Peanuts are the first thing many people think of when they think of nuts; odd, then, that technically they are not nuts at all, belonging instead to the pea family, along with soya beans - which likewise are not technically beans.

In the West, peanuts are most often eaten roasted, either with just a little salt and vegetable oil or dry roasted with a crust of salty flour. They can also be added to a stir fry or just eaten raw, although when they're raw they have a slightly squeaky texture and a bland, slightly bitter taste so I have always felt it was a mistake to use raw peanuts for anything besides bird feed.

On the other hand, cooked like the legumes that they are - which is to say, boiled, after soaking if you can be bothered - peanuts have a pleasant, crisp texture and none of the bitterness of raw peanuts (with none of the characteristic peanuttiness of the roasted variety, either). They are a little reminiscent of water chestnut. I find the easiest way to prepare them is to chuck them in with rice to boil, but if you're making a whole peanut-based dish you might want to boil them separately. Either way, remove the skins first if you can't find them blanched to start with. They are filling, and an extremely rich source of vegan protein, B vitamins and minerals - magnesium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and zinc. I recommend them highly.

Also worth mentioning is peanut butter, the food of joy that packs so many calories and so much nutrition into each spoonful, and goes with almost everything. People are often incredulous about this claim, refusing to believe that peanut butter would go with Marmite, banana or even jam until they've tasted it with their own mouths, but believe me, it does. In fact, butter and margarine become largely pointless once you realise just how well peanut butter goes with spreads of all sorts. It is also great in porridge, to which it adds comparable amounts of fat and protein to milk while keeping the dish vegan. A spoonful of smooth peanut butter gives a bowl of porridge a pleasant texture without too much of the taste of peanuts, and does wonders for its satiety.

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