Lightly sweetened with honey, a touch of savoury, sour and salty, with a bit of heat. That’s how these almonds taste and they would be great with drinks this holiday season.

I have a family member with severe nut allergies with the exception of almonds. This is a recipe made specifically for her. She had been looking longingly at my ‘Chinese Fried Sesame Walnuts

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and had been watching people eating them with relish. When I presented her with these, she was quite over the moon. After the first bottle was quickly emptied, she was seen combing through the kitchen for more. I have since made her another bottle so that should last her a few days. Hopefully, with the recipe now written down, she will make some for herself and me.

I much prefer, frying nuts over putting them in an oven. Here’s why:

(1) Being able to see the nuts as they toast means less guesswork and therefore a lower risk of the nuts burning.
(2) Less cleaning up.
(3) Contrary to what you might think, I use only 1/2 Tablespoon of oil for ~1 and 1/4 cups of almonds.

This recipe isn’t difficult or too messy. Just be ready to have your fingers a bit sticky whilst you nibble away on the almonds.

What’s ‘zaatar’? It could be a herb or a spice blend. Confused? Scroll down to my ‘Tips’ section for more information.

Stovetop Honey Almonds With A Touch of Heat And Zaatar

Prep: < 10 minutes 
Cook: ~5 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Easy
Makes: ~1 and 1/4 cups
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Keeps at least 1 week.  They don’t last longer than that in my house but I would choose to refrigerate thereafter as I stay in an area with high humidity.

Ingredients

7.7oz (220g)(~ 1 and 1/4 cups) almonds
1/2 Tablespoon neutral tasting oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 – 1 Tablespoon zaatar (the spice blend)*
Pinch of chilli pepper
*  Replace with whatever dried herbs you have in you cupboard, oregano and/or thyme would be ideal. Also add some salt to the mix and sesame seeds if you have. Read more about ‘zaatar’ under my ‘Tips’ section below.

Method

Pan toasting almonds
1. Heat a frying pan on medium-high heat until hot.
2. Whilst it is heating up, in a bowl, add the 1/2 Tablespoon of oil and the almonds. Toss to coat evenly.
3. Flick some water into the pan and if the droplets sizzles away quickly the pan is hot enough.
4. Add the almonds (keep the bowl – no need to wash – to reuse later) and with a silicon spatula (better to prevent sticking), stir it continuously for 3 – 4 minutes to encourage even cooking and avoid burning. As the almonds have their outer skins on, rely both on your sense of smell and sight to determine when the almonds are toasted enough. It will start to smell lightly toasted. With the almonds skins already naturally brown you might not be able to visually tell when the almonds are sufficiently toasted. If in doubt, remove one almond, slice it open. The insides should be just very lightly brown. Transfer the almonds into the bowl you used earlier.

Add the seasonings
1. Straight away, drizzle the 2 Tablespoons honey, 1/2 Tablespoon zaatar to start off with and the chilli pepper.
2. Toss the almonds to coat. Taste and add more zaatar or chilli pepper to suit your taste buds. Do not add too much honey as it gets too sticky and runny. I find 2 Tablespoon to be perfect.
3. Transfer onto parchment paper or a silicon pat and distribute to separate the almonds.
4. Once allowed to cool, they will crisp up.
5. Store in air-tight jars/bottles.

Tips

What’s ‘zaatar’?
‘Zaatar’ in actuality refers to a breed of herb that falls under the oregano family. There is a long standing disagreement over whether zaatar the herb is thyme, oregano or hyssop. I lean towards the oregano family.  As it is not mass produced and so difficult to procure, the herb is relatively unknown outside the Middle East region.  More often than not, the word ‘zaatar’ is associated with a blend of herbs often used in Middle Eastern cuisines.

The actual blend varies but it typically has a combination of a few or all of the following (and sometimes more of other herbs): zaatar the herb (if at all procurable), oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, marjoram, salt and sumac (from berries for or a touch of sour and astringency). Days spent sitting in the library reading cook books does pay off! The zaatar I use is not ‘zaatar the oregano’ but a blend obtained from a reputable spice market in Turkey. It’s a blend with sumac in it which is perfect to use on my fried almonds. Replace the sour touch with either citric acid, passion fruit powder or mango powder (found at Indian grocers -amchoor powder). If you do not have zaatar than replace with dried herbs of your choice (oregano and/or thyme would be preferred) and remember to add some salt and sesame seeds if you have some.

How to use zaatar?
If you do buy a bottle of the spice blend, it can be used wherever you would use dried herbs. For instance, in salad dressings, over a dressed salad, over your proteins (eggs, omelettes, chicken, fish…), over a bowl of strained yogurt that had been drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, as a bread dip (zaatar mixed into extra virgin olive oil), as a spread over flatbread before it goes into the oven. Get yourself a bottle. If you are one to dine at home regularly, it won’t go to waste.

I have no zaatar
As ‘zaatar’ is a blend of spices as mentioned above (“What’s ‘zaatar’?”), you could easily make up a spice blend to suit your taste.  Some oregano and/or thyme in the blend would be preferred and remember to add some salt and sesame seeds if you have some. Experiment. As I mentioned earlier, the sour note comes from sumac, which can be replaced by citric acid, passion fruit or mango powder (latter labelled  as ‘amchoor’ in Indian grocery stores).

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

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