If you want proof that not all fatty food is bad, look no further than the almond. Almond is part of the plum family, and the almond tree is native to North Africa, West Asia and the Mediterranean. The English word almond is derived from the French amande, which in turn is a derivative of the old Latin word for almond, amygdalus, literally meaning “tonsil plum”.
The almond is now used everywhere, in every possible form. Almonds have the incredible quality of being creamy and crunchy at the same time. Sweet almonds are turned into marzipan and nougat and used in cakes, macaroons and other dessert goodies. They are also used to make almond butter. Almonds are also flaked and slivered and eaten raw to add crunch to dishes, especially salads.
Green almonds, called chaqalu badom and sprinkled with sea salt to balance their sour taste, are a popular snack in West Asia. Bitter almonds are used to make almond macaroons in Italy. In Morocco, they are used in desserts such as the honey-cinnamon glazed sellou. Mughlai cuisine uses almonds to make rich, creamy curries. Almond sherbet is also popular in the subcontinental summer.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats found in olive oil which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease
Almonds reduce after-meal surges in blood sugar, checking diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Their glycaemic index (GI) count is low—this is a measure of how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and 100g of almonds contain 25.87mg of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol).
Almonds are rich in magnesium and potassium. Magnesium improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients in the body; its deficiency can lead to heart attacks. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure.
Eat it this way
Baked fillet of basa with almond and parsley crust, chunky tomato and basil salsa
Crunchy and light: Fish fillet with almond coating
•1 fillet of basa, medium-sized
• 10g Dijon mustard
• 5-6g parsley, chopped
• 50g almonds, slivered
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 5 ripe tomatoes, medium-sized
• 5-6 basil leaves,
• 5g garlic ,chopped
• 5g onion, chopped
• 30ml olive oil
• 3g leeks, chopped
• Salt and chilli flakes to taste
• Steamed veggies, as per choice
Marinate the fish with mustard, salt and lemon juice and rest for 30 minutes. Blanch, peel and deseed the tomatoes. Chop roughly. In a pan heat about 15ml olive oil and add the garlic, onions and leeks. Sauté over a gentle flame for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add basil and seasoning as per taste. Coat the fillet with chopped parsley and almond slivers. Grease a baking dish, place the basa fillet and cook in an oven pre-heated at 160 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Spoon the remaining oil over the fillet at regular intervals. Plate the fillet over steamed vegetables and spoon the tomato-onion salsa on top.
Chef Rajdeep Kapoor, executive chef, ITC Maratha, Mumbai.