Spiced Almonds Recipe, June 2013 Round Up

I've found quite a few new things (new to me, anyway!) this month, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Bahlsen Choco Leibniz Orange Biscuits

I'm a big fan of Bahlsen products, particularly their fancy version of the jaffa cake and the Choco Leibniz biscuit. The chocolate juts over the edge of the biscuit, which allows you to nibble the chocolate off, before dunking the biscuit in coffee and sucking the melted chocolate off, then eating the biscuit. This is probably what marketing people call a multi-dimensional eating experience, I call it stringing out the eating of a biscuit.

Anyway, the orange version has apparently been around for years, but I've only spotted it in UK supermarkets in recent months.  Orange chocolate gets sickly very quickly, so the amount on these biscuits is perfect for a nice little hit.  Choco Leibniz are quite often on special offer in Waitrose.

Medjool Dates

Until this month, the only way I ate dates was by cooking them in porridge with sliced banana.  Something about the way they look and feel had always put me off eating them as they come.

As had the scene in Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, where the spy-monkey tries to kill Indy by poisoning his dates (or I guess, planting poisoned dates in the fruit bowl. Capuchin monkeys are clever, but I don't think they're capable of using a syringe to inject poison into fruit: are they?).

But I was offered coffee, baklava and dates at a dinner I went to  few weeks ago and I have been converted. Dates are now going to be kept as a regular fruit bowl item, so I have something wholesome on hand to finish off a meal.

Liquorice Tea
Ah, the joy of new discoveries via Twitter: it's always nice to find something with no calories that tastes delicious. I'm getting on well with Pukka's Liquorice & Peppermint tea, which you can find in the supermarkets.

Le Pain Quotidien

Two branches of LPQ opened in areas I regularly haunt in the last twelve months or so and I had ignored them until this month. I had the idea that Le Pain Quotidien was an airport and railway station food chain that served flaccid baguettes. I think I may have confused them with a different company, because actually, the food is excellent and wholesome. 

Monthly specials in June include a spelt & quinoa scone with ricotta, puy lentil salad with beetroot caviar and a chia seed and coconut pudding.  LPQ's trademark food is tartines; open-faced sandwiches, which are served with a salad; my favourite so far is the goat's cheese tartine. 

LPQ have also published a cookbook this month, which I bought this week.  I'll let you know how I get on with it once I've had a read through, but on first glance, it looks like there's lots of ideas for me to try.

Jamie Magazine

I had been getting a bit fed up with food and recipe magazines. The one I've bought for years, Sainsbury's Magazine, used to inspire me to try at least two recipes in every edition.  I realised recently that I'd bought it for six months running and not cooked a single thing from it. The features aren't particularly interesting to me either.

This wasn't always the case; I have a number of articles from their 2010 and 2011 magazines pinned to my fridge and in my homemade recipe book, which I still refer to.  But the magazine was reformatted in the last year or so and I think it's really gone off the boil.

Delicious and Olive magazine don't light my fire, either.  For a cover price of nearly £4, I don't want a magazine that only takes me 30 minutes to flip through, because half of the content is unappealing or repetitive (for example, yet another '10 Quick Mid-Week Meals' featuring stir-fries and ready made puff-pastry).

So a hat tip to Claire, my Twitter liquorice tea enabler, for introducing me to Jamie Magazine. Claire has recently secured a job as the magazine's sub-editor and was enthusing about the content on Twitter. I bought the June edition, which was dedicated to Italian food.

It's a very different style of food magazine. Almost every feature was linked in to the Italian theme. There seems to be a greater volume of actual recipes compared to other magazines. No bland celebrity Q&As (I don't care if Judy Finnegan prefers poached eggs over fried eggs, I really don't), the magazine is almost digest-like.

It took me 7 nights of bedtime-reading to get from cover to cover.  I will be buying next month's edition and I think I've found my new food magazine.

Spiced Almonds

After much twiddling and testing (chilli powder was a bridge too far), I have finally perfected my spice mix to go with toasted almonds. Almonds are one of my other 'new' healthy snacks, but even if I dish them out in portions, I have an alarming propensity to eat an entire packet in a day. 

Someone suggested to me that adding spice inhibits the 'just one more' factor. It doesn't, but it does make them extra delicious. If you want spice without heat, omit cayenne pepper and increase the paprika or cinnamon. Just a note that the heat from the spice seems to calm down if left overnight, so if they are too spicy for you on first taste, leave them for a day and try them again before writing them off.

Spiced Almonds
Makes ten generous handfuls

200g almonds, skins-on or blanched, as you prefer
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
15ml peppery olive oil
A decent pinch of vanilla salt (salt, kept in a jar with a split vanilla pod; just use salt if you don't have a vanilla pod on hand)

You'll also need a baking tray (lined with greaseproof paper if you have it to hand to save on washing up, but not essential) and an oven, pre-heated to 160C, 150C fan-forced.

1. Pour the almonds into a bowl large enough to allow for you to move them around.
2. Add and mix the spices with the almonds, then add the olive oil and give everything a further mix, until you can feel all the almonds have a coating of oil on them.
3. Pour the almonds onto the baking tray and use your hand to spread them into a single layer.
4. Sprinkle the vanilla salt over the almonds and bake for approximately 15 minutes. The smell of spices will start to fill the kitchen and when the almonds start to sizzle, it is time to take them out of the oven.
5. Once ready, let the almonds cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then pour them onto some kitchen roll to absorb the excess olive oil and to cool completely.
6.Toasted, still-warm almonds make a delicious pre-dinner snack.
7. Once cool, keep in a Tupperware container until needed.