Hello 2013 – I hope you will be better than 2012.
Whilst 2012 definitely ended up a bit better (moved house, passed driving test – YAY), it was generally an up and down year. Too many friends going through stresses, too much illness, and that sodding recession didn’t help. Anyhow, as someone mentioned to me on Twitter, maybe I should start viewing years in terms of sports seasons. This being the case, I can safely say I’m having a good 2012-2013.
I’m not one for making tons of resolutions, but in relation to this blog, I’ll definitely try and post more – I have been a bit rubbish of late. Maybe I should actually start learning to take good photos of food. Maybe that will happen (maybe not). And I would quite like to branch out a bit more – I’ve been feeling in a bit of a food rut of late. I need some new inspiration, some different cuisines to try (and I would love to start trying out some new, interesting and above all, delicious new vegetarian and vegan dishes). I’ve ordered a few new cookbooks so I’m hoping this will take my greed in a few different directions this year. Anyway, for those who do read, I hope you do still enjoy it. From the looks of my stats, you all seem to be lovers of pickle as much as I do, as this recipe for green mango pickle is still my most viewed post.
So, on to 2013. Well, I actually made this little dish for a 2012 Boxing Day bash, but it’s so good, I’m sure I’ll be making this a lot more this year. These toasted cashews are a pretty top nibble to have alongside some drinks. Spicy, aromatic, salty, they’ve got it all (unless you have a nut allergy). These are inspired by an appetiser dish at recently opened Naamyaa Cafe in Angel – a new SE Asian restaurant that is the brainchild of Alan Yau (originator of Wagamama, Busaba and, er, Cha Cha Moon) alongside Thai cheffy expert, David Thompson.
Now, when I went for the first time, that “ripe for a rollout” klaxon did go off loudly in my head. And there’s no doubting that more of these will probably spring up all over London very shortly. But the thing is, right now, the food here is really good. I’ve been a couple of times, and enjoyed nearly everything I’ve eaten (except for the chicken wings, which were a bit spartan and lacking in flavour). Moreover, it’s good value. You can get yourself a main dish with rice, alongside a lovely soothing soup for around a tenner. So go now, before it gets rolled out and potentially gets a bit rubbish (hope not).
Anyway, back to those cashews. Naamyaa have wok tossed cashews on their menu and I’ve eaten them both times I’ve been. They are basically toasty cashews with crispy curry leaves, chillies and shallots. I’m not exactly sure how they are made, but it’s such a simple combination of ingredients, that I thought I’d get a good approximation. The only thing I’ve omitted are the crispy shallots, as I didn’t have any and couldn’t be bothered to make them. If you can be bothered, they would only make them taste better. I mean, crispy stuff = stuff tastes better.
Now, curry leaves – these are getting a lot easier to get hold of. I’ve even seen them in the slightly exotic veg bit of Asda and Morrisons. When I buy them, I typically give them a wash and stash them in the freezer. You can easily use them from frozen in dishes and it’s the best way of ensuring you don’t waste them. When it comes to substitutes, I really don’t feel there is a great one for curry leaves. They have such a unique fragrance and give so much to the dishes you put them in, that I would say, do try and seek them out if you can.
So, on to 2013 – here’s to a year of much more good stuff, and much less bad stuff.
Toasted cashews with chillies and curry leaves
300g raw cashew nuts
Approx. 25-30 curry leaves
2 red chillies, finely sliced (and de-seeded if you want less heat)
1tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
Salt to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Spread the cashew nuts out on a baking tray. Once the oven is pre-heated, toast them for approximately 10-12 minutes, checking as you go to ensure they don’t burn (which happens very easily). You want a uniform brown colour, but not dark brown / black. You could do this in a frying pan but I find toasting them in the oven is the best way of getting a uniform colour on them. Once toasted, remove from the oven.
2. In a frying pan or wok, heat the oil over a medium heat until hot. Then add the curry leaves and give them a stir. They will sizzle in the pan. Almost immediately, add the chillies and stir and fry until you can smell the fragrance of the leaves and they look crispy (make sure you don’t burn the chillies). Add the cashews to the pan and toss until they are coated in the curry leaves, chillies and oil. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen roll. Place another layer of kitchen roll on top and try drain to remove as much oil as possible. I find it works best to then transfer to another lined plate and to repeat the process. You should end up with the curry leaves being crispy enough to break up into little flakes.
3. Once drained, add salt (you will need more salt than you think) to taste, mix, and serve.