Last week, in the midst of my annual fridge purge (discoveries: black and blue cheese, sentient yoghurt), I came across these: vaccum-packed apricot, nectarine and peach kernels. These were destined for use in a dessert project I never quite got round to starting. At the time, I was reading a thread on eGullet about noyaux, the French name for stone fruit kernels and their use as flavouring agents in desserts and liqueurs. Noyaux (pronounced "nwa-yoh,") are a commonly used alternative for bitter almonds. For those of you not familiar with it, the smell is that of almond extract, as used in marzipan, amaretti biscuits and Amaretto brandy. Oh, and cherry coke.
Stone fruit kernels have one immediate advantage: they're more readily available (especially here in the orchard districts) than the costly, rare-as-hen's-teeth bitter almond, at least here in New Zealand. The two have a particular chemical in common, benzaldehyde, which gives both their unique almond extract flavour (which incidentally, tastes nothing like ordinary almonds, with their delicate, nutty flavour).
The plan at the time was to make a noyaux-flavoured ice cream (this was last summer). I encouaged everyone I knew to save their stonefruit pits and stones. It was taking an age to build up a decent stockpile, when suddenly, three days of ferocious winds broke the tops of several of my mum's fruit trees: victory at last! I cut off the broken-fruit laden limbs; the fruit was bruised and battered, and mould was making a rapid move across the surface of the badly damaged crop. I gathered it all up and commenced salvaging the stones. Five hours of hammer cracking later, I'd accumulated a little over a kilo's worth of kernels...and an intense dislike of sandflies...and attention-seeking cats.
I wasn't going to be able to use them straight away, so I vaccum-packed them for use later on in the week. And promptly forgot about them...
Until now. I was going to make an ice cream but that's all I ever seem to make, so I thought a panna cotta would make for a change.
Noyaux Panna Cotta with a Caramelised Orange Compote
Make everything the day before you need to serve it. The panna cotta will set overnight, while the compote will be more flavoursome if allowed time to stand. Makes about or portions.
- cup of stonefruit kernels, roughly ground
- cups of cream
- cup of milk
- cup sugar
- gelatine sheets
- cinnamon quill
- cup water
- cup brown sugar
If the addition of the oranges results in a watery-looking syrup, cook it out until it reduces back to a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing it in the fridge to infuse overnight.
To serve, remove the orange container from the fridge and bring it back to room temperature (cold dampens flavour). Remove your zest and oranges, and sprinkle with brown sugar; grill until they caramelise. Place the fruit in a little mound next to the panna cotta you've successfully liberated from its mould. I drizzled a little of the orange syrup around the plate and garnished it with a few poppy seeds and some mint. To give it a little texture and balance, I added a homemade, baked apple crisp (slice apple, sprinkle with sugar, bake at low heat until it dries out). A wafer of some description would work equally well.
Want to try making other things with your stonefruit kernels? Try these -