Monday, March 18, 2013

cashew & potato curry

Hi all! It's time for our monthly Nona Nona feature and this month's theme, chosen by me, is cashew nuts. It should be no surprise, if you've read my cashew milk post, which started the cashew craze in my kitchen. Biren of Roti n Rice and Tea Tattler, my blogger buddy, personal friend and Nona Nona partner as always, gamely agreed, though she admitted cashews were a stumper as apart from Indian cooking, you won't find them in many traditional Asian dishes, the few exceptions being Kung Pao chicken, or cashew cookies.

This month marks our ninth Nona Nona collaboration, and next month, when Biren takes the wheel, will be our first Nona Nona anniversary. For a peek at our past Nona Nona features, click on the link. I can't believe Biren and I have been at this for almost a year and I can't wait to see what she has simmering for us next month! 

It's been fun, at times, nerve wrecking. I look forward to another year of nail biting fun with both trying to avoid featuring the same dish each time, as we have been striving to and mostly succeeding at, since April 2012. 

It's true that cashews are not heavily used in the southeast Asian kitchen, so I took the easy way out and settled on a simple but moreish and satisfying curry featuring cashews and potatoes. 

Whether your preference in Indian food is northern, southern, central or coastal, meaty, vegan or just plain lazy, the broad appeal of this curry should take care of your spice craving, with a few simple tweaks if desired. No recipe is written in stone, but here's my two cents worth on cooking good Indian food, and especially vegetarian Indian food. 

"Ungodly" amounts of onion and garlic are exactly what make a rock-your-socks-off curry, that doesn't need additives to kick up the flavour. That's a fact and Indian (and Asian) kitchens are stacked to the rafters with both. No matter what any politically correct cookbook or recipe blog, Indian or otherwise, may say, no Indian mother in an Indian kitchen, will ever cook a family sized pot of curry with two cloves of garlic and half an onion. Alliumphobes are best served exploring other, more subtle cuisines that handle uber sensitive noses or tastebuds with kid gloves, or revisiting their definition of "ungodly amount". 

The actual ingredient that needs restrained use in a curry, is cumin. It's not uncommon to see curry recipes that serve 4, specifying upwards of a tablespoon of ground cumin. That's just too much of a good thing. Cumin is a richly savoury spice. Unfortunately a pinch too much and your curry smells like a sweaty locker room. In seed form it's more forgiving, but still best used with caution.

Back on the subject of tweaking, yoghurt will add a rich creamy tang reminiscent of northern cooking, coconut milk and curry leaves give a definite southern slant, while toasted, ground mustard seeds give it more of a coastal character. If you'd like to venture a little beyond, but not too far from India, coconut milk, some fresh grated coconut, curry leaves and pandan leaves make a curry that would sit comfortably on a Sri Lankan dinner table.

Indian cooking features a plethora of cashew dishes both sweet and savoury. Unlike most other cuisines, where cashews are usually a garnish as they are frankly a costly ingredient, these creamy and tender nuts, proudly take centrestage in this and many other Indian dishes. If you have until now only thought of cashews as a cruncy nibble to go with your beer, I think you will enjoy the unexpected but delicious texture of these spicy, gently cooked nuts.

The curry is a very simple one and quickly done. The only involved part, if you can even call it that, is the hour long soak to soften the cashews, necessary because they really should be tender as opposed to crunchy. Soaking them cuts the cooking time dramatically, so I recommend that you don't skip it. Just pour boiling water over them, cover and leave for an hour, while you trim and water your plants, vacuum the floor or paint your toenails. Of course, you could also put the time to good use by chopping the onions and getting a headstart on grating that ungodly pile of garlic ;)

You could use any type of potato but I like Russets as they tenderise so quickly and break down obligingly while cooking, imparting a lovely creaminess to the curry. It's almost like a spicy chunky potato mash, riddled with mildly sweet, tender cashews and juicy peas. As always, on everything I cook, solicited or otherwise, the brood weighed in with opinions. Hubs loved it, though he initially grimaced when I told him it was meat free (I deliberately avoided the word vegan). I made my usual batch of 10 naans, and he eventually ate six of them with a third of the curry. Having detected not a shred of meat in the spicy melange, none of my three boys would touch it, despite hubby's spirited endorsement.

