After seeing one of my post-workout “jelly-leg” comments on social media yesterday, my father-in-law (who is super fit and would put his sons to shame in the gym – sorry guys but you know its true!) suggested that I try a peanut butter and banana combo for recovery. Sounds delish right? Well, it sparked a thought…
Peanut butter, especially the crunchy kind, was a firm favourite of mine as a child. Even now if there’s no close alternative readily available, that salty deliciousness is known to tempt me. Peanuts however, are not the friendliest of foods to our bodies; increasingly common peanut allergies; subtle irritations to our gut linings; all the chemical nasties and additives that all too often go into mass-produced peanut butters... Damn you peanut butter and your enticing claggy crunch!! But hurrah - there is a saviour! For those interested in the sciencey bit, I’ll be posting later this week about why peanuts are not all they’re cracked up to be (pun totally intended) and the pros of 'soaking' and 'activating' nuts. Bet you can't wait! For now though, let's keep it simple and introduce the saviours, the underdogs and my fave alternatives to peanut butter – homemade NUT BUTTERS. So simple, so much better for you and so so yummy!
- ALMOND BUTTER -
Today it’s Almond Butter time, purely because that is what I had sitting in the freezer. (Yep I said freezer! Storing all nuts and seeds in the freezer prevents them from going rancid...and nobody like rancid nuts!!). The incredibly simple process below applies to all nut butters and mixed nut butters, you’ll just find that blending time varies between harder and softer nuts, as will the final consistency.
The key to successful nut butter is fresh, raw nuts (ideally soaked or “activated”– more on this next time), a decent food processor and patience. This process is pretty hard going on the machinery so smaller, cheaper food processors can strain a bit. Saying that, although my Kenwood was a dream back in England, my new little Hamilton Beach worked wonders on this batch.
ALMOND BUTTER INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT
- Raw Almonds (300-500g depending on size of processor and desired volume)
- A pinch of sea salt
- Food processor
- Spatula (rubber spatulas are especially good for the round bowl)
- Air tight jar for storage
ALMOND BUTTER METHOD
If storing nuts in the freezer, allow them to warm to room temperature before processing. Once ready, pour the nuts into food processor and pulse a few times to break them up into little pieces. If you’re after a crunchy nut butter, carefully remove a handful and set aside.
Continue to blend until the nuts start to become grainy and climb the walls of the processor – usually after only a few minutes. Use a spatula to collect contents from walls and floor and then blend again.
Continue processing, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl ever minute or two.
After several minutes the almonds will form a ball. Just keep going - you're getting there!
As the nut's oils are released the mixture will become steadily creamier and creamier. If you like a really smooth and creamy butter, add a bit more oil at this point (coconut oil or butter good options, 1-2tbsps). I never find the need for extra oil but some people prefer it.
Eventually, the butter will turn creamy and smooth and move around very easily inside the bowl of your processor. This can be up to 15-20 minutes so have patience. This is where you add a touch of salt and/or sweetness depending on your taste preference. Sea salt and raw honey keeps it healthy. Be wary if you've added salted butter, you'll need less sea salt.
Return the chopped nuts to the bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix them into the butter.
Spoon into an airtight jar an refrigerate to keep for about 2-3 weeks. I love love love nut butters and use them most days either in my smoothies, baking, or my favourite – slathered on a slice of apple!
** Should you wish to have roasted nut butter, preheat the oven to 180deg fan, spread a single layer of whole nuts onto a baking sheet and dry roast for about 10 minutes or until they are browned and smelling delicious!
** Feel free to experiment with additional flavours. I love it plain but am also a big fan of a touch of ground ginger and cinnamon - don't be afraid to play with flavours! Just add little by little tasting as you go. Vanilla, cacao, even smoked paprika are other popular flavours - give them a whirl!
First attempts at this can come back with mixed reports so please let me know how it goes! My biggest tip is to have faith that the creamy texture will come – you just have to keep processing. Like most foods, nuts have their pros and cons health-wise, so as always, everything in moderation!! More on this next time, for now - enjoy :)