Peanut butter is one of the world's favourite spreads, and it's not surprising when you consider that it's both delicious and full of good things: unsaturated fats (the healthy ones), fibre, protein, potassium, antioxidants, vitamins (B and E) and minerals (magnesium, iron and zinc).
The Incas and Aztecs in the Americas might have been the first people to discover the joys of peanuts smashed into paste, and people in Africa and China have been grinding peanuts into stews and sauces for centuries. In the United States, peanut butter could be considered a culinary treasure: Americans eat enough of the delicious stuff every year to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon. They even have a national day to celebrate it, not to mention days for peanut butter lovers, peanut butter cookies and peanut butter fudge. Its super-high nutritional content means that peanut butter is now being used across the world to beat malnutrition. What can't peanut butter do?
Everyone loves PB on toast, in sandwiches, coated in chocolate or just straight out of the jar - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! But peanut butter truly belongs in every meal, whether that's breakfast, lunch, dinner or an all-important midnight snack. This book has recipes for old and new favourites for all times of day, although don't feel constricted: in the same way that peanut butter on toast is perfect at any hour, peanut butter granola definitely works for dinner, peanut butter curry makes a great midnight snack, and there's no reason why you can't have a peanut butter brownie for breakfast every now and then.
How to make your own peanut butter
As we already know, peanut butter usually consists of one or two things: peanuts and maybe some salt.
The real secret to delicious flavour and a silky-smooth texture (or the perfect crunch) is in dry-roasting your peanuts. So the first step to making peanut butter is to preheat your oven to 170C.
Take some fresh, good-quality shelled peanuts and scatter them over a baking tray. If you use two cups of peanuts, you'll get about 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter.
Roast the peanuts for 20-25 minutes or until golden or dark golden, depending on the flavour you like: the more roasted the peanut, the more intense the taste. Make sure you cool them for at least five minutes before turning them into butter (and try not to snack on too many in that time!). You're almost ready to start blending, but first, some important notes.
1 Keep your home-made peanut butter in sterilised glass jars. To sterilise jars, wash them (including the lids) in a dishwasher on a slow cycle, then air-dry them on a clean tea towel (dish towel). Alternatively, preheat the oven to 120C. Wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water, then place them on a baking tray and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes to fully dry out.
2 Peanut butter should always be stored in a dark, cool pantry. It doesn't need to be refrigerated unless you're not going to use it within a few months, but when would that ever happen?
3 For all of the recipes in this book, feel free to use any type of peanut butter: bought or home-made, crunchy or smooth, salty, fancy or just straight peanutty.
Take your dry-roasted peanuts and put them in a food processor. Turn it on and let it run for five minutes. The peanuts will start off by turning into a dry ball, but don't panic. Just scrape down the sides of the food processor and continue to blend until you've got a creamy, delicious smooth paste.
Then, right at the end, add the salt. We recommend one to two teaspoons of salt for every two cups of peanuts, but you might want more or less or even none - it's all about your tastebuds.
We'll let you in on a secret: while some crunchy peanut butters are smooth peanut butters that haven't been totally blended, most crunchy peanut butters are actually smooth peanut butter with some crunchy bits just added back in.
So once you've dry-roasted your peanuts, take a handful and quickly pulse them in the food processor. Set them aside and go about making smooth peanut butter as usual with the remaining peanuts, then thoroughly mix the crunchy nuts back through the smooth paste using a spoon. Ta da: crunchy peanut butter! We like one part crunch to five parts smooth, but again, you do you.
Try experimenting by adding different flavours to your peanut butter. Mixing in some honey is an easy one, or how about some melted dark chocolate? Perhaps vanilla extract, maple syrup or chia seeds? A sprinkling of cinnamon and a handful of raisins is one of our personal favourites. There's no specific recipe: just add ingredients to taste and stir.
PB+J breakfast parfait
It's hard to pick the best PB combo, but PB+J must be pretty far up the list. Layer the flavour with yoghurt, PB and a quick and easy berry chia jam. If you're scared of making jam, don't be put off by this one! It really is so simple, and you'll love it on your toast, pancakes, waffles and bagels as well.
