

Around 100g shelled ‘wet’ walnuts
100g blue cheese/goat cheese or a mixture, cubed
Bunch watercress
Handful cranberries
Four sticks celery, chopped small

Mix all ingredients and toss in a dressing made of cider vinegar and extra-virgin cold-pressed flax seed oil (as you know from my other posts, I use oil from The Linseed Farm but, of course, other healthy oils are available).

Christmas walnut roast

We always have a nut roast on Christmas Day and I vary the recipe a bit every year. I’ve just done a dry run on this year’s recipe, which features walnuts, so that I can bring it to you in time for the festive season.

Serves six

1 red onion
1 red pepper
200 g mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
350 g Quorn mince
200 g walnuts, chopped
50 g Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp dried herbs
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp tomato puree
Whole nuts (brazils, hazelnuts, walnut halves, cashews, pecans) to decorate

Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Fry the onion, pepper, mushrooms, Quorn mince and garlic in coconut oil for around 15 minutes, till lightly browned. Tip into a mixing bowl and add the egg, tomato puree, cheese and herbs and mix well. Press into a loaf tin and finish with a layer of whole nuts. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes to brown. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with a home-made tomato or mushroom sauce and vegetables. The loaf re-heats well for the following day, or can be served cold with pickles and salad.

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