HOT NUTS TO WARM YOUR COCKLES THIS CHRISTMAS

Okay, okay, this post is really just an excuse to use lots of lewd puns and innuendo about nuts (it would be too obvious if we made Chocolate Salty Balls for Christmas nibbles). And hot nuts – with a lick of chilli – tickled our fancy here at Ladyland because plain old nuts can get a little tiresome after more than one mouthful.

But, I promise you, these nuts are more likely to give you the warm and fuzzies than bring on a sweat ‘tache.

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SWEET, SPICY & HOT AS YOU LIKE ’EM NUTS
These are based on Aussie chef Jared Ingersoll’s Really Good Nuts, which he served at the dearly departed Dank St Depot in Waterloo – a Sydney institution. But rumour has it you can still get these at the Sydney International Airport branch! Jared deep-fries his nuts for super crispiness, but getting a deep-fryer would only lead to all sorts of trouble for me. I think frying them in a little oil worked a treat, too. Start these a day in advance if you can, so the nuts get a good, deep soak in your syrup.

Makes enough for 6 people to leisurely graze on

Ingredients
250ml (1 cup) water
250g brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
2 star anise
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp sea salt flakes
400g mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, walnuts)
2 tbsp groundnut oil
A pinch of chilli powder

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Ladyland Method 1. Place the water, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, chilli and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Carefully tip in the nuts – nobody wants to get splashed with boiling syrup! Bring the syrup back to the boil. If you’re organised enough to do this a day in advance, let the nuts soak in the syrup overnight. If not, strain and discard the syrup, keeping all the spices and bits and pieces, and let the nuts cool for at least 30 mins. They need to be dry so the oil doesn’t splatter when you fry them.

2. Heat the oil in a pan, and when it’s quite hot, add your nuts. Cook for about 5-10 mins, stirring continuously, until they take on a deep golden hue. Drain the nuts on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and allow to cool. Jared suggests stirring them as they cool to avoid clumping.

3. Season with a sprinkling of chilli powder and more salt – aim for a balance of sweet, salty and spicy. A little explosion in your mouth is what you’re aiming for.
Okay, I’ll quit the innuendo now.

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PARTY PISTACHIOS

A super easy snack – use whatever nuts you like, but pistachios have those glints of green and purple that make them that little bit prettier than the rest. Do yourself a favour and buy them pre-shelled.

Makes 1 smallish bowl to add to your nibble smorgasmord

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Ingredients
Olive oil
100g pistachios
1 sprig of rosemary, scrunched to release flavour
2 garlic cloves, bruised
A pinch of hot smoked paprika (I like La Chinata)

Ladyland Method 1. Heat a tiny drizzle of olive oil in a pan, and tumble in your nuts, along with the rest of your ingredients. Allow the garlic and rosemary to sizzle until fragrant and occasionally stir everything so nothing gets burnt. Season with sea salt.

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2. When the nuts are nice and toasty, give them a taste and adjust the seasoning – add more paprika if it isn’t hot enough, but go gently because it’s easy to go over the edge with La Chinata. Serve the nuts while warm.
I once read in one of those etiquette guides that providing party nibbles with drinks is one of the hallmarks of a good hostessing, as it gives people something to do when there’s an awkward lull in conversation. If all else fails, your guests can make chitchat about how intriguing your nuts are. So be a polite party-thrower and give your guests some hot nuts to use as a prop when they’re tired of talking to each other on Xmas day. And whose family doesn’t get like that?

Photography & Styling: Emma Scott-Child

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