Very often, squirrels will have pinched any hazel nuts you may have been hoping to find, but with a protracted walk through the woods, you can probably gather enough to do something with - and there are lots of options. If squirrels have been there before you, then look at the branch tips, the thin ends of the tree where even a squirrel is too heavy to reach, there you may find some unforaged nuts.
As for the recipes, well, where to begin....?
One friend of ours loves them green on toast with salt on top! A very definite marmite moment! However, you may choose from a number of dishes and uses including making your own peanut butter, using them as a topping for many dishes including fish, a topping or addition for many desserts, an inclusion in home-made bread and a crunchy topping with cinnamon on rice pudding ( a particular favourite). But there are so many more and a short trawl through the internet will bring you thousands of choices in less than a second!
The nuts pictured above are much larger than normal - we found them while out on a walk locally - but we believe them to be a cultivated variety planted by the local Highways Agency to provide roadside cover - the squirrels have not yet found them!
If you can't be bothered to forage for your own Hazel Nuts, they can sometimes be bought as Kent Cobnuts. These are a cultivated species that have been hybridised with the more productive Mediterranean varieties over the years to produce larger nuts in greater numbers but still on Eastern English soil with British Sunshine....give them a try.