Well it’s February which means it is Bunya Nut season! These staples of indigenous Australians along the East coast are a little known, but tasty treat. However, they can be an hard nut to crack!
Bunya nuts come in giant pine-cones from the Bunya Pine. Cones range from 20cm to 40cm diameter and can weigh several kilograms. It is inadvisable to stand under a Bunya pine during February. They are lower in fat than other tree nuts and higher in complex carbohydrates. They have a good GI rating (55-75) and are gluten free.
The nuts are easily removed from the cone by pealing off the outer husk with your hands. You’ll be left with a pile of nuts like this:
What you can see there is the hard husk that surrounds the nut making it quite difficult to get in to. While you can eat the kernels raw, they tend to be a bit woody and not very appetising. A raw kernel looks like this:
If you dissect it, you can usually see the beginnings of a shoot inside:
There are several ways you can access the kernel but I find the following to be the easiest.
First, take your nuts and put them in a pot of boiling water. Boil for approx 30 mins, stirring every now and then to ensure all the nuts are heated evenly. After 30 mins or so, the tips of the husks will split open like this:
Now drain the nuts and run them under cold water for a few minutes to cool. Filling the pot with cold water in the process. Allow the nuts to remain submerged while you go about de-husking them.
Take a nut and a pair of side-cutters and peel back the husk like so:
Repeat on a couple of sides until the kernel can be removed:
Rub the outside of the kernel under water to remove any remnants of the skin from the inside of the husk that may be stuck to the kernel. Your kernel should then looks like this (minus the bite mark from where I tested this one):
You can see the colour has changed from the raw kernel shown previously. The kernel will feel slightly springy when squished, but firm. You can eat them straight away, but I like to sauté them in some butter and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Alternatively you can roast them in the oven, spiced any way that takes your fancy. Or you can mash them up (food processor works well) and make various baked goods with them (or just mix with mashed potato for a nutty potato mash).
Update: Roasting in hot coals for about 5 mins or so (until the first one explodes) produces an excellent result. Even more tasty than the above method.