A hazelnut pudding reminiscent of an ancient Irish feast
JP McMahon: The hazel tree occupies an important part of our mythology
The remains of charred hazelnuts shells can be found in many Irish Mesolithic sites
Irish hazelnuts are hard to find, particularly these days. While I do know they grow well in the Burren, between travel restrictions and the weather it has not been a great year for foraging trips. Lucky one of our restaurant foragers, Thalli Foods, based in Co Clare, delivers to Galway once a week.
Anyone who has ever shelled a wild hazelnut or cobnut will appreciate the convenience of seeing packets of shelled hazelnuts in the supermarkets. A bowl of roasted hazelnuts dressed with Kitty Colchester’s cold-pressed rapeseed oil and a sprinkling of smoked Achill Island sea salt is my equivalent of those little bowls of spiced almonds you find in sunny Spain.
The remains of charred hazelnuts shells can be found in many Irish Mesolithic sites, so the next time you sit down to a bowl close your eyes and imagine you’re part of some ancient Irish feast.
The hazel tree itself occupies an important part of our mythology. As WB Yeats wrote in his The Song of Wandering Aengus:
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread.
Other ways of using freshly shelled and roasted hazelnuts is to grate them over a ham hock or chicken terrine. Or combine them with the same weight in sugar and melt together to make a simple praline.
Aside from wild hazelnuts there are a number of Irish farmers growing hazelnuts. Glenidan Farm is a small, family-run farm based in Collinstown, Co Westmeath. As well as hazelnuts it grows apples, aronia and sea buckthorn berries. All its nuts and fruits are grown without the use of chemicals or artificial fertilisers. Its produce is available at various market locations throughout the season.
How to make hazelnut crumble
The easiest way to add hazelnuts to your baking is to crush them and fold them into a crumble topping. To 250g of flour add 125g of cold cubed butter. Rub the butter in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 75g of sugar and 50g of roasted and crushed hazelnuts. Use to top any fruit that bakes well in the oven.