It's not easy extracting the nut from its shell. Several years ago the food writer, Nigel Slater wrote, "I have a funny little way with walnuts. I am never happy unless I can winkle the nut out of its shell in one piece. Even a corner broken is regarded as a failure. Worse, I like to extract those dry, papery wings that wedge themselves between the two halves of the nut while keeping the kernel intact. I can usually do it." Sadly he didn't go on to tell me how he achieved this impressive feat.
Using our nutcrackers involves far more brute strength than I possess. I noticed that Cro, of Magnon's Meanderings, had a sturdy-looking knife in his basket of walnuts. Himself uses the tip of our old potato peeler jabbed into the growing end of the shell. He opens it as if it were an oyster, with a flick of his wrist and then uses the nutcracker to extract the two, neat halves. Perhaps I should buy him a Swiss army knife for Christmas, one with a thingumjig for getting whatsits out of horses hooves, so that he could access the walnuts with a little more style.
My method involves using the underneath of my griddle and a large pebble, (collected from a Cornish beach long before removing pebbles became an offence.) Rather primitive, you might think. Well, I'm sure that's been said of me before! Anyhow, it works - but if you have a better system, especially Nigel's, please let me know.
Once I've got a pile of shelled nuts, this is what I make.
Treacle and Walnut tart
make a shortcrust pastry with 4 oz flour
2 eggs, beaten, then add remaining ingredients
4 oz soft brown sugar
grated rind of a lemon
2 oz melted butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
6 oz chopped walnuts
Pour filling into the pastry case and cook for about 35 minutes at gas mark 4.
Don't over cook, the filling should sink when cool and be slightly gooey.
Apple, Celery and Walnut Tarts.
Make a shortcrust pastry with 4 oz flour to line 4 individual tartlet tins.
1 small dessert apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 oz chopped walnuts
1 beaten egg
1 oz strong cheese
2 heaped teaspoons cornflour mixed with
4 fl oz milk
salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients and pour into the pastry cases. Cook for about 20 minutes at gas mark 5 until the custard has set.
3 and a half oz butter melted with
3 oz dark chocolate.
9 oz sugar
4 and a half oz self-raising flour
3 oz walnuts
2 large or three small eggs
a teaspoon of vanilla
a handful of sultanas and mix all together very thoroughly.
Pour into a shallow,greased and lined tray and bake for about 30 minutes, making sure that the top doesn't burn, due to the chocolate content.
Makes about 16 gooey, indulgent squares!
(The free-range eggs in these recipes were a present from my neighbours, Kim and Andy, given in exchange for walnuts. Their hens are rescued battery hens who, being unused to the great outdoors, are rather shocked by the wind and rain and loathe to come out of their nice little house. I know just how they feel. Kim is wondering whether she should knit them woolly jumpers.)