Monday, 3 March 2014

breakfast rituals + salted hazelnut butter

toasted hazelnuts
on sunday i will have breakfast at my parents’ home in islamabad. this first breakfast is ritualistic; there shall be numerous cups of hot cardamom laced tea to erase the sleepiness of a disrupted night and quarters of roghni naan toasted till crisp in the toaster. two hopeful and expectant cats will anxiously await their share of breakfast. mama will give them titbits of bread and adam’s cheese. before we sit down to eat i will bring forth bandaged and bubble wrapped jars of homemade preserves and condiments that i will have carried for my parents.

when i was little weekday breakfasts were a fraught affair. there were boiled eggs to contend with along with my dadi’s insistence on drinking a glass of buffalo milk. she would claim that it was strained but i knew that was untrue. little pieces of cream and skin that would make me gag would prove otherwise.

the weekends were a different affair. there would often be pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar and freshly squeezed oranges, omelettes, knotted french rolls with plenty of nurpur butter or parathas stuffed with mince beef or potatoes. in the years that we lived at eighty one o six in scottsdale, m or mama would drive down to galileo bakery to get epi and grape focaccia and freshly ground coffee from the coffee roastery. or there would be huge bagels and tubs of whipped cream cheese from lox, stock and bagel.

i eventually overcame my dislike for both egg yolks and milk and grew to love the first meal of day, so much that i find it difficult to start without a good breakfast. o and i have breakfast together before leaving for work. he has half a mug of filter coffee with a bowl of granola with milk and i assam tea along with a bowl of yoghurt with homemade preserves and a spoonful of nut butter. he is a creature of habit but sometimes he will break the routine for marmalade and cheese toast or banana bread with peanut butter. on days like these i will have labne and honey on toast.

salted hazelnut butter
travel and curiosity about food has meant that breakfast has expanded to include new tastes. for instance nut butters are uncommon in pakistan. one can get jars of skippy or sunpat peanut butter but not more than that. in london i always have a jar of cashew and almond butter handy. i love the creamy constitution of cashew butter and the rougher texture of whole almonds. at some point there was a delicate white almond butter that tasted of unsweetened marzipan. s gave me pistachio crema the colour of fresh sicilian pistachios that paired well with greek yoghurt and honey. in the last two years i have made butter from walnuts, sunflower seeds and now hazelnuts, a jar of which will be a new addition to my parents’ breakfast table.

breakfast with the observer on sunday
an untoasted hazelnut is a fraction of its flavour potential. the process of toasting emphasizes their nuttiness and also makes it easier to skin them. i like a slightly darker toasting and skin them perfunctorily. the slight bitterness of the skin balances the sweetness of the honey and also adds texture.

{salted hazelnut butter}

three hundred grams hazelnuts
fifty grams set honey*
five grams fleur de sel

* i have made this butter with runny and set honey. my personal preference is for set honey as this gives a firm yet spreadable consistency. i use littleover apiary’s wildflower set honey that adds a lovely and soft floral note.

preheat your oven to two hundred degrees celsius. line a large roasting tray with baking parchment. it should be large enough to hold the hazelnuts in a single layer. if not use two small trays.

toast the hazelnuts stirring the contents of the tray every five minutes. they are done when the kitchen is permeated with a toasted and nutty fragrance, the skins have spilt and they are deep brown in colour.

remove from the oven and allow them to cool briefly. place them in a kitchen towel and rub them together to release the skins. do not worry if there is some skin remaining. the aim is get rid of most of it.

pick the hazelnuts and place them in a food processor fitted with an s blade. process the hazelnuts in gradual steps making sure that your processor does not heat up. they will start of looking like coarse ground meal after which they will break down and begin to release their oils. it is at this stage that they will begin to look more like butter. add the fleur de sel and process for half a minute. this process will vary depending on the power of your processor.

when the hazelnuts have assumed the form of a runny butter add the honey and process until combined.

spoon the hazelnut butter into an airtight jar and store in a cool, dry place.


  1. Mehrunnisa this butter looks divine! I have only tried almond and peanut so far!
    Totally relate to the tall glass of milk....with bits of malai! They always lie about having strained it!!

    1. did your grandmother do the same? i am glad i got over my aversion to milk though. do you add oil to your almond or peanut butters? i love the hazelnut one because it's texture can be made tight or runny merely by adjusting the honey. my mama has been eating it at breakfast daily. x

    2. My grandmother and mother both! My mom will still lie about having strained it ......yes I add a small teaspoon each of olive oil and honey and one dash of sea salt to both peanut n almond butter! I cnt bear to eat peanut butter from a jar anymore ...

  2. Hi. I found some hazelnuts at my local dry fruitwallah in Karachi who said they are from Iran so I am going to try making this butter. What can I use as a substitute for fleur de sel?

    1. hi there. you can use local pink salt. it comes out lovely with it. just make sure that it is perfectly powdered otherwise you will get bursts of very salty butter. let me know how it goes! my parents get really good local sider honey which would be a welcome addition. swati honey is a good option as well.