Almonds are the nuts of the almond tree, a close relative of the peach, apricot and plum.
The are two types of almonds – bitter and sweet.
The bitter almonds contain prussic acid but can be used sparingly to produce oils, extracts and flavourings, eg for the liqueur amaretto.
The sweet almonds are the ones which are generally eaten. They are often used in desserts, and are the main ingredient of marzipan and frangipane. They can also be used in savoury dishes, particularly fish. Trout with almonds was a particularly ubiquitous bistro dish in the 1960s.
Almonds can be ground to make flour, which provides a gluten-free alternative to the more commonly used wheat flour.
Blanched almonds are almonds with their skins removed. Make removing almond skins easier by scalding the almonds with boiling water, then leave them in the water for about five minutes. This should make them much easier to peel. Alternatively, you can buy them already peeled.