Hazelnuts are the fruit of the hazel tree, a member of the birch family. Their flavour varies a little according to the maturity of the nuts. At the beginning of autumn hazels have a sharp, milky taste that becomes sweeter as the nuts ripen.
IN THE KITCHEN
In general, hazelnuts taste best when toasted or roasted. They play a major role in European desserts, baking and confectionery and work well with chocolate, toffee or caramel, cream, meringue, orange and plums. Cake recipes requiring ground almonds can also be made with ground hazelnuts.
There are also many savoury uses. Sprinkle them over soups, salads, and steamed green vegetables. Try them in stuffings for meals of chicken, game birds or ham. They can be chopped and combined with melted butter to serve with fish and shellfish, especially trout, or used in Mediterranean sauces such as tarator and romesco. Blending roasted hazels with a little oil in a food processor produces a good alternative to peanut butter.
Cob nuts are a rounded variety of hazelnut with short husks. Filberts are a variety that tends to be longer and covered completely by the husks (although in the United States all cultivated hazelnuts are called filberts). Kentish cobs are actually filberts.