Header image  
For Hospitality Education  
line decor
  HOME  ::  
line decor
 
 
Nuts and Seeds
nuts

Introduction

Function of nuts and seeds

From a culinary point, nuts and seeds have the same function: they are flavour improvers.  Nuts and seeds make dishes taste better due to their specific flavour or by their crispy, crunchy texture.  As well as this they are very suitable for decorations and garnishes.  Nuts and seeds are more often used as additional ingredients and are only used in certain dishes as a basic ingredient (such as marzipan, praline, nut biscuits and chestnut puree).
Roasted and lightly salted nuts are commonly served with aperitifs.   In the kitchen, unsalted nuts are used.

Nuts and seeds are also used in puddings, ice or sauces; in nut breads, sesame or poppy seed rolls, in pastries and fillings for tarts, in savoury dishes such as salads, vegetables and stuffing.  Nuts can also be served with cheese boards or cheese desserts.

The nutritional value of nuts and seeds

Practically all nuts and seeds are rich in fat and poor in carbohydrates as sugars and starch.  The fat percentage varies per type but is seldom less than 50%.  Since they have such a high fat percentage, they are also high in calories.
Chestnuts are an exception to the rule (as can be seen in the following chart).  Chestnuts are the only nuts with practically no fat; on the other hand, the percentage of carbohydrates is much higher than most other nuts.
Nuts have generally also a high protein content, which makes them a welcome addition to the menu of vegetarians.  Chestnuts, coconuts, macadamia’s and pecan nuts, form an exception to this rule.  Their protein content is not so high.  Peanuts, on the other hand, contain even more protein than fish, meat and poultry.  Peanut butter is therefore seen as very ‘healthy’.
As well as fat, carbohydrate and protein, nuts, depending on the type, also contain reasonable to very high amounts of minerals such as iron, phosphor, calcium and vitamins, especially B, C and E.  Seeds are in general rich in proteins and are oil retaining.  Since seeds are used in much smaller amounts, the nutritional value is of lesser importance but it should not be forgotten that they are very nutritious just the same.

 

Kilo-calories

Fats

Carbohydrates

Proteins

Almonds

598

54

20

19

Cashew nuts

561

46

29

17

Hazel nuts

634

62

17

13

Chestnuts

194

2

42

3

Fresh coconut

364

35

9

4

Dried coconut

660

64

23

7

Macadamias

691

72

16

8

Para/Brazil nuts

654

67

11

14

Pecan nuts

687

71

15

9

Peanuts

564

48

19

26

Pistachio nuts

594

54

19

19

Walnuts

651

64

16

15

(Nutritional value of nuts per 100 grams)

Purchasing nuts and seeds

When purchasing nuts and seeds, it is important to take the following into consideration:

  1. The various types of nuts and seeds available
  2. Their physical condition
  3. Their quality
  4. The price of the various products
  1. The various types of nuts and seeds available

Nuts
The following chart gives an impression of the most common nuts available in Europe and the manner in which they are sold.  More details of the individual nuts can be found in section 5.

 

Fresh

In shell

Shelled

With fleece

Without
Fleece

Convenience

Almonds

*

*

*

*

*

Whole, flaked, ground

Cashew nuts

 

 

*

 

*

-

Hazel nuts

 

*

*

*

*

Flaked, crunchy, with a sugar layer

Chestnuts

*

*

*

 

*

Precooked

Coconut

*

*

 

 

 

Grated, milk, cream, shreds

Macadamias

 

 

*

 

*

-

Para/Brazil nuts

 

*

*

*

 

-

Pecan nuts

 

*

*

*

 

In small pieces (chopped)

Peanuts

*

*

*

*

*

With a sugar layer, halves

Pistachios

 

*

*

*

*

Without fleece they are called green peeled pistachios

Walnuts

*

*

*

*

 

In small pieces (chopped)

(Forms available from various nuts)

Seeds
In the kitchen, the following seeds are used for various preparations:
Pumpkin seeds, blue poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, aniseed, cardamom seeds, caraway seeds, sunflower seeds and pine seeds.  In section 5 following, more details over seeds can be found.

poppy seeds

  1. The physical condition of nuts and seeds

Nuts
Nuts are available in many forms: fresh, dried, shelled un-shelled, with or without fleece, salted or unsalted, whole or chopped, flaked and ground or broken. 

