Eating a dairy free, whole food plant based diet is becoming less labour intensive as more products become available in the shops. This is great for convenience, but does carry a pretty hefty price tag, especially if that tag is headed ‘free from’! And because of the need for an extended shelf life, products may not be as whole as they should be, with added extras – sugar, salt and oil are added to not only improve flavour as the natural taste fades over time, but also to act as preservatives. There are many other natural preservatives, and colours, many of which are now grown on yeasts, so are a no no for someone with a yeast intolerance.
My daughter has recently developed a passion for almond butter. Always declaring an innate dislike of peanut butter (despite never tasting it!!), I bought a jar of almond butter one day which she tried under protest. To her surprise, she loved it and has be adding it to her food in imaginative ways ever since (baked sweet potato with almond butter topping?). The jars found at the supermarket are pretty small and don’t last long. They are also not cheap. I tried to make it myself, my ever reliable food processor working hard, but just ended up with a dry powder. I could have added oil, but then it wouldn’t be a whole food, so never tried again.
Until recently that is. Browsing on the internet one day, I ended up on a discussion forum about making almond butter (it continues to amaze me what you can stumble upon on the web). According to this chat, almond butter was easy to make, only requiring whole almonds but needed one vital ingredient – patience!
I realised the dry powder I had created was only the middle stage of the butter making process. If I have let my processor continue for another five minutes or so, the nuts would have broken down enough to start releasing the natural oils which change the ground nuts from a dry paste into a beautifully rich, moist spread. And not only is the flavour remarkable, you know exactly what is in your almond butter. If you roast the nuts before hand, you don’t even need to store it in the fridge, although I do, although more out of habit than necessity, because to be honest, it gets eaten up pretty quickly.
Almonds are amazingly healthy. They do contain lots of fat, but it’s healthy monounsaturated, the type which has been proven to help lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your body and improve heart health. They also contain fabulous amounts of vitamin E, and anti-oxidant that helps in heart health, but also in your whole health, and is great for your skin and helps slow the ageing process. Almonds also have a shed load of fibre, a good amount of magnesium, which is also essential for heart and general health, B vitamins and phytonutrients essential for overall health, so what’s not to like?
And of course, this process is applicable to any nut or seed. So I’ve made my own tahini, which is way more tasty and powerful than anything in a jar, plus the oil doesn’t separate from the solids, which always seems to happen with shop bought. I also made peanut butter, which is seriously intense! So if you have a few spare minutes and fancy experimenting, give this a go and revel in the extraordinary flavours you’ll create.
1 1/2 cups almonds
a food processor
a small jar, cleaned and rinsed with boiling water
Heat your oven to 180oC. Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes. Take them out the oven, check they’re not getting burnt and pop them back for another couple of minutes. You don’t want to over roast them otherwise they become too dry and you won’t get a good butter. Remove
from the oven and leave to cool.Once cool, pop in your food processor and blitz on a medium speed until the nuts are broken down and stuck up the side of the bowl. Stop, get a spatula and scrap down to the bottom again. Resume processing. Repeat this process until the nuts eventually start releasing their oil and stay at the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed slightly and leave on until a beautifully unctuous butter is created. This will take about 10 minutes in total. Stop the processor and check the texture – continue until you get a smooth texture. Then spoon out into the clean jar and enjoy!