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If you're like me and keep a jar of almonds at the ready as a snack, you will welcome this book. Not only does it tell you about their culture, the history (the earliest ones discovered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee date back around 19,000 years), but most importantly, Linda Balslev has contributed dozens of recipes which will help us all incorporate them in everything from soup to ...well, nuts!

Beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and art reproductions from the world's most famous museums, this book is equally at home as a talking point on the coffee table as it is in the kitchen.

This is one of the loveliest books. Robert Holmes's stunning photographs make you want to rush to the shop and load up with almonds and then rush home again to cook things like the almond and apricot skillet bread or almond-crusted pork chops, almond semifreddo with port wine and poached figs, and pear and almond frangipane tart. Oh, and almond butter granola bars - sure to become a lunch-box staple.

But perhaps the most interesting part of this book is learning how they have been part of many cultures - religions, superstitions, language and art – while also becoming integral in many cuisines. Obviously Middle-Eastern culture has used them in many ways, but traders took them to the sub-continent, Spain, North Africa, even Mexico.

Of course today they are cultivated in many countries, including Australia, where almonds are this country's fastest-growing agricultural export. Australia is, in fact, the world's second-largest producer of almonds. California produces 80 percent of the world's almond crop annually.

Nutritious, tasty, versatile - what's not to love about almonds? This book will give you even more reasons to make use of the nut that the ancients felt was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering.

Almonds, Recipes, History Culture, by Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress, published by Arbon Publishing, 2014, hardcover, rrp A$29.99.

- reviewed by Sally Hammond



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