550g yoghurt of your choice
3 tbsp peanut butter
3 tbsp quick and easy berry chia jam (below) or other berry jam
crunchy granola and sliced strawberries, to serve
Quick and easy berry chia jam:
750g frozen mixed berries or fruit of your choice
45g chia seeds
2 tbsp orange juice (from 1/2 orange)
60ml maple syrup or sweetener of choice (optional)
To make the chia jam, combine the berries, chia seeds and orange juice in a medium bowl and stir well. Cover and set aside at room temperature for one to two hours, or refrigerate overnight, to thaw.
Use a potato masher, fork or spatula to mash to your desired consistency. Add syrup to taste. Set aside for 20-30 minutes, for the chia seeds to absorb the moisture and expand.
For each parfait, divide about half the yoghurt between serving jars or bowls. Top with layers of peanut butter and jam. Repeat each layer and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to three days.
Top with granola and strawberries to serve.
Buttery balsamic bruschetta
This bruschetta is almost like a savoury take on PB+J! Strawberries make it extra summery.
250ml balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
4-6 large strawberries, diced
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 baguette or rustic bread loaf
3 tbsp peanut butter
Make a balsamic reduction by pouring the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium- low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. The reduction will thicken more as it cools. Once cool, store in a glass jar with an airtight lid in the refrigerator for up to three months.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a medium bowl combine two tablespoons of the olive oil with the tomato, strawberry and basil. Toss to coat, then refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to bring out the flavours.
Cut the bread into thin slices, then lightly brush one side of each slice with the remaining oil. Lay the bread, oiled side up, on a baking tray and bake for eight to 10 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow the bread to cool for a couple of minutes, then spread with the peanut butter. Top with the tomato mixture, then drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
Makes 4-6 pieces.
Saucy chocolate brownies
PB brownie plus salted dark chocolate PB sauce equals an extra indulgent dessert. As usual, mix things up. Why not try this with a scoop of ice cream? Or use the sauce in a milkshake or smoothie? Or perhaps lose the sauce altogether and instead cover your brownie with quick and easy berry chia jam. Whichever way you take things, you can feel pretty confident that the result is going to be good.
125g peanut butter, plus extra to serve
6 pitted dates
125ml maple syrup
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
75g plain flour or gluten-free flour of your choice
55g almond meal
60g cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
175g dark chocolate chips and/or cacao nibs
Salted dark chocolate sauce:
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp syrup of your choice (e.g. rice malt, coconut, maple)
1/4 tsp salt
75ml milk of your choice
To make the salted dark chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate in a small bowl placed over a small saucepan of boiling water on the stove top (the water must not touch the bowl), stirring occasionally, or in short bursts in the microwave. Add the peanut butter, syrup and salt and stir thoroughly.
Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
Preheat the oven to 175C and grease a 28 x 18cm tin.
In a food processor, combine the peanut butter, banana, dates, syrup and vanilla until smooth. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, cacao powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared tin and top with the chocolate chips.
Bake for about 30 minutes, checking regularly after 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool completely in the tin before cutting, and serve topped with the salted dark chocolate sauce and extra peanut butter.
Makes about 12.
Crispy rice treats
Tim practically grew up on these simple snacks. We know this is meant to be a chapter for kids, but good luck keeping these out of adult hands (especially if you go and top them with some melted chocolate and crushed peanuts).
135g smooth peanut butter
165ml maple or rice malt syrup
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
150g puffed rice cereal
melted chocolate and crushed peanuts, to garnish (optional)
Line a 28 x 18cm baking tin with baking paper.
Combine the peanut butter, syrup and vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan. Heat the bowl slowly in the microwave or the saucepan on the stove top until the mixture forms a creamy sauce. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Place the rice cereal in a large bowl, pour over the cooled sauce and mix gently until well combined.
Spoon into the prepared baking tin, smoothing the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Refrigerate until set, about 40 minutes. Cut into squares to serve, perhaps topped with some melted chocolate or crushed peanuts. The treats will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Makes about 12.
- Recipes from Peanut Butter: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight. By Tim Lannan and James Annabel. Hardie Grant Books. $22.99.