Almendras Garrapiñadas (Caramelised Almonds)
The leaves are now falling off the trees here. We have had an Indian Summer, but all good things come to an end. The orchard is empty of fruit and I will shortly be starting the pruning process to prepare for another season of growth and hopefully abundance. One of the few fruits of the orchard that are still in an unprocessed state are the almonds. This week I wanted to share with you a typical Spanish treat that works really well as a Christmas nibble or served at your next candlelight supper!
My first real encounter with this typical Spanish delight was when I visited Ujué, a small town in the Navarre region of northern Spain. The town is worth a visit, both for its location, the architecture including an impressive 12th Century church, or for its almendras garrapiñadas. I would also recommend a visit to the town of Tafalla which is just 20Km away. My all-time favourite restaurant is there. My parents-in-law took me there on one of my first visits to Spain and I have been in love with it ever since. I would wholeheartedly recommend you pay the Tubal restaurant a visit if you are ever in the vicinity.
Anyway, back to Ujué and those almonds. We were told at the time that the village made the best almendras garrapiñadas in Spain and that the royal family bought them from there. I have no idea if this is a true story or not, but it certainly is a great sales pitch! So being great gastro-tourists we asked around and found what was supposedly the best place to buy them in the village. To our surprise it turned out not to be a shop, but rather a small house not unlike any other in the village. We knocked and were shown into their living room come kitchen and offered some almonds to try.
In a world now ruled by supermarkets, sell-by and use-by dates, health inspectors and mass production it was a refreshing change to see the lady of the house boiling up a new batch on her small stove. Of course we need certain levels of cleanliness and freshness in our food production chain, but I can’t help thinking that a step back to more locally sourced fresh produce, is in fact a step forward.
The almonds were fantastic and we ended up buying a bag or two. As I am still here to tell the tale I can only assume we did not ingest any fatal bacteria in our visit to the production facility nor in the subsequent sampling of the produce.
So as to the recipe…… well it really is quite easy with just a few tips up-front.
First although almendras garrapiñadas are caramelised almonds, you must forget all you know about making caramel. Here you basically add sugar to water, heat to make it dissolve then boil it to death so that the sugar comes back out and makes a gritty mess in the bottom of the pan! Couldn’t be easier right? Well here goes with the recipes and some pictures which probably help more than the words this time around:
Serves 4-6 people
100g Almonds (With peel)
Before I explain how to make these almonds, a couple of recommendations. It is better to use an old pan as stirring the sugar might cause some scratching. When the caramel forms it can spit out, to be on the safe side I would recommend wearing gloves. Please don’t be put off, I have never had problems with the pan nor with spitting, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!
Although I have mentioned it above in the ingredients section, let me repeat that the almonds must still have the peel on otherwise the caramel won’t stick to the almonds.
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and boil gently until the sugar dissolves.
Turn up the heat and boil, stirring, until the last of the water starts to evaporate.
Drop the heat a little and continue to boil gently until the sugar starts to form again. It will look terrible, almonds and dried sugar starting to stick to the pan.
Scrape off the sugar until it is loose again and mixed in with the almonds.
Raise the temperature on the pan and stir gently as the caramel starts to
form. When the almonds are just caramelised tip out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper attempting to separate out as best as possible.
Allow almonds to cool slightly and break up into individual pieces if necessary before the caramel fully sets.
Well I hope you like the recipe. It is not that well known outside of Spain and can make an interesting addition to a that special meal. Even where these almonds are known, buying them already made can be quite expensive, yet with a few basic ingredients and a little time can be fairly easily made at home.
2015 Lincoln W. Betteridge