My first memory of eating the cashew fruit is when 4 or 5 of us cousins had gone for a walk in the woods of my paternal ancestral place in the western ghats of Karnataka and my cousin Shashi handed over the fruit for us to taste, warning us to steer clear of the sap oozing out from between the fruit and the nut.
I loved every bit of the soft, juicy, sweet and fleshy fruit. We couldnt eat the nut as the nuts go through a time consuming process where the dark brown skin is removed to reveal the creamy white nuts.
The kaju katli was ofcourse my most favorite sweet and I waited every Deepavali to savour this treat when this burfi was bought and distributed with a lot of festive fervour. Later on, I fell victim to the propaganda of the latest science reports, doctors and newspaper articles asking us to avoid cashews. I even remember telling my father in law, an avid cashew lover not to indulge in it as it has high cholestrol.
When I recently met a doctor and he told me that cashews are high in cholesterol, I was surprised that even to this date, many people from the medical fraternity propagate this so called truth.
Contrary to popular belief cashews are rich in vitamins and minerals that are good for overall health. Cashews are rich in Vitamin E, Vitamin B and iron. Infact, in her best selling book “Indian Superfoods” author Rujuta Diwekar dedicates an entire chapter to cashew and talks about its immense health giving attributes apart from busting long held notions that have stopped many from indulging in cashews. Many scientific papers have been published recently which state that monounstaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cashews reduce the LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improving heart health. Since cashews have a low glycemic index, they are good for diabetics too. And one of the most important properties of cashews are that they can act as an anti deppressant. You can reach out for a bowl of cashews when you or someone you know have low mood swings.
As far as I am concerned, I have been indulging in cashews whole heartedly. I love the simplicity of cashews when eaten by itself. Its natural sweetness combined with its nutty texture and rich flavour is very satiating and uplifting.
I make these spiced cashews for my son as he loves them! Thanks to my mother who loves to make kaju fry for her grandson, I discovered that Hari loves these nuts so much.
This makes for a lovely snack and is great for gifting as well. When I travelled to Bengaluru last week, I carried a batch of masala kaju for my father in law and this time I not only encouraged him to eat these nuts but also relished in the happiness that came with sharing them.
Kaju Masala | Cashew Masala Recipe
Cashewnuts with turmeric, chili, pepper and other spices.
4 tsp ghee or vegetable oil
½ tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¾ tsp coriander seed powder
⅓ tsp cumin seed powder
¼ dry ginger powder
¼ tsp asafetida*
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
200 gm (1 ½ cups) cashews
1 tsp (or to taste) kala namak or black salt
In a wok, heat the ghee or vegetable oil. Put in all the spice powders and before the ghee or oil begins to smoke, add the cashews into the wok. Sprinkle the salt all over the cashews.
Stir the cashews on low heat for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Alternatively mix everything together, spread on a tray and bake in the centre of an at 180C.
*If you are making this on fasting days like ekadasi, then avoid the asafetida.