It's traditional in our house to have a nut bowl at Christmas and one of my favourites are the Brazil nuts. They are known as Noix du Bresil in France and their genus (Bertholletia Excelsa) is named after the French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet, born in the Duchy of Savoy in 1749. Berthollet was one of several scientists who went with Napoleon to Egypt, and was a member of the physics and natural history section of the Institut d'Égypte.
Brazil nut trees are enormous, frequently attaining the height of 40 to 50 metres or more, and can reach ages of 500-800 years old. The tree is found throughout the Amazon rainforest in Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. As well as its food use, Brazil nut oil is also used as a lubricant in clocks, for making artists' paints, and in the cosmetics industry.
Brazil Nut and Fig Torte
4 cups brazil nuts
3 cups raisins
1 cup fig, dried
1 cup pitted dates
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 passion fruit, pulp of
To make the base: Blend base ingredients until there is a solid mass in the food processor (it should be very fine with the occasional chunk). Place on a plate and form into a cake shape.
To make the frosting: Blend frosting ingredients well. If the dates are very firm and resist blending, just blend partially and let soak about 15 minutes to soften. Blend until smooth and creamy, then frost the cake. Decorate with lemon zest or passion fruit pulp.