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  Age on Sunday   12 Mar 2017  Nut to be left out

Nut to be left out

Published : Mar 12, 2017, 1:29 am IST
Updated : Mar 12, 2017, 6:38 am IST

Brimming with goodness, walnuts are the perfect treat to indulge in.


Considered to be one of the most effective superfoods, walnuts are packed with almost every conceivable vitamin and mineral, not to mention protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. These single-seeded stone fruits can be your go-to snack and are equally versatile in puddings and sweets.

Where do they grow?

In my quest for the perfect walnut, I trek up to the Southern Swiss Alps where walnuts grow in plenty. Because they exist in such large quantities in the Engadin region, locals have put them to good use and a world renowned cake owes its lineage to the walnut. Generations of local confectioners have continued to refine this specialty filled with cream, caramel and chunky walnuts. The Engadin walnut tart is the ultimate guilty pleasure. At the famed Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St Moritz, Switzerland, I come to sample their divine Engadin nut cake, a traditional favourite for afternoon tea in Le Grand Hall with its high ceilings and marbled floors.

Engadin confectioners, who worked in Italy, France and America in the 18th Century, are said to have brought the recipe home, perfecting it here. Today, Engadine walnut cake is one of the gastronomic icons of Graubünden, a Swiss culinary classic that is exported all over the world. Executive chef Michel Jose of Badrutts Palace tells me what makes it so special. “It is the filling that makes this cake irresistible, thanks to the walnuts. The crunchiness of the local walnuts, combined with honey and cream is a winning combination,” he adds.

Closer home, the walnuts from Kashmir are known for their superior quality and delicate taste. Chef Varun Inamdar informs, “There are three varieties, known as Wonth, Kagazi and Burzul. Wonth is a hard nut to crack due to its thick outer shell and small kernel, best used for extracting oil. Kagzi has a thin outer shell with a white and tender kernel, best for exports. Burzul is a medium-sized variety with a dark, thick outer shell and dull white kernel. It is usually acid washed to make it look like Kagzi.”

Engadin Nut Cake
For the Shortcrust pastry:
400 gm plain flour
160 gm caster sugar
280 gm soft butter
1 egg
Pinch of salt
To make the shortcrust pastry, take a mixing bowl, slowly mix the salt, sugar, butter and egg until well incorporated with a paddle. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least six hours, or until dough is cold and firm.
Roll out one-third of the dough on a lightly floured piece of baking paper with a lightly floured rolling pin to the size of the tart ring. Store in the fridge until needed. This will be the top of the tart.
Grease and place a 22-cm, round, 3-cm high pastry ring on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Alternatively, grease and line the base of a cake pan.
Roll out the remaining two-thirds of the pastry on a lightly floured piece of baking paper to 30 cm diameter. l Transfer to the pastry ring or cake pan by gently wrapping around a rolling pin, then unrolling to lay evenly on top.
Press the pastry into the corners and allow for a small overlap at the top edge. Prick the base lightly with a fork and store in the fridge until required.
For the caramel-nut filling:
360 gm sugar
120 ml water
120 gm cream
60 gm honey
400 gm walnuts

Engadin Nut Cake

To make the caramel-nut filling, place the sugar and water in a medium-sized stainless steel saucepan and heat without stirring.
Swirl the pan occasionally from side to side, and brush down pan sides with a wet pastry. Brush if crystals are forming, until caramel is light brown in colour.
Remove from the heat and add coarsely chopped walnuts and cream, stir to combine.
Be careful as the caramel may splutter.
Pre-heat oven to 180ºC.
Return the filling mixture to low heat and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, and colour changes to mid-brown (3-4 minutes).
Remove from heat and add the honey.
Allow to cool completely before spreading evenly over the pastry-lined ring or pan. Fold the excess pastry over onto the filling.
Brush the folded pastry lightly with water and place on the pre-rolled top, pressing lightly on the edges to seal. Brush gently with egg wash.
Go round and press the edges with a fork and lightly prick all over. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until light golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Remove from the ring or pan before completely cool and place on a wire rack.
Your shortcrust pastry is ready.

Recipe courtesy: Executive chef, Michel Jose — Badrutts Palace, St Moritz, Switzerland

Kashmiri Doon Chetin  
½ cup walnuts
1 cup yoghurt whisked
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 green chillies
½ tsp black cumin
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
5-6 sprigs fresh mint leaves

Kashmiri Doon Chetin

Heat one cup of water in a pan, add walnuts and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes.
Drain and discard the water.
Refresh in ice-cold water.
Grind the walnuts, onions, mint and chillies to a paste.
Transfer into a bowl.
Stir in yoghurt, red chilli powder, asafoetida and salt.
Mix well and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before serving for flavours to blend well.
Serve with steamed rice and a spicy Kashmiri mutton curry.

Recipe courtesy: Chef and chocolatier Varun Inamdar

Tags: walnuts, recipes, food