Crazy For Cashews

Nuts are getting a fair amount of media attention recently.  Is it to drive seasonal sales in supermarkets?  Have you noticed how the shelves are laden?  Is it because we are no longer scared of the saturated fat they contain?  Or crave the essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fibre, protein, carbohydrate and a host of minerals that they provide? Whatever the reason, there are always a few jarfuls in my kitchen. 

Creamy cashews are at the top of my list 

Cashews are a little store cupboard gem.  I’ve grown up with them in Indian food where they are toasted with spices to eat with beer, tossed into tarkas with curry leaves and cumin seeds to give a crunch to a dhal or ground into breadcrumbs for puddings and desserts.

cashew nuts

Roasted cashews

But the cashew wasn’t grown in India until the 16th century.   It is actually native to South America – Brazil and Peru to be precise. Portuguese traders introduced the tree to India who is now one of the world’s largest exporters.

What I didn’t know until I started researching this nut wonder was that the cashew tree also produces an edible, pear-shaped fruit.  This cashew apple is incredibly rich in vitamin C and very versatile. You can eat it raw or make jam and juice as with any other apple.  Sadly it is not a fruit that lasts very long once picked and so not found outside Brazil.

Cashew Apple Print (www.finerareprints.com)

A couple of ideas for using them in your day to day cooking 

If you do buy your cashews from the supermarket they really are packaged up for snacking on. It’s not a bad thing but the price makes it prohibitive to use them for much else so seek out the larger 500g and 1kg bags from Asian or Turkish grocers.

Then you can use them as a basic paste for curries.  Simply whizz up a handful of cashew nuts, a garlic clove, a 2 cm stick of ginger, a 2cm stick of fresh turmeric if you can get it, a few green chillies or tsps of red chilli flakes and the juice of 1 lemon.

Cashew curry Paste

Cashew Curry Paste

Stir fry this in dry wok for a few minutes, add coconut milk and then your choice of vegetables, seafood or meat if you prefer.

cashew curry paste

Mussels in Cashew and Coconut Curry

If you have a sweeter tooth, try a cashew nut butter.  It’s really simple to make and you need just two ingredients.

Cashews and Cocoa Powder

Two simple ingredients for cashew nut butter

Simply blend about 200g of roasted cashew nuts for about 15 minutes. You will have a smooth paste. Then blend in 2-3 tbsp of rich cocoa powder. Easy but virtuous and nutritious in equal measure.

cashew nut butter

Decadence in a bowl

Are you a fan of cashews? How do you eat them? Does the price put you off using them day to day? 

13 responses to “Crazy For Cashews

  1. I love cashews too. I had no idea about the fruit – very interesting! I sometimes add them to pestos, as they are slightly cheaper than pine nuts (which are horrendously expensive) and I also grind them to a paste to add to curries. With coconut milk it makes a really rich sauce. All nuts are fairly expensive here as well, so for snacking I stick to the slightly less expensive almonds or the mixed bags that seem to have an awful lot of hazelnuts in them! :D

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  2. yum! I love cashews but had never though of using them in my curry pastes

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  3. I’m a big fan! I often add to Thai curries at the end and to stir fries, but I’ve only used almonds in curry pastes before – going to give it a go. I also use in pestos and I enjoy them raw but roasted with honey and spices -yum! Like the sound of the choc spread so will have to try that soon too. Thanks for the ideas.

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  4. We tried a juice made from cashew fruits when we stayed with friends in Brazil – an interesting flavour… but I think I’ll stick to the nuts in future!

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  5. My father absolutely adored salted cashews so I grew up loving them – so much creamier than peanuts! I had never thought to add them to curry pastes either – and I’m loving the idea of a cashew pesto!

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  6. I grew up eating fresh cashew – i haven’t had a fresh one in at least 10 years so reading this is bring back such memories! I use cashew nuts in everything – i make cashew nut milk, make cream pudding with avocado, make curry, cakes, biscuits, soup (i’m about to post a recipe) – pretty much everything!

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