    1. Fresh nuts are ripe, un-dried nuts, available only in their shells.  Walnuts, chestnuts and coconuts are examples.
    2. Nuts in their shells are dried nuts that are sold with shell and all
    3. Shelled nuts are dried nuts that are removed from their shells in the country of cultivation.  Shelled nuts are available with or without their fleece.

    macademia

Seeds
Seeds are available in the following forms:

    1. Dried, such as cumin, caraway and mustard seeds
    2. Ground, such as cardamom and cumin'
      cumin curry ground
  1. The quality of nuts and seeds

With such a large variety of products of nuts and seeds, it is difficult to make general rules that apply to all of these products regarding quality.  However several points can be noted: the number of nuts damaged during the automatic shelling process, the amount of split nuts, of particles of shells mixed with the nuts, of fleece particles after blanching and of regularity of shape, size, colour and flavour.  Naturally nuts and seeds should be in good condition – they must not be damaged by insects, be mouldy, smell musty or taste rancid.

  1. The price of nuts and seeds

The price of nuts and seeds is very changeable and is dependent on the size of the harvest and the supply offered on the market in the various production areas.  Drought, too much rain and frost during the flowering season can all strongly influence the harvest and therefore the selling price.

The handling of nuts and seeds in the kitchen

The handling of nuts and seeds in the kitchen is separated into three phases:

  1. The storage of nuts and seeds
  2. The pre-preparation of nuts and seeds
  3. The preparations of nuts and seeds

1. The storage of nuts and seeds

When nuts and seeds are stored properly, they can be kept for roughly one year.  Nuts in their shells can be stored longer than shelled nuts.  Since cashew nuts, shelled walnuts and shelled hazelnuts can lose quality during storage, they are vacuum packed.  This ensures that their flavour, aroma and colour remain in better quality.  A storage temperature of 7º C is the most suitable temperature for storing them.  Nuts and seeds should be stored in good airtight plastic containers and not in tins as metal encourages the breaking down process.

Since cracking and shelling nuts is a time consuming job, it is almost always cheaper to buy them shelled.  For various preparations, flaked or groundnuts are required and they too are cheaper to buy ready to use.  However it is also important to keep in mind that shelled and un-fleeced nuts do lose quality and ground and flaked nuts even more.
It is important to buy in quantities that reflect the use – if some types are used irregularly, there is no point in buying them in bulk.  Naturally, if for example, walnuts are used daily in a busy kitchen, it can be beneficial to buy in larger amounts.
Most nuts and seeds are harvested once a year.  Since the importer/ distributor stores all of these products in optimal conditions, it is unwise to buy in stocks that last longer than one month.

  1. Pre-preparation of nuts

The basic preparation of nuts is dependent on the way they are bought and is for each type of nut varied.  The methods of shelling and removing the fleeces are discussed in in the varieties section.  Most nuts are purchased already blanched and blanched nuts have already had their fleece removed.

nut cracker

  1. The preparation of nuts and seeds

Nuts
Most nuts that are purchased with their fleece have to have it removed before preparation.  The manner in which this is done is discussed in the varieties section.

White, un-fleeced nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, shelled pistachios and pine nuts can become soft very quickly.  However they can easily be made crispy again simply by heating them under the salamander or roasting in a dry frying pan or in the oven.

Seeds
Seeds, like nuts are oil retainers.  The seeds used in the kitchen are from various different plants.
The most commonly used seeds are pine seeds; they are excellent for adding flavour to salads, a good accompaniment for spinach and indispensable for certain Middle Eastern and Italian recipes.  They are one of the main ingredients for example in pesto.
Pumpkin seeds are suitable for salads, desserts and cakes.  They give a good flavour to bread, cakes and stuffing. Poppy seeds are used in salads, biscuits, bread and desserts. Poppy seeds are indispensable in some Eastern dishes.

mustard seeds

From almond to sesame oil
Because of the high fat content, some nuts and seeds are used as basic ingredients for edible oils.  Some of the oils such as peanut, walnut, hazelnut, and soya oils have a very definite flavour and are relatively expensive. They can most commonly used in dressings however they can also be used in the preparation of cakes and in sweet or savoury dishes that require the flavour of nuts.
The number of oil types that are made from seeds is much greater than that of nuts. Some of the seeds used for oil include rapeseed, linseed, sunflower, pumpkin, grape seed and sesame seed. Rapeseed and linseed oil are commonly used in industry for the production of margarine. Pumpkin seed oil has a somewhat sweet flavour and is relatively scarce and expensive – it is therefore not commonly used in kitchens. Sesame seed oil has a strong aroma and is more often used in Eastern kitchens, normally as a flavouring agent.

peanut oil