Peanut, groundnut, monkey nut… Arachis hypogaea has been called many names, but no matter how long we’re gonna do it, it won’t become a nut. In a botanical sense, the peanut is a legume or pulse, like beans, peas, lentils. So why do we refer to it like that? Because structurally and flavour-wise peanuts are similar to other nuts, especially when they are dry-roasted. In culinary terms, that’s more than enough to look at them as if they were nuts. Ok, we’ve settled that, why does it matter if the only thing most people ever tried was a peanut butter sandwich? That must be an unfortunate misunderstanding between those people and peanuts. And it must be solved today.
Let’s start our acquaintance from scratch. We introduce duqqa (or dukkah) – a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of different seeds, herbs and spices. It works as a dip with bread or a great hors d’oeuvre for your vegetables. Take 3 Tbsp peanuts and grind or crush them to a coarse powder, to that add 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds, cumin, coriander powder and salt. Mix well – your duqqa is ready. If you want to make it more like a spread, you can always go straight ahead and add some peanut butter measured by eye. But if you prefer in a powder-y form, try it on soups and salads, as a pizza and omelette topping.
Another snack, that is a definitely must-try thing, is boiled peanuts. You’ll need to find them raw for that preparation and wash them in several changes of water. Then put 500 gr. / 1 lb. peanuts in a saucepan barely covered with water, adding 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 3 Tbsp sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise, some cloves and 1 dried chili. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 hours, depending on how soft you want your peanuts to be. Despite being told that watched pot never boils, make sure that it does, which means you’ll need to stay alert not to let all the water to dry out. After time is up, you can serve peanuts right away. If we also had to recommend a drink for this feast, it’d probably be a beer. Or two.
But what if you really love peanut butter and don’t want to hear about anything else? We got you covered. But not in the way that you think. Try to make some spicy peanut sauce with peanut butter. Whisk half a cup of it with some hot water to dilute it a little and then add 2 Tbsp Sriracha (or your favourite hot sauce) and 2 Tbsp red curry paste together with 1 Tbsp each: vinegar, soy sauce, lemon/lime juice, sugar. Whisk, adjust salt, pepper or garlic, lean back and imagine how great this quick and easy sauce will be accompanying your evening meat, fish, vegetables, or a take-away pizza.