Peanut or groundnuts are the only nuts that grow below the ground. In fact, there is a lot of talk about these nuts not being nuts at all…they are legumes (hmm, that’s why the name moongphali?). Fact remains that these legumes got transported to the ‘nut’ category only because of the high nutritive values. <b1>
In my kitchen
In hot or cold weather, roasted with some salt and masala, peanuts are a good choice for snacking.
Just boil the whole pods with some salt and turmeric powder.. takes a while to peel and eat.. but its worth the effort. In fact, boiled raw peanuts make a delicious chaat with onions, tomatoes and kala namak.
Another peanut favourite in my family is the Peanut Raisin Bars which my daughters love to make with Alyona (they take the whole lot to school). To make these you need a cup of roasted chopped peanuts with three fourth cup of seedless raisins. Take quarter cup each of butter, sugar and honey and heat through. Then simmer for three minutes and remove from heat. Add raisins, peanuts and one and half cups of cornflakes. Spread in greased tray and when cooled, cut into bars. Simple, tasty and healthy. <b2>
Peanuts play a large role in our daily food being able to take various guises in salads, gravies, snacks, rice, chutneys, laddoos, chikki and more. The list can go on… like add it to chewda, or add to poha the way Alyona does too.
Peanuts grow in a very fascinating manner. They actually start out as an above ground flower that, due to its heavy weight, bends towards the ground. The flower eventually burrows underground, which is where the peanut actually matures. They mature in about two months, when the leaves of the plant turn yellow.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea), is a species of legume native to South America, Mexico and Central America. They are also known as earthnuts, goobers, goober peas, pindas, jack nuts, pinders, manila nuts and monkey nuts. They taste the best when they are tender and just harvested.
Once while travelling across Andhra by car I saw peanut fields on either side. Just got down and asked for a few of them that had been harvested…. just awesome. South Indians use a lot in their recipes. You can use peanuts as a wonderful gravy base, or fry in oil and add to tamarind, lemon, coconut, curd or any other rice variety.
Peanut butter is another popular product in the US and Europe. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were quite popular some time ago. The same butter is also used in candies, chocolates and bakery products too (crunchy peanut cookies are my personal favourite).
Peanut oil (we know it better as groundnut oil) is probably the most popular cooking medium. It has high smoking point hence ideal for frying.
I learnt a trick from my father when we lived in Delhi. Good moongphalis should feel heavy for its size and should not rattle. The rattling sound suggests that the peanut kernels have dried out. Additionally, the shells should be free from cracks, dark spots and insect damage. Shelled peanuts should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer since excess exposure to heat, humidity or light will cause them to become rancid. Shelled peanuts will keep in the refrigerator for about three months and in the freezer for up to six months. They should not be chopped prior to storage, only right before eating or using in a recipe.
Now we have two choices before we close: make a peanut and yogurt dip or a nice peanut sauce to serve with chicken satay…I think do both, one today and one tomorrow!
(The writer is a master chef, author and television host. Email at email@example.com )