Roasted Cashews with Ajwain

Masala Kaju

Among the treasures of the New World brought to India by the Portuguese, cashews are at the top of the list. The usual Indian way with cashews is to fry them, as my mother and grandmother always did, but I prefer roasting them to a pale gold before tossing them with a very small amount of ghee, butter, or olive oil as stickum for pounded ajwain seeds and salt. Ajwain, or ajowan, with its heady oregano-like scent, is my favorite cashew-spicing option.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, butter, or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) salt
  • About 1 tablespoon ajwain seeds, coarsely pounded to release the aromatic oils
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Indian chilly powder (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Method

  • Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Tip the nuts onto a baking sheet big enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast for 7 minutes and then start checking every 2 minutes, roasting for another 4 to 8 minutes and moving the nuts around if your oven has hot spots. The cashews should be golden, not brown, although a few brown flecks are all right. Coppertone tan is too brown. If you want to make a smaller quantity of nuts, a toaster oven works well, but you need to be extra-vigilant with cashews.
  • After the nuts are out of the oven, let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle, but still warm. Add the ghee, following it immediately with salt, ajwain, and the cayenne, if you like. Alternatively, give the cashews at least forty twists of a pepper mill, set for a coarse grind. For best results, mix thoroughly with your hands.
  • Serve when the nuts have cooled down to the point that they become crisp again. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
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