Our resident chef Mark Hix champions the Kentish cob nut, a great seasonal ingredient and friend to Brussels sprouts

 
Mark Hix
Cob nuts in all their nutty glory

The Kentish cob nut is one of those great seasonal ingredients, with an even greater history behind it.

In the early 1800s, the Victorians loved this variation on the hazelnut and planted thousands of acres of cob nut trees.

They were cultivated in large amounts by Mr Lambert of Gourdhurst in Kent and that’s how they became linked with the county.

Sadly, since the original days of planting, the cob nut has been in decline and there are probably only a couple hundred still being grown.

But you’ll still find them specialist greengrocers and farmer’s markets from now until October, and you can store them in a cool temperature-controlled environment right up until Christmas time.

You could even shell and freeze a few for your stuffing for the festive bird, or toss them in with your Brussels sprouts.

But if you don’t want to wait that long, they can be used in all sorts of culinary ways. Place them on your dinner table as a simple snack and put your guests to work cracking them while they wait for their food.

I also find they’re an integral ingredient this time of year as part of a seasonal salad with grouse and elderberries, for example, or in a dish like the one below.

Shaved penny buns with Berkswell and cob nuts

SERVES 4

When you have firm, ultra-fresh penny buns or ceps mushrooms, try just serving them thinly sliced and raw.

Unless you pick your own they can be pretty pricey, so this is a great way to get the most out of a luxury ingredient and, of course, maximise the flavour.

Ingredients

250g firm penny buns or cops ceps mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

5-6tbsp extra virgin olive oil or

rapeseed oil

Juice of one lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

20 or so cob nuts, shelled and

lightly toasted

100-120g berkswell or Parmesan cheese, shaved thinly with a potato peeler or a sharp knife

Method

Put the mushrooms on a tray, season and pour over the oil and lemon juice. Mix well, keeping them; leave for 15 minutes, turning occasionally and seasoning.

To serve, arrange the mushrooms, pouring any extra marinating juices over them. If they have absorbed all of the oil and lemon, just pour a little extra over. Scatter over the cheese and cob nuts and serve.

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