Nutmeg

Nutmeg

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The ripe plum-like fruit of the Nutmeg tree dries and then splits open. The nutmeg seed is encased in a bright red outer covering, which, when dried in the sun, is known as mace (see Mace). The seed is slowly dried in the sun or over slow-burning charcoal fires. Used as a flavouring in many cuisines, they will keep well in an airtight container.

Beautifully aromatic nutmeg is equally at home in sweet and savoury dishes. The English devotees of the 18th and 19th centuries often travelled with their own personal nutmeg grater, such was their love of this spice. In English cooking today, nutmeg is mainly used in cakes and sweet dishes, but it is also important in many savoury and meat dishes. Nutmeg is at its best when grated fresh as required as, once grated, it rapidly loses its best flavour.

Use it in sausages, terrines, pâtés and potted meats. It is also good in egg dishes, or with mashed potatoes, and it is particularly tasty with spinach. A spinach ravioli filling nearly always contains nutmeg, as does the famous Bolognese Sauce. Nutmeg is excellent in white or cheese sauce, and a blade of mace is often infused in the milk for these sauces; in fact, both go well in any cheese dish.

Nutmeg is a frequent ingredient in many Indian spiced foods, and in Garam Masala – that fragrant spice blend often added at the end of cooking. Nutmeg is also a common flavouring in Middle Eastern cookery, and is good with lamb.

For desserts, nutmeg is a natural partner of rice and other milk puddings, apple pies and spiced fruits. It is often sprinkled over warm milk, punches or drinks to be taken at night, and it is claimed that nutmeg has a slightly soporific effect.

In Indonesia a fresh ripe nutmeg seed is often prepared as a sweetmeat preserve, as is fresh mace. These are delicious and well worth looking for in spice shops – certainly buy some if you are lucky enough to visit Bali or elsewhere in Indonesia.

Buy good-quality, large nutmegs whole, store in a small jar, then grate freshly each time nutmeg is needed. Small tin nutmeg graters are inexpensive and available from most kitchen shops; more elaborate mills, rather like pepper mills, are also available.

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