A DAY IN CHEF JP’S PEANUT GALLERY
Our Chef JP has gone nuts – peanuts, to be exact. Spend a day with him in his Peanut Gallery and learn about all the treats that are in store when you just reach out and remove a simple jar from the pantry …
In pursuit of the perfect peanut butter …
Shirley and I set out to find that perfect, nutty, smooth peanut butter. We’d looked at the many ingredients on the backs of jars in our friendly supermarket and decided that it would be far better to track down the real deal – a smooth paste made from the ultimate peanut without the many preservatives or additives. But, looking back, we now realise that that wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be.
For starters, we wanted to shrug off the high prices for the many au naturel peanut butters that we had seen in deli’s and fancy stores along tourist routes.
I mean, what’s so difficult about keeping things simple that you have to ramp up the price? Enter the urban legend of Nut Lover’s peanut butter which you can purchase directly from the factory in either jars or by the bucketful. The factory, we were told, was located in the somewhat mangy and murky underworld of the back of the Durban port.
Enough said. Even out GPS was as confused as we were when we started to negotiate the harbor side meccas of Clairwood, Mobeni and Jacobs. Our first Aha moment came when we discovered that the elusive home of Nut Lovers had moved and so we headed off, dodging large container trucks and taxis, in the direction of Prospecton. With the local oil refinery in focus, we realized that we’d gone too far and did a quick about turn to head back to the world of potholed streets and oily sidewalks. We found it quite by mistake actually – the GPS had given up – and we tumbled out of the car to procure some of this (almost) liquid gold).
Of course, I couldn’t resist that first taste, so I burst open the jar. The owner came out to see what all the excitement was about and introduced us to sacks of peanuts piled high on the factory floor. They’d come from the hinterland and were en route to the crushers and other machinery that was grinding away in the background. This was the locally grown, locally made manna from peanut heaven. If you’d like to follow in our footsteps, we advise you to google it first before heading out on this somewhat challenging quest. But, rest assured, once you find it, it is well worth it!
From humble beginnings in South America, our little nutty friend has travelled the globe, spreading to Africa and Asia and finally findings its way to Europe via the colonial explorers – and ultimately to some of the most bespoke restaurants and home kitchens across the globe.
All that said, the joke is actually on us as the humble peanut is not even a nut in the first place! It is a part of the legume family and actually grows under the ground – a far cry from the more conventional nuts that are picked from trees.
The good news is that peanuts are extremely rich in protein and a hearty tablespoon a day can dish up a variety of health benefits, including weight loss and improved cardio health. In addition to their high protein content, they are also rich in so-called “good fats” as well as magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and B vitamins.
So, despite being high in calories, our lowly peanuts are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates. In cooking, they are, sadly, extremely underrated, but very versatile.
Peanut oil also has a high smoking point and great resistance to rancidity.
My best friend in Australia, who owed a fish and chip shop, actually used peanut oil for making fries – but, then again, the boys Down Under also like to balance the good stuff with the bad boy beers.
Sadly, for a while now, it has been a case of peanut non-grata as peanuts have been associated with food allergies. In fact, peanut allergies soon found themselves on the radar of the food police in the mid- eighties…. as if the fashion police were not enough!
The anti-peanut movement spiked in the mid-nineties with nutritionists and scientists explaining that the protein in the peanut actually causes the itching and tingling that is usually associated with a mild reaction. If you develop more serious symptoms – nausea, vomiting, breathlessness, swollen lips and tongue or wheezing, get help fast as anaphylactic shock can be fatal.
If that’s you, then peanuts are definitely off the menu.
But if you’re one of the lucky ones, we’re going to re-open the infamous Peanut Gallery and enjoy a day of peanut rich cuisine that starts with breakfast and goes on to a decadent high tea mid-morning, followed by a yummy peanutty lunch and, finally, a peanut filled evening main and dessert that’s guaranteed to make all those peanut compromised foodies very envious.
MORNING IN THE PEANUT GALLERY
You’ll probably find that most of your crunchiest granolas have plenty of peanuts and can be enjoyed with creamy yoghurt and even some fruit to get your morning off to a nutritious start.
