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A handful of walnuts for wholesome goodness

Revel in the juxtaposition of textures and flavours that walnuts bestow upon a desserts, chutneys and more

(Left) Walnut brownie; and walnut chutney.(Nandita Iyer)

By Nandita Iyer

LAST PUBLISHED 25.11.2023  |  09:00 AM IST

When it comes to brownie enthusiasts, there exist two distinct camps: those who bite into the brownie and when met with a piece of walnut, celebrate the delectable crunch and flavour it brings to the dessert. Then, there are those like my son, who, upon encountering even the faintest hint of walnut, break into a theatrical display of disdain, describing it as an unwelcome, bitter intrusion on their taste buds.

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When I asked him about his aversion to walnuts in sweets, my son adamantly declared that bitterness has no place in the realm of desserts. “I don’t mind a bit of sour or saltiness in a dessert, but I’d draw the line at bitter," he asserted. Fair point, I suppose. However, I revel in the juxtaposition of textures and flavours that walnuts bestow upon a brownie, banana bread, or pudding.

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I want to share with you two unforgettable walnut-based dessert experiences. Last year, my friend Indu travelled to Srinagar and stayed in a resort located in a pear orchard. Along with pears freshly plucked from these trees, she also got me something that left its mark on my taste buds: walnut fudge from a quaint shop named Moon Light in Hazratbal, Srinagar. Renowned for its fudge since 1896, each bite transported me to walnut groves in a place aptly called paradise on earth, making me yearn to visit Kashmir. In a Facebook video, Moonis, the current proprietor, shared that his grandfather initiated the venture in 1896, starting from Dal Lake. Over time, the closely guarded recipe was passed down to his father and then to him. He disclosed that walnuts, honey, and dates are the sole ingredients in this time-honoured recipe.

Now, let’s traverse from Srinagar to the beloved hill station for Mumbaikars—Lonavala. Here, Cooper’s Fudges and Chikkis, a Parsi-owned family shop founded by Noshir Cooper nearly a century ago, proudly serves the famed choco walnut fudge. Unlike Moon Light’s fudge, this one is not purely walnut-centric but has a generous quantity of walnuts in a chocolatey fudge. According to an insider, each batch of this dessert undergoes a slow-cooking process featuring crushed walnuts, drinking chocolate, ghee, cocoa powder, condensed milk, and sugar.

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Unfortunately, as these are family-run establishments crafting small batches of fresh fudge, they aren’t available online to the best of my knowledge.

Beyond their gastronomic delights, a handful of walnuts can provide more than your daily requirement of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. However, these are not the same types of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) found in fatty fish. While the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is relatively low. Walnuts are also rich in polyphenols with antioxidant properties, dietary fibre, and essential nutrients like vitamin E and zinc, vital for maintaining healthy skin. For those seeking to enjoy walnuts for their health benefits, consider consuming them plain or toasted, either on their own or as part of salads or a cheese platter. Though candied walnuts may add a gourmet touch to salads, it’s essential to acknowledge addition of sugar to this otherwise healthy ingredient is not a very smart idea. A handful of walnuts paired with slices of apple or pear, a bunch of grapes, and a favourite cheese create a delightful at-home working lunch or a wholesome snack platter for pre-dinner aperitivo (apero in French) time.

Chocolate walnut tiffin
This classic British treat is easy to make and requires no baking.

Makes around 10 pieces

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Ingredients
Half cup butter (salted/unsalted)
1 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup or honey
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 heaped cup crushed digestive biscuits
Quarter cup chopped walnuts
Half tsp vanilla or almond extract
100g dark or milk chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp melted white chocolate (optional)

Method

Line a 6-8 inch size baking tin with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, melt butter along with sugar, golden syrup (or honey) and cocoa powder until well combined.

Stir in the crushed digestive biscuits and chopped walnuts along with the vanilla extract.

Transfer this mixture to the prepared baking tin and spread it out evenly using a spatula, smoothening the top.

Take the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts. Stir well using a silicon spatula after each burst and stop once the chocolate has completely melted.

Pour and scrape the melted chocolate over the biscuit mixture in the tin. Smoothen out the surface to cover the entire tin. You can pipe or drizzle some melted white chocolate on the top of this to make it look prettier. Refrigerate for two-three hours or overnight until well set. Dip a sharp knife in hot water and cut into pieces of desired size.

Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

Kashmiri Radish Walnut Chutney
This can be served as a dip along with veggie sticks or a part of a cheese platter

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients
Quarter cup walnut halves (soaked for 2-3 hours)
1 large radish
3-4 green chillies
1 tsp dried mint or handful fresh mint leaves
2-3 tbsp thick yogurt
Half tsp salt

Method

Drain the soaked walnuts and chop coarsely.

Grate the radish coarsely and tie it in a muslin cloth. Squeeze out all the water to the extent possible. This prevents the chutney from turning watery.

In a blender jar, grind the walnuts to a coarse purée. Remove this into a bowl.

Add the grated radish, green chillies, mint and yogurt to the blender jar to get a coarse purée. Transfer to the bowl with the puréed walnuts. Add salt and mix well. Serve chilled as a condiment along with an Indian meal, as a dip with crackers or crudites, or as a part of a cheese platter.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book is The Great Indian Thali—Seasonal Vegetarian Wholesomeness (Roli Books). She posts @saffrontrail on Twitter and Instagram.

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