Grown in Europe and the US, hazelnuts are encased in a smooth, hard brown shell but are most commonly sold shelled. The sweet-tasting, cream-coloured kernel is small and round, with a pointed tip. Its thin, dark brown skin is faintly bitter, so some people like to remove this before eating.
Also known as cobnuts or filberts, hazelnuts are good eaten raw but the flavour takes on a more mellow, sweeter character when they are roasted. Like almost all nuts, they have a high fat content, which means they'll go rancid pretty quickly if not refrigerated.
Choose the best
Hazelnuts in their shells look good, but they will go rancid more quickly. Ready-shelled nuts in airtight packaging last longer.
Hazelnuts in their shells can be opened using a nut cracker. To remove the dark skin, place the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake on a medium heat for 10-12 minutes. They are ready when the skins begin to split and the kernels turn golden. Tip them into a clean teatowel and rub - the skins should come off quite easily.
Unopened packets of hazelnuts should be stored in a cool, dry place - they'll last for up to 3 months. Once opened, they should be kept in an airtight container.
Raw as a snack, or added to muesli. Chopped and used in cakes or crumble toppings. Ground finely to make flour for baking.
Try almond, macadamia nut or pecan.