Any-Nut Brittle (CABAR #01)
Soo I broke my arm.
I have a cast going from my fingers to nearly all the way up my right shoulder, with my elbow perpetually locked in a 90° angle. All I can really do now is shrug and twiddle my thumbs, and even those take effort. So for the next 6 weeks, I essentially have an 8-pound deadweight for a right arm. How fun.
Not gonna lie, I did initially think this was going to be easy. I mean sure, I’ve never broken a bone or been put in cast before, but people (specifically athletes) go through this all the time right? Aaron Ramsey for one has been through much worse. No reason why I can’t endure this little fracture.
Pfft how naïve I was.
One week in, and I’ve gone from having a gung-ho, bring-it-on attitude to being an almost defeated shell of a man. The cast is giving me the most insane itch I can't scratch, typing and texting have become lengthy ordeals, and I've found new nemeses in tightly shut ball jars and toothpaste tubes. Worst of all, I haven’t cooked in a week, and the itch to get cooking in the kitchen again is real. Fortunately, this is an itch I can at least do something about.
So instead of wallowing in my one-armed sorrow, I thought I'll go back to basics and come up with a series of really simple (but still friggin delicious) dishes. There's only one rule to these dishes - they have to be so simple they can be made with one hand. So no dough-rolling, pie-crimping, chicken-trussing, and probably no knifework. (Okay maybe some rough, one-handed chops or two are allowed.)
I’m calling the series Cooking with A Broken Arm, or CABAR for short. The acronym doesn't mean much in English, but in Malay, it means challenge, which is pretty darn apt, because if you haven’t figured it out, cooking with one arm is going to be a real challenge.
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First in this CABAR series is a nut brittle! Despite it's typically expensive price tag in supermarkets/bake shops, nut brittles are honestly one of the simplest snacks to make - just toast some nuts, fold in caramel, and leave it to harden. If you've noticed, this recipe’s called an any-nut brittle because you can literally use any nuts (and/or seeds) for it and it’d pretty much taste good regardless!
I took a cue from Sarah Jampel and made a pretty malleable recipe, one that gives you plenty of room to play around and add whatever nuts (and spices!) you fancy. Cardamom-spiced brittle? Ras al hanout with sesame? Sambal peanut brittle? With your imaginative food-brain and your own two hands (well, hand in my case), the sky's the limit!
So while you go make these, I'll be here having itches I can’t scratch, taking showers with plastic bags, and cooking with a broken arm. Fun times.
(Right arm please heal quick. 🙏
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makes one oven tray/sheet pan’s worth
600g nuts (a mix of any nuts really)
400g white sugar, granulated or caster works fine
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon (or 2 pinches) sea salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder, or any other spice, optional
- Weigh out your nut mix. You can use a mix of almonds, pecans, walnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, what have you really. I like to use a ratio of 2:1 of big nuts to small nuts. So 200g pecans or walnuts per 100g of pumpkin seeds, say.
- Roast the nuts in an oven preheated to 160°C for 15-20 minutes, until they start to smell really nutty and aromatic and take on a toasty-brown hue. You can also toast them in a pan on medium-low heat, but make sure to stir and toss them around frequently so they don't burn.
- To make the caramel, place the sugar, water, butter, and salt in a large saucepan and heat on medium for 5-10 minutes. Your caramel is done when it hits 150°C, but if you’re like me and can’t be bothered with a thermometer, cook it until the caramel turns a deep, toffee-brown. It might help to swirl the pan around to help the caramel cook evenly, but try not to stir it with a spatula as the caramel will just stick to it.
- When the caramel is done, take it off the heat and add in the baking soda, swirling the pan around to incorporate it in. Then, add all the toasted nuts (and spices if you're using it) into the caramel and fold them all together with a spatula or a large spoon until the nuts are evenly coated with caramel. Pour your caramel nut mix onto a lined baking tray (or a non-stick mat) and flatten it out into a flat sheet. You can use a lightly-oiled spatula or spoon to help you spread the nuts around without sticking too much. Work quick as the brittle will harden pretty fast!
- Sprinkle sea salt all over the brittle, and leave it to cool for 30-45 minutes, then break it up into medium-sized shards with your hands (or hand). Don’t mind if you sneak some into your mouth while doing so!
- Store these brittle in an airtight container, where they’ll be good for a week or two, though I doubt they won't be all eaten by then.