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November 17, 2007

Screwing curry to the sticking-place
Posted by Avram Grumer at 08:19 PM * 24 comments

Yesterday, I was picking up some bagels at Fairway, and I saw something new (to me) in the dried-fruit and bagged-nuts department: curry cashews. Picked up a bag, and they’re pretty tasty, if expensive. “Organic” curry cashews, $7 for a 10-ounce bag. If they’d had non-organic ones for less, I’d’ve happily bought those.

Anyway, I’ve got plenty of plain cashews that I haven’t been doing anything with, and I’ve got some curry powder, so I figure I can make my own curry cashews cheaper than buying them at Fairway, and even ramp up the spice content and heat level. But I’m at a loss for how to make the curry powder stick to the nuts. The bag lists three ingredients: organic cashews, organic curry, sea salt. Nothing there looks particularly sticky. Unless maybe they’re using curry paste. Anyone else got any ideas?

Comments on Screwing curry to the sticking-place:
#1 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:25 PM:

What I'd do is heat the cashews in some oil, not too far, then tip in the curry powder a bit at a time and roll them around. You'd want to use the least flavoursome oil you have, unless of course you want to experiment with something else. Hm, I have some mustard oil in the cupboard... perhaps I should try that.

#2 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:43 PM:

Re #1, my choice for the oil in that situation would be light sesame oil. It's got some flavor, but IMO the flavor is one that mixes well with both curry and nuts.

#3 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Some kind of oil or butter needs to be used as an adhesive. I haven't tried it but this seems reasonable. Experimenting with the spice mix could be worthwhile. My local supermarket carries lime and chilli cashews that are to die for.

#4 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:48 PM:

A recent (June 2007) issue of Health magazine had a recipe by Rick Bayless for trail mix that called for peanuts coated in lime juice and chili powder. The ratios are 2 cups nuts moistened w/ 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, sprinkled w/ 2 teaspoons of chili powder (and tossed to coat). Spread in even layer on baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 250F. Sprinkle w/ 1 teaspoon of salt when they come out of the oven.

(The remainder of the recipe calls for toasting 1 cup of shelled pumpkinseeds in a skillet over medium heat until they all pop (about 5 minutes). Add to peanuts, along with 1/2 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots.)

At any rate, I don't see why you couldn't do something similar with your cashews. My guess is that your cashews were misted with water to make the curry powder stick - which then evaporated when they were roasted, so it isn't counted as an ingredient.

#5 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Curried Cashews sounds like it could be adapted from this recipe I've used from time to time for Spiced Pecans (back when my father was alive, and used to pick up all the pecans that fell off of the three pecan trees in my family's yard at home -- we could get 20 pounds or more of shelled pecans off those trees in a good year):

Hot Pecans

3 cups pecan halves
2 Tbs. margarine, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss all ingredients in a bowl until well coated. Spread pecans out on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until fragrant; stir often to prevent burning.
Makes 2 cups.

#6 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:54 PM:

You could try just tossing them together dry; the cashews might have enough surface oil to get the spices and salt to cling. When I was making my own spicy soy nuts, I was working with liquids mostly, so it was a bit different. I mixed about a teaspoon each of soy sauce, hot sauce, and West Virginia Zest Sauce. Spread a container of plain unsalted soynuts in a pie pan. Sprinkled on part of the liquid spice mix and some dry spice (a Mrs. Dash-type blend), stirred to distribute, then put the pan in a very low oven. Looked in and stirred occasionally till dry, then repeated till all the liquid blend was used up.

I suppose you could dissolve sea salt in water and do essentially the same thing; moisten with salt water, sprinkle the curry powder, dry, and repeat. It takes a while but it's not a lot of effort.

#7 ::: Brandon Allbery ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 08:56 PM:

One trick used by some of the organic flavored nut folks is to marinate the nuts in spiced water for some amount of time before roasting. Dunno if that was what was done here; I have had peanuts so prepared with powdered cayenne peppers, though.

#8 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:37 PM:

I'd try just heating the nuts (to get the oils in them to bind the powder) or use something light (grapeseed is probably best, IMO).

Some oils (sesame) have lower smoke points, and will change more rapidly in the heat. Also be aware that heating the oils makes the time before they go rancid shorter, so make small batches.

#9 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:38 PM:

Possibly just heating the cashews would release enough of their own oil for the powder to adhere?

#10 ::: grackle ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:42 PM:

The trick may be to follow the advice in the (actual) recipes given above, but to start with unroasted cashews, so that you have some oil in the nuts to work with

#11 ::: Gillian Polack ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:43 PM:

Add a little water and sugar to the curry powder and then gently pan roast the lot. As the sugar crystallises it ought to make the curry adhere.

#12 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:53 PM:

I've done my own tamari almonds, sometimes with Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, or other spices added. I'd therefore say some kind of water-based liquid works the best. Either marinate them in liquid or just dump them straight into a small frying pan (those little cast iron pans work the best), and when it gets up to heat, sprinkle the spices over them, followed by some soy sauce, water, or what have you.

#13 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:00 PM:

You can also do it by beating an egg white until foamy, then tossing it with the nuts, then tossing the spices in with the coated nuts, then baking.

My mother makes fantastic spicy nuts every year -- not curry nuts, but a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper, I believe. (So maybe they're garam masala nuts. She just calls them Spicy Nuts.) I'm not sure what binding agent she uses. I'll ask her. (But not right now; she's likely in bed.)