9.30 am peanut meridian time means it is time for time for the ultimate in decadence – high tea and a …
NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE
FROM THE PANTRY
10 cream crackers
8 Tblsp of melted butter
one tub mascarpone / cream cheese
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
150 grams of aerated chocolate
1 cup chocolate chips, melted
250 grams of peanut butter
100 grams of confectioner’s/ castor sugar
Place the cream crackers in a plastic bag and crush them into fine crumbs using a rolling pin. Combine with melted butter until you have the texture of slightly wet sand. Then, layer the coated crumbs into the base of a glass pie plate or a spring form pan to create the base. Refrigerate this.
Mix together the cream cheese and sugar and then add the sugar, vanilla and chocolate until you have an even, lump free mixture that is a uniform colour.
Pour the mixture over your base, spread evenly with a spoon or a spatula and then refrigerate.
Melt and mix together the peanut butter and castor sugar and pour this over the refrigerated first layer of the base. Spread evenly using a knife or a spatula.
Refrigerate for 3 hours before slicing and plating this dish. Garnish with chocolate flakes, icing sugar and some fresh mint. It serves 8 so you can invite a few friends around to enjoy this peanut treat with you.
LUNCHING IN THE PEANUT GALLERY
For a light midday meal, I created two simple dishes – one from Mauritius and one from Phuket, Thailand.
Those with Mauritian style munchies can enjoy toasted fresh baguette, served with peanut butter and spicy island style Mazavaroo. Those who prefer all things Thai can enjoy a chicken satay, coated in peanut butter and grilled and then served with a perfectly balanced side salad that consists of grated cucumber, onion, lime juice and chopped chilli.
DINING OUT PEANUT STYLE
HERO PEANUT CURRY
FROM THE PANTRY
1 kg of mutton shanks, cut into cubes
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm disks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm disks
2 onions, diced
a medium sized pumpkin, cut into cubes
1 can of peeled tomatoes
1 tin of coconut cream
500ml beef stock
For the aromatics and spices:
2 Tblsp turmeric
1 clove garlic
1 cinnamon stick
10 ml olive oil
2 Tblsp red curry paste
2 thyme leaves
3 Tblsp crunchy peanut butter
After rubbing your meat in peanut butter, let it overnight in the fridge to marinate, adding some soy sauce and a dash of lemon juice.
The next day, there will be four stages to perfecting your peanut curry:
I prefer making curries in a potjie as it retains that perfect heat balance and locks in all the aromas and flavours. So, stoke that fire and fry your onions, spices and your peanut butter until they sweat and from a paste.
Now it is time to braise your mutton, searing in the peanut and soy flavours. Add the tomatoes and 500 ml of beef stock and cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes
While the meat is simmering away, you can start adding your carrots and sweet potato. Let these simmer for 10 minutes, lift the lid and check the liquidity.
By now, your curry should be cooked and you can stir in the coconut cream and leave the lid off to vapourise any excess liquid.
Let the pot rest for a while before plating. Serve this curry on a bed of Basmati rice and add some fresh mint.
PEANUT AND JELLY BOMBS
This dessert has a distinct Congolese flavour. But, let me be honest, this is the first time I’ve tried this. It came out nearly perfect, but I’ll keep going to achieve culinary perfection.
FROM THE PANTRY:
You’ll need half a kg of ranch dough, 1 packet of jelly, mixed and set in the fridge for an hour, 100 grams of smooth peanut butter and some peanut oil.
Roll out your dough with a rolling pin, adding some flour to smooth out. Cut into about 8 round disk shapes, with a diameter of 8 cm and 4cm in height. Spread each disc with peanut butter and place a dollop of jelly in the middle.
Now for the tricky part, fold the dough slowly and make into a ball, with no gaps. Dust with flour and then slam dunk them into your pre heated (180° C) oil. Let them bounce around and turn them over after 2 minutes. Remove and drain the excess oil and let them cool off slightly. Now, you are ready to cut them and let that gooey goodness ooze out. Sprinkle some castor sugar and indulge.
PEANUT BUTTER PINO
Last but not least, it doesn’t get more tropical this this, my friends.
In a blender, mix the following ingredients:
1/2 cup of crushed ice
2 Tblsp smooth peanut butter
125 ml pineapple juice, not from concentrate
1 tot white rum
1 top Spice gold rum
250 ml coconut cream
Serve in a highball glass and finish with a sprig of fresh mint and a 1/4 of a fresh pineapple wedge to add a little exotic tropical charm. And, then salute!
Now that you have experienced a culinary day in the life of a peanut, you’ll have realised that this a true little culinary hero. Peanuts are not just healthy, but very versatile and you’ll soon be aware that the small things in life really do make a difference.