I was introduced to this magnificent Cashew Nut Curry in India. In the terrible town of Kollam. OK, maybe the town isn't all that bad, but we didn't have the best of times. As a westerner travelling in India, it's all good for the most part until it isn't! I absolutely love India but unavoidably, will have one or two days when all I want is to be left alone and not have every bodily sense I possess assaulted on a minute by minute basis.
This was one such time. On arrival in Kollum we'd booked/been tricked into a horrendous place. After a terrible sleep, and a day of being harassed, poked, prodded and stared at. Back at the hotel, with its dripping taps, swirling mosquitos and clanking pipes I finally 'snapped'. We called it a day and fled to the relative comfort of a nearby 'executive hotel'. A fluffy bed, no mosquitos and most importantly - complete silence.
Kaju Curry - a delicious vegan cashew curry.
Kollam is in the South of India and, like many restaurants in the region, was vegetarian/vegan. The vegetarian and vegan dishes in India are beyond delicious, nutritious, colourful and packed full of everything you could ever want. On the menu, were so many things I wanted to try but the one that stood out was a Kaju Masala, or Cashew Curry. I remember that the chef in this particular restaurant was Sri Lankan - there was a lengthy section in the menu ALL ABOUT HIM!, and so many of the dishes reflected his heritage.
Sri Lanka and South India share similarities in that they utilise coconut, rice and fresh ingredients more than the North of India and Pakistan. A Sri Lankan Kaju Curry is pretty much the same as an Indian Kaju Curry. Nuts, spices and creamy coconut milk!
I have eaten and cooked a million curries over the years, featuring all kinds of ingredients, but never tried nut curries before so was very intrigued. The flavours are a triumph - mild, lightly spiced and coconut infused. So filling and a perfect substitute for any meat. I never once even thought about meat when in India. It was a welcome delight that day, we devoured it like no other curry, and returned to our room for more luxury and silence. It was a dish I knew I'd replicate at home.
Cooking Cashew Nut Curry at home.
Cashew nut curry has the most wonderful texture, the nuts are soft, but still have a little bite, and together in the fragrant, creamy sauce create something quite luxurious. Making it at home is simple too. There are no tricky techniques, it's a very straightforward dish. A quick soak of the unsalted cashews, primes them to take in all the flavour of spice. Be sure to buy unsalted - salted nuts will make the final dish too salty and you'll lose the unique flavour. Cashews have a distinctive nutty flavour which permeates the entire sauce - so delicious. It feels like this curry should be more difficult than it actually is - but feel free to amp up your cleverness to whoever you serve it to.
Serving suggestions and more delicious Indian recipes.
Being from the south, rice is king - and the cashew nut curry works perfectly with it. But Indian breads are a good option too. And if you're feeling adventurous, maybe try making an Indian Poori Bread - a puffed fried bread that I can not get enough of! At home, I also like to serve this kaju curry with other vegetarian or vegan Indian dishes to make for more of a taste and textural journey! Try some of my favourites...
How to make my Cashew Nut Curry
- 2 cups cashew nuts (unsalted)
For the curry paste
- Add the cashew nuts to a bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 1 hour.
- In a bowl, add all the curry paste ingredients. Add ¼ cup water and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Once soaked, drain the nuts and place into a saucepan. Pour over 3 cups fresh water and add the turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer gently for 30 minutes.Once cooked, remove from the heat, drain and retain the cooking liquid. Set both aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over a moderate heat until hot.Add the curry leaves, star anise and fennel seeds and let them sizzle for 30 seconds before add the diced onion. Stir well to combine, then stir fry for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and golden brown.Add the curry paste and stir for 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn the spice. Add a little of the cashew nut cooking liquid if things get too hot.Tip in the cashew nuts and stir well before pouring in the coconut milk and about 1/2 cup of the cashew cooking liquid to thin out the sauce a little.Stir well, then pop on a lid and cook over a low temperature - a light simmer for 10 minutes. You can thin out the sauce out further if you need to here, by adding more cashew nut cooking liquid - I like mine rich and creamy, but sometimes it gets a little thick - you decide!Remove from the heat and that's it. Check for seasoning and add a little salt if you think it needs it.Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve.
Nutrition (per serving)
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