Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps we’ve just never noticed them before, but suddenly the hedgerow is full of cobnuts. Not that they’re easy to find – you can stand in front of a tree for five minutes without seeing anything and then, as your eye adjusts, you start to spot small clusters of frilly husks.
You can pick cobnuts when they’re green (from mid to late August) or take your chances that the squirrels won’t get them first and hang on till they’re proper brown nuts in October. The green ones (and only pick bigger green ones, or you might just find empty shells) taste more like a pea or subtle coconut than hazelnut, but roast them for a while and they’ll develop a delicious fresh hazelnut taste.
If you plan to store them, don’t remove the green husks unless the round shell pops out easily. Keep green ones in the fridge, but move them around a bit to stop moisture getting trapped. You can also store them somewhere cool and dry in a basket that allows air to circulate – again, move them around each day.
There are plenty of recipes out there, but many of them really don’t do justice to the freshness of just-picked cobnuts. We wanted something that made the nuts the star of a campfire meal.
So here it is….
Warm goat’s cheese and cobnut salad with fresh blackberry dressing
Ingredients (for two)
- Two round goat’s cheese (with rind)
- A handful of shelled cobnuts
- A handful of blackberries
- Sugar or honey
- Balsamic vinegar
- Mixed salad leaves (and maybe some watercress)
- Chop your cobnuts a little and then ‘toast’ in a frying pan till golden and nutty-smelling. Set aside.
- Put your blackberries with a dash or two of balsamic vinegar into a small pan. Add tablespoon or so of sugar. Cook until the blackberries are soft and the liquid has gone syrupy. Test for flavour – you want a good balance of sweet and sour.
Now to the goat’s cheese. It’s far easier, of course, to grill or bake goat’s cheese, but it is possible to pan-fry it over a campfire or rocket stove. If you can freeze the cheese first, that will help stop if running everywhere. Another option is to coat it in beaten egg and breadcumbs so that it holds together. A third option is to dust it in flour, and the fourth is just to accept that you might end up with goat’s cheese splodge. Cheese with rind is more likely to stay intact.
- Put some oil in your frying pan and get it very hot. Slide in the goat’s cheese rounds and cook quickly. As soon as they start to brown, flip them onto the other side.
- Toss your salad with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of oil (walnut or hazelnut would be delicious) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange on your plates, top with the cheese, sprinkle over the cobnuts and, finally, drizzle with your blackberry dressing.
Thanks to the Kentish Cobnuts Association for advice on cobnut storage.