Maybe you're allergic to nuts. Maybe you're just sick to the back teeth of them – vegetarians, we feel your pain. Whatever your reasons, you won't go hungry with BBC Food: more than half of the recipes in our database are nut-free. Enjoy.
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If you’re cooking for someone with a nut allergy, it’s useful to know that whilst avoiding products that contain nuts may seem straightforward, some foods that don’t contain nuts may have been produced in factories that handle them (chocolate and baked goods are common examples). As nut allergies can be triggered by the slightest trace of nut, awareness of these risks is important – luckily products manufactured in such conditions are well-labelled. If someone has a nut allergy, check carefully before making dishes that could carry a risk of containing nut traces, such as chocolate desserts, and check the labels of all the ingredients you use before preparing the meal.
Some ingredients can cause confusion as to whether they are classed as a nut. The coconut falls into the grey area of whether it’s a fruit, nut or seed – it has the qualities of all three – however, it is classified as a dry drupe (other examples of drupes are peaches and plums) and the brown, fibrous coconuts seen in shops is its seed. Pine nuts are actually seeds, so may be safe for some individuals with a nut allergy. Some people are allergic to these foods without being allergic to other substances, and individuals with nut allergies may also suffer from additional allergies to coconuts or pine nuts. If you’re allergic to tree nuts, it’s best to exercise caution with these foods and consult your doctor.
Nutmeg is the kernel of an apricot-like fruit. There is no hard evidence to suggest that people with nut allergy are particularly at risk from nutmeg, and the incidence of nutmeg allergy is thought to be rare. However, those who are sensitive to almonds and other fruit kernels should exercise caution.
In baking: some cakes use ground nuts to provide substance and texture, especially those that are gluten-free. Although a lot of recipes won’t necessarily yield exactly the same result, or be viable without nuts (there would be little point in trying to make frangipane without ground almonds) some substitutions can be made. Try replacing ground nuts with an equal quantity of polenta (cornmeal). If a cake or biscuit contains nut pieces, it’s usually as a flavouring, so in most instances you can successfully omit them or replace with a similar amount of dried fruit or nut-free chocolate.
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