What’s green, furry and grows on trees?
I know that this sounds like the beginning to a terrible joke, but I do have a serious answer for you: almonds.
I’m going to be completely honest and tell you – I had no idea that immature almonds came in a fuzzy green pod. It’s not something that had ever crossed my mind. So when I saw some, I had to buy them.
Green almonds appear very briefly in early spring, and consist of a fuzzy outer shell and a soft white seed surrounded by a jelly-ish inner. After they are harvested, they eventually shrivel and harden and lose their furry coats.
When green almonds are very, very young, you can eat them whole – green pod and all. I tried one and ummmmmmm. I wasn’t keen to repeat the experience: it was very, very sour and not very nice. So then I tried eating just the inner seed. It was very tangy and “fresh” tasting. The closest comparison I have is a cross between a tart grape and very fresh cucumber – that sour, watery, green flavour.
Rather than hulling them and eating them plain, I really wanted to showcase them in a dish. It took me ages to think of something, but eventually I settled on a lamb pilaf, with the hulled green almonds stirred through at the end.
I was really happy with my dish. The green almonds gave the pilaf, which I had added a lot of spices to, a crunchy freshness. Of course, if you don’t have any green almonds the pilaf is still good – you could substitute with toasted silvered almonds. It won’t be quite the same but it’d still be the yum.
- 400g diced lamb
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 small bunch coriander, washed and finely chopped, reserving some leaves for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup uncooked basmati rice
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Water for the rice - the amount will depend on how much liquid you have after the lamb has cooked
- 150g green almonds, hulled
- (I did all this in my electronic pressure cooker - if you don't have one, you can do it in a heavy pot on the stove, just remember that you will need to add more liquid and the lamb will take longer to become tender.)
- In a frying pan on medium heat, add a dash of oil and the onions and garlic. Cook for five minutes or so, until soft but not browned.
- Into a pressure cooker, add the onions, garlic, lamb, all the spices, the lemon zest and juice, honey, salt and a cup of water.
- Close the lid and bring the pressure cooker to high pressure - cook for 30 minutes.
- Release the pressure and remove the lamb to a separate bowl, straining and reserving the cooking liquid. Set the meat aside for now
- Wash the basmati rice well. Place the washed rice and the raisins into the pressure cooker.
- Add the liquid you have from cooking the lamb - you want 1 & 1/4 cups of liquid altogether to cook the rice - top up with water if you don't have enough.
- Close the lid and bring the pressure cooker to high pressure - cook for 3 minutes.
- Release the pressure and add the rice to the lamb.
- Hull the green almonds by (carefully) slicing through the green pod until you hit the inner nut, cutting around the pod in a circle without slicing through the whole thing.
- You should be able to split the green almond open and remove the nut.
- Once all the green almonds have been hulled, add to the meat and rice and stir gently to combine everything.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.