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Indian Cashew and Pistachio Nut Brittle

17 Dec


If you’ve never attempted to make candy before, I think I’ve got the perfect recipe to get you started. I know, I know—you don’t have a candy thermometer, you’re afraid of burning things (including yourself), and why would anyone make candy when you can just buy candy? I get it, really I do. But I still think you should make this.




Why? Because where else are you going to find a crisp nut brittle infused with Indian spices? A nut brittle made with pure clover honey instead of corn syrup? Or a super customized candy that contains only the nuts you want, being as though, if you’re not a cashew or pistachio fan, you can use peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pepitas, or whatever you feel like? Right here is where you’ll find it. And, as an added bonus, you don’t even need a candy thermometer to make this delicious treat happen. If you have one, by all means, bust it out. If you don’t, however, you still have no excuse to not make this candy.



Crisp, wonderfully spiced, and absolutely jam packed with nuts, this is homemade candy at its finest. Because I like a high ratio of nuts to sweet stuff, I made this recipe specifically with that preference in mind. The sweetness of the brittle serves mainly as a lacy structure to hold the nuts together, making every bite a perfect balance of nutty and sweet. Because a lot about the recipe is customizable, you can, as mentioned previously, swap out the nuts you see here for any other nut you like. You can also swap the ginger extract for vanilla extract, the cardamom for cinnamon (or a smaller amount of cayenne pepper or chipotle powder, if you’re looking to make a sweet and spicy candy). It’s great for wrapping up and gifting to friends and family, and, if packed in an airtight container and padded against shattering, it can be shipped across the country and arrive perfectly fresh and tasty as the day it was made. Seriously, just give it a try. You don’t have to make it with gifting in mind, if that takes off any added pressure. You can make it and eat it all yourself, and if you do, I promise I won’t tell a soul.


Last Year: Peppermint Mocha Crinkle Cookies

Indian Cashew and Pistachio Nut Brittle Recipe

As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still make this candy. Though gauging a candy’s doneness can be accomplished by temperature, it can also be accomplished by keeping a close eye on your candy’s color and scent. I’ve added instructions below that address both temperature as well as color and scent.

Heaping ¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup raw pistachios

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ginger extract (if you can’t locate ginger extract in your local market, it can be ordered from a baking or spice shop, such as this one)

½ teaspoon baking soda

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, then set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over low heat, combine sugar, water, honey, and sea salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and, without stirring, allow the mixture to come to a boil. Boil the mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, without stirring, until the mixture reaches around 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the mixture turns a deep amber color. When the desired temperature or color are reached, immediately stir in the nuts and stir the mixture constantly until it reaches a temperature of 310 degrees or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, when the mixture turns a deep golden shade of reddish brown and you can smell the nuts toasting and the sugar becoming deeply caramelized.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the butter, cardamom, and ginger extract until evenly incorporated. Add the baking soda (the mixture will bubble and foam for a bit, then reside) and stir until combined. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, pouring it around as evenly as possible. Do not bother trying to scrap the last bits of the hot, sugary mixture from the sides of the pan. Gently push the mass of nuts around so it covers as much of the surface of the candy as possible.

Allow the candy to cool completely before breaking into bits and eating or packaging. If you want to speed up the cooling process, you an place the sheet of cooling candy in the freezer and cut your cooling time in half.

Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas

26 Nov

We’re entering into that glorious time of the year when the celebrations are plentiful, the lights forever twinkly, and the snacks are everywhere, all of the time, no matter where you look. For a dedicated snacker (as I happen to be), this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. In her cookbook Super Natural Everyday Heidi Swanson notes that her day’s consumption of food goes something like “meal-snack-meal-snack-snack-meal,” a series of events that I can only describe as being somewhat blissful in its rhythm. Swanson, of course, makes the most of those meals and snacks, indulging in supremely healthful foods that provide the most punch as possible, both in terms of flavor and nutrition.

I wish I could say that I am always that dedicated to eating healthfully. Certainly a lot of people would look at my meals and snacks throughout the day and declare me to nothing short of a Pollyanna when it comes to food (I don’t drink sweet beverages at all, I eat very little meat, I don’t buy junk food), but one can certainly find a lot of room for improvement when it comes to my snack choices during the holidays. Whereas I ordinarily find much satisfaction in eating a few nuts or an apple for a standard snack, the holidays inevitably turn me in an entirely different direction, snack-wise. Things just seem to appear in our house, and then those things inevitably end up in my mouth. The chocolate covered nuts, the containers of homemade cookies—bless them all, but, my lord, I lose my mind when those things are sitting around and looking at me with their luscious, chocolaty, buttery eyes.

Perhaps this year I will be able to keep a stash of more sensible snacks around, so that I can maintain my normally reasonable and pleasurable way of eating. These crispy, spicy chickpeas will be a good start. They take absolutely no time to throw together, and they make a wonderful snack, garnish, or added protein, whether I am looking for something snacky or something to plump up a meal. My current favorite way to eat them (aside from just eating them as they are, which is simply wonderful) is to throw them on a pile of quinoa, chopped raw spinach, and avocado, then drizzle everything with a touch of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The spices are just perfect and the tiny kick of heat makes for a nice surprise. All in all, these little chickpeas are a welcome addition to the day, no matter the season.

