The freshness and flavour of Australian hazelnuts make them a treat worth seeking out.
Hazelnut-growing is an expanding industry in Australia, with plenty of potential. March and April are prime picking months. To give you some idea of the quantities involved, domestic consumption of the nuts sold in their shells is about 80 tonnes, in addition to about 2000 tonnes sold as kernels. This equates to about 4000 tonnes in-shell. Australia’s total current production is about 100 tonnes in-shell.
Turkey leads the world, producing more than 70 per cent of all hazelnuts consumed – about 300,000 tonnes annually. Italy follows, with 100,000 tonnes, then Spain with 20,000 tonnes, and the US with 15,000 tonnes.
While Australia imports a substantial quantity, at this time of year local hazelnuts are so fresh and flavoursome that I urge everyone to look out for them.
As for the best imported hazelnuts, my preference is for the Italian Tonda Gentile variety from the Piedmont region.
This hazelnut has its own appellation, protected by Italian law. It comes into Australia in small quantities and is well worth seeking out.
To celebrate the nut harvest, I’m heading to the Wandi Nut Festival in Wandiligong, Victoria, to cook with new-season hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts on April 28.
LENTIL, CARROT AND TURNIP SALAD WITH HAZELNUT SAUCE
Add lentils to 2 litres boiling water. Return to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Store cooked lentils in their cooking water in refrigerator. Place hazelnuts on a baking tray. Roast for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 160C. Remove and, once cooled, rub together in a tea towel to remove skin. In a food processor, finely pulse hazelnuts and garlic. Finely chop capers and mix with hazelnuts and garlic, along with 1 cup parsley. Stir through 150ml olive oil to achieve a thick sauce. Season and add lemon juice to taste. Mix well. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and fry carrots and turnips until edges are caramelised. Place sauce on plate, then vegetables. Scatter drained lentils over top, finishing with chopped parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Serves 6 as a first course
Wine Grenache, shiraz, mourvedre blend
PRAWNS, OLIVE AND HAZELNUT SALAD
Ensure prawns are deveined by removing the black digestive tract along their backs. Prawns can be left whole or chopped into 4 or 5 pieces each. Place in a large bowl with hazelnuts, olives, chives and parsley. Make dressing by mixing together oils, vinegar and lemon juice. Add to prawns, season to taste and toss gently.
Serves 6 as a first course
Wine Vermentino or young semillon