It's delicious with regular or basmati rice, and even dreamier with soft, fluffy naan, garlic naan or chapati. Round out such a meal with a fresh salad and lemon pickle and close it with hot frothy tea and a simple Indian dessert for a feast that would please a (not too picky or meat obsessed) Maharajah! Now let's head over to Biren's warm and cosy kitchen for another helping of Nona Nona goodness...

cashew & potato curry

prep 1 hr 20 mins (plus soaking)      cook 50 mins      serves 4

2 sticks cinnamon
6 large green cardamom pods
2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated (best done on a Microplane)
3 cm ((1 in) length ginger, peeled and finely grated as above
4 green chillies, sliced
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp tomato paste
120 g (1 cup) raw cashews, soaked in very hot water for 1 hour, then drained
100 ml (1/2 cup) cashew milk 
500 ml (2 1/2 cups) water
750 g (about 4 medium Russet potatoes) peeled and boiled till tender, then cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste - you will need more than usual because of the large amount of potatoes)
100 g (1 cup) thawed frozen baby green peas (optional)
coriander leaves for garnishing

Heat 5 tablespoons vegetable oil and when hot, add the cinnamon and cardamon pods. Stir for about half a minute. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies.  Stir over medium heat until fragrant and translucent.

Add the chilli powder, turmeric and ground cumin and stir for a few seconds, until fragrant, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes or until deep red. 

Add drained cashews, cashew milk and stir over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until cashews are tender and gravy has thickened. 

Add potatoes, salt and peas and stir well. Cover and cook gently for 4 - 5 minutes or until potatoes and peas are heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning and thin with a little water if necessary. Stir then turn off heat.

Dish out and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with rice, baguette, naan, garlic naan, or chapati. 


  1. Hi Denise
    This looks really delicious.....must be very tasty with cashew nut flavour in there...and moreover I loves anything with potato. And the good thing is yes, it goes so well with rice, bread and chapati. Yum!

    1. Hi Mel. Thanks :) It really was very tasty, though there's no meat. I love potatoes too, no matter how they are cooked. In fact I love carbs very, very much...... too bad for my figure ;)

  2. That must be so delicious! Tagged and bagged.

    1. It was! Thank you for visiting and hope you come back again :)

  3. Your curry looks really tasty! Love the color too! I am curious about the cashew nut milk as I don't think I've ever tried it. Must be pretty creamy. I wonder if it is good for smoothies. Yes, at least we did not make the same curry this time. :)

    1. Thanks Biren - it really was :) The colour is pretty isn't it? Must be from the turmeric and tomato. Cashew milk is very creamy, but not in a bad way. It's really good over finely crushed ice on a hot day. And I think it would work well in a smoothie - something I have been thinking about too LOL It's hard to run away from curry if you're talking cashews. The two just go so well together!

  4. Hi Denise! Congratulations on you Nona-Nona milestone!

    Can I substitute the cashew milk with coconut milk?

    1. Hi Alvin :) Thank you - I'm looking forward to more head scratching and nail biting next month LOL You most definitely can sub the cashew milk with coconut, dairy milk or yoghurt is also good to cut through the richness of the cashews. I only used cashew milk because the whole idea of the post is to highlight cashew and its possible uses, which makes this curry a double whammy then I guess ;)

  5. Good morning the look of this dish, I know I would enjoy this very much with thosai, naan or chapati:)

    1. Hello Jeannie :) I missed your comment this morning, so it's "Good afternoon" now! It's one of my prettier curries LOL Thanks for your kind words. Alamak! I LOVE thosai - long time no eat, now craving!!! Actually I ate 2-3 weeks ago. Long enough. Still craving!!!

  6. GORGEOUS ! Who can resist gorgeousness ?

  7. You know this has my name written all over it Denise! I love that Biren and you are collaborating. We're in for a treat!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  8. wuhuuu...!! look so delish, Denise - you absolutely right about Indian recipe.. a lot of spices LOL - but at the end of the day is always worth it :D *bet, not enough just 1 plate of rice ^_^ *do you still have left over cashew ? *wonder what's next LOL

  9. This looks amazing. And I can't imagine how a long spice list looks like!


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