#14 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 10:08 PM:

My wife, who's Indian, recommends the following:
1) Go to your nearest Indian store and look for the logical equivalent. (She can't remember the name off the top of her head, otherwise you could skip this step and the following one.)
2) Read the name off the package and go home.
3) Type same into your favored search engine.
4) Read the resulting 7 zillion recipes.
She says that the number of Indians and other Southeast Asians who blog about food is nothing short of astonishing - and they always share their best recipes. More pangkat that way. (Pangkat is a Malay word which vaguely translates as "boo-yah!")

On a more practical and immediately-applicable note, a quick search on "curried cashews" turns up several recipes. Most are variations on "roast the curry powder or spices in butter/oil/what-have-you, douse the nuts in it, and bake". If it were me I'd use ghee or peanut oil - any high-temperature oil will do, though canola will shift it in a more Chinese direction. No idea how almond oil would taste, but it definitely wouldn't smoke.

Roasting the cayenne in the curry powder is the critical part; otherwise it will be much too sharp and acidic. If you prefer to make your own curry powder from scratch, it's essentially cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, and cumin (for a vegetarian or fish application). Swap the cumin for fennel for meat. Beyond that, I learned to do the mix by eye, so I can't tell you how much of each exactly, but approximately: more cayenne than anything else, a modest amount of turmeric, some coriander, and not a lot of cumin.

If you want to do it Kerala-style, roast 1 stick of cinnamon, 2 cloves (with the clove bud snapped off), and three cardamon seeds in the oil first - just till you start to smell the fragrances of the three spices, then fry the curry powder. Yum.

By the way, this is a really good way to start Spam curry as well, which is really really yummy. Hmm. Writing this entry has made me realize what an amazing amount of Asian cooking technique I've learned by osmosis over the past ten years.

#15 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 06:43 AM:

krazy glue sticks anything with anything.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Take a good spoonful of your curry powder and put it in a small container with just enough vodka to turn it into a slurry. Let it sit for a day or two, then check its viscosity.

What I know from experience with other spice mixtures is that some of them will turn gummy or almost rubbery as the aromatic resins dissolve into the alcohol.

#17 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 10:30 AM:

I admire your title. After you master cashews, maybe you can be spiced on your own pecan.

#18 ::: Nikki Jewell ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 04:43 PM:

There's a way of making salted almonds where you bake the nuts in a hot oven with a good lump of butter - you have to watch them or they burn - then shake them in a paper bag with salt and any ground spices you want to use. I think that should work with cashews and curry powder.

I hope you get a nice snack whatever method you use!

#19 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:01 AM:

This is my favorite spicy nut recipe, based on one which was originally posted to eGullet:

For the walnut haters, try this: pour a pound of walnuts (halves and pieces) into a big bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for a few minutes. Drain. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp oil, 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne, and 1/2 to 1 tsp ground chipotle (I mix the sugar, cayenne, and chipotle together so the chiles are evenly distributed). The heat and residual moisture will turn the sugar into syrup.

Bake at 350, stirring a couple of times, for about a half hour. You want them to be deep golden brown but be careful that the sugar doesn't burn. As they're cooling, salt them to taste (you'll need more than you might think, because of the sugar).

The blanching process removes much of the bitterness, and there is something in the sweet, hot, salty combination that makes them irresistible, even to walnut haters.

These have been a hit every time I've taken them to a party or a potluck.

I haven't tried the cashew recipe from the same source, but it sounds good, too:

For cashews, if you want something different: Roast them until they're deep golden brown and salt them (if you buy them already roasted, give them five minutes in the oven to deepen the color and warm them). Then mix them with sliced shallots, scallions, serranos or Thai bird chiles. Right before serving, squeeze a half a lime over the mixture and give it a quick stir. You want the cashews to be barely warm for this — too hot and they won't be crunchy, but the warmth brings out the flavors of the chiles and shallots.

#20 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Joe @ 14: SPAM CURRY??????

#21 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:55 AM:

Emma, shhh, the rest of us were trying not to see that.

#22 ::: Cindy Londeore ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:20 PM:

If you want to add some sweet to the flavor profile you could candy the cashews with curry in the sugar mix.

Mix powdered (confectioners) sugar and spices as desired in this case you probably want it to me more spice than sugar.

Spread out the nuts on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven until hot.

Dump the nuts in a colander and and run the under the tap just long enough to get them wet. be sure to shake of the excess.

Dump the nuts in your sugar mixture and stir.

The heat will make the sugar stick and the water will make it disolve slightly so it's clear.

If you want a white finish, skip the water step.

#23 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 11:33 AM:

From Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, "Fried Cashews."

Set up a sieve over a metal bowl, near the stove, to drain the cashews.

Heat about 1" of oil in a deep frying pan over medium flame. Stir and fry 2 cups of raw cashews until they turn a reddish-gold color. Pour the whole mess through the sieve into the bowl, to separate cashews from oil.

Spread cashews on a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to mix, and then slide onto a second plate lined with paper towels. (To remove excess oil.) Serve warm or cooled.

***

You could probably use other spices with the salt and pepper. Some garam masala would be nice. I'm not a huge fan of the stuff sold as "curry powder", it generally has too much tumeric for my taste.

#24 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Way down the page, on a dead thread, but still it's on topic....I had some pecan halves left from Thanksgiving, about half of one of those little bags (the rest, the smaller and broken ones, went into the stuffing). Sprinkled on a little soy sauce, tossed and turned them to soy all over, added a dusting of ground cumin and a pinch of Korean chili powder. Put them in a low oven, maybe 180-190 degrees, for about an hour, stirring a couple three times. Mmmmmmmmmm nomnomnom.

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