Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Kentish cobnut pesto

I always like to experiment with new ingredients so I was delighted (and somewhat surprised) to find these fresh cobnuts at my local supermarket, still green and in there husks as nature intended. Cobnuts are a cultivated variety of hazelnut and a speciality of Kent, they are slightly larger than normal hazelnuts and have a delicious mild and milky flavour when eaten raw but a much more robust and nutty flavour when toasted. They are also a very seasonal ingredient, only available for a few weeks at the beginning of September.According to the Kentish Cobnut Association children used to play a version of conkers with cobnuts but I had a much better use for them. I was torn between two possible recipes for my wonderful cobnuts. One was a cobnut and apple cake which I'm sure would be a perfect combination, the other, and the recipe I settled for was a cobnut pesto using toasted cobnuts, flat leaf parsley, olive oil and Parmesan.

Shelling cobnuts is a time consuming task but by the time I had reached the last of the nuts I had become quite proficient at cracking the shells using a meat tenderiser, one swift whack and off the shells came. I dry toasted all but a handful of the shelled nuts in a hot pan until they were golden brown, the smell of toasted nuts was too good to resist nibbling on a few as I grated some Parmesan.Once The nuts had cooled I added them to the blender along with a large bunch of parsley, a big handful of grated Parmesan and a generous quantity of olive oil which I added in a steady trickle until the consistency looked just right.

Served tossed through tagliatelle pasta with a handful of wild rocket leaves, a few tomatoes and sprinkling of chopped raw cobnuts for a bit of crunch this made a delicious alternative to the usual basil pesto. If you can't find cobnuts this would work almost as well with good hazelnuts.
Cobnut (or hazelnut) pesto recipe (Added to pasta will serve at least 4)

  • 450g/1lb cobnuts in there shell (or about 200g shelled nuts)
  • A large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • A good handful of grated Parmesan
  • The best olive oil you have
  • Shell the nuts and toast in a hot dry pan until golden brown, nuts burn very easily so watch them!
  • Set the nuts aside to cool while you grate the Parmesan cheese
  • Add the cooled toasted nuts, parsley (stalks and all), Parmesan and a good slug of olive oil to a blender, blend everything together to a paste and add more oil until the consistency is right, it should be quite loose not thick or dry.
  • Toss through pasta or use in any recipe where pesto is called for

Alternatively you can use a pestle and mortar to make this, follow the steps above but grind everything in the mortar.


Foodycat said...

How fab! I've got some hazelnuts curing in the living room - hopefully I can make something as delicious as yours!

James said...

Hey - you're back!
Was thinking of something like this yesterday while on the road. Then thought about cobnut pizza... maybe pesto dough would be good, celariac puree, cobnuts, parmesan & rocket on top?

Used to be a great cobnut tree in the garden next to my grandparents & we would relieve the branches of their weight each year. Call it a public service. Need to find a tree round here now.

Pam said...

I've never heard of cobnuts... I imagine the pesto was delicious with the pasta.

Jonathan said...

Awesome. Love the sound and idea of this. Now all I have to do is find some cobnuts in Sweden. Surely they have them here.

Hopie said...

I've never had cobnuts but your cobnut pesto sounds great! I love the image of you breaking them with a meat tenderizer - ah the things we do in a kitchen with limited tools. I totally know the feeling.

The Caked Crusader said...

It seems to have been a bumper season for cobnuts - I love this way of using them, I've only used them in baking!

Anonymous said...

Never heard of cobnuts before, but I love hazelnuts, so I bet they'd be right up my alley. And how cool that you found fresh ones!

Antonia said...

I've often seen cobnuts for sale and been unsure what to do with them other than toast them and throw them into a salad. Pesto is a great idea though. Very tasty I'm sure.