Thursday, September 10, 2015

OIl-free roasted nuts

I love nuts. All kinds of nuts, from almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts to even the simple peanut. Store- bought salted, roasted nuts are a favorite of mine, especially as a snack with a cold beer, but they can be expensive. So I've learned a way to make my own roasted nuts that's idiot-proof. The best thing about making it on my own is that I can add whatever seasoning I want to it.

Nuts are a favorite of mine, but I especially love cashew nuts because it's a taste of home, like my mum's stir-fried chicken and cashews. It was one of the first dishes I attempted in college halfway around the world from home. One of my apartment mates, Thea, had said that she had a peanut allergy but thought (even though she had never eaten them before) that cashews were probably okay. As it was my turn to cook, the four of us sharing the apartment sat down to my home-cooked meal. But the minute Thea had her first mouthful of chicken with cashews, we could see her throat start to seize up. She started to wheeze as we stared at her open-mouthed. "Hospital!" she gasped. All of us just dropped everything and dashed her across campus to the emergency room in Columbia Presbyterian. Thankfully a jab provided the antidote to the allergy attack, but I was mortified that I almost killed Thea. For many meals after that, Thea would squint her eyes at anything I cooked and ask, "Any nuts in that?"

Notwithstanding that I once almost committed murder by cashew, these nuts shaped like a comma remain a favorite. I used to fry my cashews in oil or roast them in a little butter, but I didn't quite like the oily texture, especially when I had to pick them up with my fingers while snacking. A number of years ago, while writing a food article, I was a guest in the kitchen of Chef Shima at the Regent Hotel in Chiangmai, Thailand. In addition to demonstrating some delicious Thai dishes, she also showed me how to make roasted cashews without using any oil. The secret? Just a little egg white! Coating the raw cashews with egg white allows you to sprinkle on whatever seasoning you want to flavor the nuts with, from salt to paprika to lime zest. You then just pop the nuts into the oven for a short while at fairly low heat and voila - perfect dry-roasted cashew nuts!

Roasted Salted Cashew Nuts

Nuts (raw cashews or any other nuts you want, removed from the shell and skin)
1 egg white
Your choice of seasoning - salt, pepper, chilli, rosemary, whatever

Pre-heat the even to 170ÂȘC.
Spread the nuts over a baking tray lined with foil, making sure that they all fit in a single layer and are not overlapping. Otherwise they won't be roasted evenly.
Spoon a teaspoon of egg white over the nuts and spread with your fingers, making sure that every nut is coated. Add more egg white by the teaspoon if necessary, just enough to coat the nuts and not any more.
Sprinkle seasoning of choice and use your fingers to coat every nut.
Spread the nuts in the baking tray to make sure they're all in a single layer for even baking.
Place the baking tray in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Remove tray from the oven and use a spatula to gently break up the nuts stuck together by the egg white.
Spread the nuts evenly in a single layer again, and return to the oven for a further 8-10 minutes until golden brown. (Depending on what nuts you use, the cooking time may vary but just watch them as they brown in the oven.)
Once golden brown, remove tray from the oven to cool. Store cooled nuts in an airtight container.

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