August 16, 2010 | 23 Comments
Last weekend I made three different dishes – all of them nut-based. It wasn’t planned that way, it just came to be. I thought it would be neat to post them as a trilogy.
Take it from the gal who hails from Kerala in southern India where over 60% of the world’s cashew exports originate. One of my relatives in Quilon owned a cashew plantation. There would be an endless stream of salted cashews emerging after a swim in hot ghee headed straight to the dining table. Every time you sauntered past (which was suspiciously often), you grabbed a handful. No one seemed unduly worried about becoming fat. They just got a bit nuttier, perhaps. And happier.
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.
The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.
And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.
Study authors concluded, “Frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more). These results support the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a cardioprotective diet and also allay fears of possible weight gain.”
One of the dishes I planned to make last weekend called for cream, the other needed yogurt. Right now, the dairy-free options in the grocery store are soy yogurt and cultured coconut milk. I was looking for something with a neutral flavour that could be made easily at home.
A search for “Cashew Yogurt” brought up a crazy concoction from The Spunky Coconut using cashews, gelatin and probiotic capsules.
Since I’m drawn to crazy like a moth to a flame, I dug out a bottle of capsules appetisingly labelled “Phillips’ Colon Health Supplement” from my vitamin drawer and set to work.
Ingredients: L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, B. longum, potato starch, gelatin and silicon dioxide.
It claims to have 1.5 billion cells per capsule. The gelatin makes it non-vegan, but vegan probiotics are easy to find.
I forgot to replace the gelatin with agar agar (china grass/kanten powder) as planned. The gelatin in the original recipe is meant to emulsify the liquid so that it doesn’t separate during fermentation.
The accident proved serendipitous as the thick part of the “yogurt” floated to the top, leaving cashew “milk” at the bottom. I spooned it out to get a luscious “sour cream” that was only mildly tangy. It worked fabulously in both my recipes. This is going to be a staple in my kitchen.
CASHEW “SOUR CREAM” and CASHEW “MILK”
Normally, for nut milks, I’d follow THIS RECIPE. In this case, the “milk” is a by-product of making the “sour cream”. I increased the proportion of nuts to water to make it creamier.
Yield: About 2 cups each cashew “sour cream” and cashew “milk”.
1 cup broken or whole raw cashews
6 probiotic capsules
**probiotic powder may work too – half tsp or thereabouts.
2 cups filtered water to soak
3 cups filtered water to blend
Soak cashews in about 2 cups of filtered water for 4 to 8 hours. Drain, rinse a couple of times and blend to a smooth paste with 1 cup filtered water.
Heat the remaining 2 cups filtered water until uncomfortably warm (not really hot) and add it to the cashew paste. Stir it and check if the whole mixture is lukewarm (between 90 and 95 F). If not, wait until it is just barely warm.
Open up the probiotic capsules and add the powder to the warm cashew liquid. Stir well, cover and leave to incubate in a warm place. I left it in my Salton yogurt maker overnight.
In the morning, it had risen a bit and neatly separated into a very thick creamy mass (like mascarpone) at the top and a thinner liquid at the bottom.
I carefully spooned the thick part out into a bowl and poured the liquidy bit into a jug.
It was only mildly tart. Leaving it to set for longer will yield a tarter sour cream, or add a dash of lemon juice. I left it the way it was. This “sour cream” works very well in lieu of cream, yogurt or mascarpone in a recipe (I’m not sure if it can be whipped, though).
The cashew “milk” is great over cereal or in smoothies.
Yields about 4 cups.
Follow the same recipe as above. When you heat the 2 cups of water, bring it to a boil. Add about 3/4 tsp agar agar/kanten/china grass powder or 2 tbsp of agar agar flakes to the water and let it dissolve.
Add this to the cashew paste and blend. Let the mixture cool down to between 90 to 95F (lukewarm).
Add the probiotic powder and proceed. The agar agar powder will emulsify the liquid and prevent it from separating into “cream” and “milk”.
For a tasty treat, scoop some cashew “sour cream” or “yogurt” into a bowl, mix in a dash of vanilla extract and top with fruit or a drizzle of raw honey.