Saturday, August 3rd, 2013...4:42 pm

Crazy About Nuts

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It’s no secret that I enjoy drinking. A glass of wine at dinner, a bit of whiskey while I watch TV at home, or an ice-cold pint on a hot day; these are some things I will never say no to. I’ve even got a decently kitted-out bar at home, complete with both a cobbler and Boston shaker, Hawthorn and Julep strainers, a couple of muddlers, pretty bar spoons/stirrers, homemade brandied cherries, and most types of hard liquor (except vodka – a night back in uni days of three people, 1 bottle of Absolut Citron, and drinking-Jenga was a recipe for me never being able to drink vodka ever again).

One of the reasons why I often elect to go out, instead of opening a bottle of wine at home, or pouring a splash of whiskey on my balcony, is the bar food. And I’m not even talking about a carefully crafted row of sliders, or deep fried chicken wings coated in reduced Coca-cola sauce. (Though, those are good too.) You know those grubby bowls of mixed nuts that bartenders carelessly fling on the counter in front of you? They’re my kryptonite. I don’t care how many stories you might have to tell me of people who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom and nuts that get recycled back into a communal tub; that stuff is addictive. And even more so when it’s not just stale, no-longer-crunchy nuts.

Once in a while, you find a niceish bar that even house-roasts their bar nuts. And I go absolutely nuts (ha) for them. When I’m trying not to overeat, I’ll often find myself reaching for the bowl only to slap my own hand. Presence of alcohol only means I’ll have even less self-control than what I already lack.

So maybe it’s not the best idea that I bought a couple packs of cashew nuts and started playing around with them at home. It also probably wasn’t too wise on my part to google around and find a method by Giada de Laurentiis, who first coats the nuts in stiffly beaten egg-white, before tossing them with the spice mixture. The crust this builds on the nuts–definitely not a good idea at all. But hey, since I’ve already blamed this series of bad decisions on the alcohol, I might as well share the recipe I cobbled together. I like a mixture of salty and spicy, but much less sweetness than most recipes I’ve found tend to call for. Salty is definitely very good, since it makes you thirsty and that…well. That just keeps you drinking. :)

Spiced Bar Nuts

250g raw cashew nuts (or any mixture of your preference)
1g (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
1g (1/2 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg (or about 1/3 of a nutmeg)
1g (1/2 tsp) Chinese five spice
2g (1 tsp) onion powder
5g (1 tbsp) garlic powder
5g (2 tsp) cayenne
5g (2 tsp) smoked or hot paprika
5g (1 heaped tbsp) finely chopped fresh rosemary
7g (1 tbsp) smoked sea salt flakes
15g (1-2 tbsp) light muscovado sugar
1 egg white

Preheat your oven to 180ÂșC. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick or parchment paper, and grease or oil the paper.

Sift the cinnamon, nutmeg, Chinese five spice, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne and paprika in a small bowl, and stir until evenly mixed. Add the rosemary, salt and sugar, and stir again, making sure there are no big lumps.

Beat the egg white to stiff peaks. Tip the nuts into the egg white and carefully stir until each nut is coated with the egg white. Add the dry spice mixture to the eggy nuts, stir with a spatula, then scrape onto your prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes, then pull the parchment off the tray and onto your counter or a cutting board to cool slightly. While the nuts are still warm, scrape them off the paper and give it a stir (this will prevent the sugar from sticking to the paper once it has cooled). Cool completely, then break up any large clumps and store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 1 week.

Yield: Makes about 2 cups of spiced nuts. Recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, but they’re kind of addictive so I would make and keep as little on hand as possible, if I were you.

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