BRITAIN is rediscovering what Spain has long known; almonds – particularly at Christmas – are a cook’s best friend.
In his new book, From Microliths to Microwaves, Colin Spencer, the former food editor of the Guardian and author of several cookbooks, reveals how British tastes have changed since the Norman Conquest.
And interestingly, one of his main examples is the almond, which in medieval times was one of the most important flavours in British cooking.
During the 15th century, almonds came into their own during fast days, allowing the rich to fast without ‘sensual hardship’.
But, as Spencer explains in his chapter The Vanishing Almond, with the reformation fast days became fewer and with the suppression of Catholicism the almond disappeared.
Interestingly however this did not happen to the same extent in Spain.
Even in Rick Stein’s Spain – the series of which was recently partly filmed in Andalucia – there are several Spanish-Moorish almond dishes.
Moreover if you take a look at some of the Spanish Christmas delicacies the prominence of the almond is indisputable.
In particular turron – which is Spanish nougat made with honey and almonds – is a representative food of the Christmas period.
It is often placed as the central display of shops and supermarkets on the lead up to Christmas Eve and indeed right up to Los Reyes on January 6.