As I write this, I have a bowl of cashews and raisins by my side. Picking up one of each, I munch them slowly to draw out the full taste. The subtle sweetness and crunch of cashews is a perfect match for the deep sweetness and pillowy softness of raisins.
In my childhood, I was told that cashews are shaped like the kidney, so that’s the part of our anatomy that they nourish. (Similarly, almonds were great for brightening eyes, and walnuts were wonderful for the brain.) I don’t know how far that is true, but I do know that cashews are rich in vitamins and minerals, and promote good cholesterol. Though calorie-rich, they make the perfect snack, because you need to munch only a few cashews to feel satisfied. Ayurvedic healers recommend cashews for their Vata-pacifying properties.
Soon, winter will set in, and countless homes in India will prepare that divine dessert, Carrot Kheer, for which a bunch of red carrots are grated and slowly cooked with sugar and milk until they acquire a custard-like consistency. Over this, tiny bits of cashew nuts are sprinkled, and a dusting of ground-up cardamom seeds. This, to me, is the ultimate comfort food.
Happily, there are ways and ways to enjoy cashew nuts. I am jotting down some of them here. Do share your ideas, too!
1. Break them into bits and add them to a salad. In fact, it’s a good idea to carry small bags of chopped-up cashews/almonds in your handbag, so that you can add them to restaurant salads, too.
2. Soak ½ cup cashew nuts in ¾ cup water for 15 minutes. Grind to a paste. Add the paste to almost any stew or curry for a rich, delicate taste.
3. Stir fry about 20 bits of cashew in 2 tsp. of ghee. When the cashews turn light golden, tip them over freshly steamed rice.
4. Add an element of (pleasant) surprise by sprinkling ground-up cashews into your lasagna.
5. Let cashews take pride of place beside almonds in your breakfast cereal.
6. Enjoy cashew ‘milk’: blend ½ cup cashews with 2 cups of filtered water. It’s delicious! I like to add crushed cardamom seeds to this for even more flavor.
7. Doing a veggie stir-fry? Add a scant handful of broken-up cashews for extra power and crunch. Thai and Chinese dishes in particular go well with cashew nuts.