Last Year: Slow-Cooked Beans and Huevos Rancheros

Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups cooked, drained chickpeas

2 teaspoons garam masala (a commonly found Indian spice blend)

¼ teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper, if you want things a little spicier)

salt and pepper to taste, if needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, then add drained chickpeas. Sprinkle over garam masala and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Sauté the chickpeas and spices, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, then place the skillet in the heated oven. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are crisp and golden. Taste for seasoning, and add a bit of salt and pepper if you think it is necessary (garam masala spice blends contain different levels of salt, so it is important to hold off on adding more salt until after the chickpeas have been roasted).

Eat the chickpeas as is, or add to salads or soups.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo

20 Aug

In the spirit of my propensity to toss bits and pieces of leftover vegetables into a tart or a quiche and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of my frugality, a little while ago I decided that my bits and pieces of this and that were ready to branch out a bit. I love a good tart and quiche, but I also love a good challenge. Also, I love Indian food.

I know that I went super heavy on Indian food posts a few weeks ago, but can you blame me for wanting to add on to my arsenal of Indian food recipes? And it’s not just because I am Indian. I mean, technically I am half Scottish as well as half Indian, but you won’t see me whipping up a batch of haggis any time soon. Though I have been know to make shortbread, but, you know, I put ginger and lime in it, because that’s what happens when India creeps into Scotland.

This new riff on samosas is also a new riff on the traditional Indian dish of aloo gobi, a dry sauté of spiced potatoes and cauliflower Literally, in Hindi, “aloo” means potato and “gobi” means cauliflower. Now you know roughly 50% of the Hindi that I know. (If I ever have to negotiate a taxi fare in India, I am going to be in so much trouble.) With a sad little bag of leftover sweet potatoes sitting in the pantry and a fast-wilting head of cauliflower in the refrigerator, I knew I wanted to whip up a decidedly different version of aloo gobi. Since I also had a package of phyllo dough that was quickly turning dry, it soon became clear to me that the universe wanted me to make samosas. And who am I to throw a cold shoulder to the universe?

I am a big fan of my initial recipe for samosas in phyllo, and I cart that sucker out quite a bit when tasked to bring a dish to a potluck or picnic, but these sweet potato and cauliflower samosas are fast overtaking the originals on my list of favorites. The sweet potatoes add a nice change in flavor from ordinary potatoes, and the cauliflower, once sautéed, wrapped up, and baked, practically melts into the creamy and delicious mixture. The spices in this version of samosas are different from the original, I have streamlined the filling and folding process, and, believe it or not, I just might prefer this version overall. For now, at least. Until I find a couple of sprouting potatoes and sagging chiles lying around and decide to make a batch of samosa recipe #1, and then predictably pronounce them to be my reigning favorite.

Last Year: How to Cook Pizza on the Grill

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo Recipe

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into very small ¼-inch cubes

½ head fresh cauliflower, cored and cut into ½-inch chunks

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 small green chile, seeds and ribs removed, then very finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 package phyllo dough, about 35 to 40 sheets

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted then cooled a bit

In a large pan set over high heat, heat vegetable oil or ghee until it is very hot. Add cumin seeds, and cook them just until they begin to sizzle and pop (this will take just a few seconds). Carefully add in sweet potatoes, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes from pan and set aside. In the still-hot pan, add the cauliflower and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes back to the pan with the cauliflower, then add in the spices, ginger, and chopped chile. Reduce heat to low, stir to combine, cover, then let cook for 5 minutes. Remove cauliflower mixture from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the mixture has cooled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cover phyllo stack with a dampened kitchen towel (this will keep the phyllo from drying out as you work).  Take one phyllo sheet from stack and lay it down on your work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered as you work) and brush lightly with butter. Fold the dough towards you in three folds, like a tri fold business letter. You will now have a long, three-layer strip of phyllo dough.

Place a tablespoon of filling near one corner of a strip, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding the strip (as one would fold a flag), maintaining a triangle shape. Put fully wrapped samosa triangle, seam side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. Repeat process, making more triangles in the same manner, until you’ve used all the phyllo and all the filling, whichever comes first. Very, very lightly brush the tops of the formed samosas with any remaining melted butter.

The samosas can be baked in a 375 degree oven, one sheet at a time, for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Cool them slightly on a wire rack before serving.

If you plan to freeze the samosas instead of bake them straightaway, place the wrapped samosas in the freezer on their parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for one hour.  Remove the samosas from the freezer, and stack them in an airtight container, separating each stack with a layer of parchment or wax paper.  The samosas will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.  When you are ready to bake the frozen samosas, follow the baking directions for fresh samosas.  There is no need to adjust the baking time.

Makes 35 to 40 samosas, depending on how generous your 1 tablespoon scoops are.

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