Thai Spiced Cashews

Thai Spiced Cashews

There is nowhere safe, nowhere to hide.

Everyone in Chiang Mai is after you.

It’s the Songkran festival here in Chiang Mai!

Songkran (Water festival) is meant to be a time of cleansing and renewal… essentially the New Year’s party in Northern Thailand. What that actually looks like here in Chiang Mai is people, both Thai and Westerners alike, wandering the streets with water pistols, buckets and just about anything else they can fill with water and soaking everyone who walks by. Screaming and laughing, smiles everywhere… and that’s just the adults!

It’s nothing short of amazing to be involved in it this year. Especially great because temperatures have been reaching a stifling 40C during the afternoons lately. I’ve never been so happy to have a bucket of ice water dumped on me by a truck full of Thai ladyboys.

The atmosphere is so festive and alive, which, in laid back Chiang Mai, is really cool to see. The evenings during Songkran are especially great. The whole place comes alive with the colours, smells and sounds of the markets and the ever present thumping of bass music from hundreds of different speakers around the city.  Street food is everywhere and everyone seems happy despite being soaked from morning to night.

I love this New Year’s tradition.

It beats watching a big silver ball drop from the sky at midnight.

What better way to start a new year than by washing the old one away?  By running in to the streets and playing with your friends and neighbours, breaking down barriers with strangers, even if only for one day.

Thai Spiced Cashews
 
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Spicy, sweet, salty Thai spiced cashews
Author:
Recipe type: Small Bites
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 250 g raw cashews
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic chili sauce (sriracha)
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Instructions
  1. Zest lime and grate ginger and combine in a small bowl with sugar, salt and chill sauce.
  2. Add oil to a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Once hot, add in cashews and cook 6 to 7 minutes, frequently stirring, until golden brown. Careful not to burn!
  4. Toss in spices, quickly stir to coat the cashews and then cook for another 30 seconds.
  5. Remove from heat and pour cashews on to a plate or baking sheet to cool.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 BEN’S VERDICT (AKA A MEATEATER RESPONDS):

These spiced cashews hit almost all of my major food groups: fat, salt and chilli. The last food group that it doesn’t hit is taken care of by the accompanying  beer. I ate the whole bowl of cashews by the end of the first bottle and then asked for more (nuts that is not beer). 

Perfect snack after a glorious of throwing water around! 

Score: 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Curry Popcorn

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When I was 14 I worked at the first multi-plex theatre in my small town. Not to brag, but I made a pretty mean batch of popcorn.

I was so proud of that job.

What I wasn’t so proud of then was my freckles.

I was so uncomfortable with them that I used to plaster on layer upon layer of makeup (several shades lighter than I should have been wearing, I should add) topped off with a healthy dose of powder. My face actually glowed in pictures. I could literally light up a room with my face. But at least my freckles were hidden!

Although I loved my job at the movie theatre it quickly became my nemesis. After particularly busy nights, my entire uniform would be splattered with the “butter-y topping” we pumped on to the popcorn. Unfortunately, my face also took some of the collateral damage. The oil from the topping would bore its way through my makeup and leave me with circles of rosy, freckled skin on an otherwise blank canvas. I would leave those shifts cursing my genetics in my greasy uniform with my glasses smeared with oil and a crop circled face.

Almost 20 years on, I no longer have glasses, I have long since accepted (and now love) my freckles but I still make a mean batch of popcorn.

Stovetop Coconut Curry Popcorn
 
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Stovetop Curry Popcorn
Author:
Recipe type: Small Bites
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 4TBSP coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup (67 g) popcorn kernels
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp curry powder (or more if you want more spice)
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 TBSP of coconut oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat.
  2. Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.
  3. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the ⅓ cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer.
  4. The popcorn should begin popping soon.
  5. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner to prevent burning.
  6. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper).
  7. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.
  8. Meanwhile, melt the remaining coconut oil in a small pan.
  9. Add the sugar, curry powder and salt to the oil.
  10. Remove from the heat, pour over the popcorn and toss to coat.

 Ben’s Verdict (aka MeatEater response):

Good lord, these were incredible! 

I have always found popcorn either sickly sweet or boring. I only ever endured popcorn on infrequent visits to the cinema to see soppy films (usually under duress!). This batch is a popcorn game changer; I think I could eat this any time and anywhere.  They are crunchy, salty, slightly sweet and with subtle curry flavour notes. Also, freckles are the kisses of angels.  

Ben’s Score: 5/5 

Seeds (and Nuts)

peanuts!

I met a middle-aged Irish woman named Anne whilst traveling in Indonesia.

Unhappy in her life, she woke up one morning and said “I’m moving out of this house”. She had no idea where she would go or what she would do, and she definitely didn’t have much money. But, she took the leap and 3 months later she found herself in the Bangkok airport thinking “Oh s%#*! Now what?!”

That was three years ago. Since then she has been wandering South East Asia with no safety net, trusting the kindness of strangers (I’ve always wanted to say that) and taking any opportunities that life presented to her. She says that despite not knowing where money or food will appear from one month to the next, she has never felt so alive or connected (take that, Elizabeth Gilbert!).

I know that feeling all too well. It can be both at once exhilarating and terrifying.

I have spent a good deal of my life focusing on the terrifying side of leaping. I worried myself sick that I wouldn’t find what made me truly happy, longing for some magical missing puzzle piece that would make my life perfect and complete.

One of the worst of these situations was when I graduated from nursing school. I had a world of possibilities at my feet. I could have done ANYTHING. But I froze. I obsessed. I fretted. And, worst of all, I settled.

The idea of being able to move in any direction I chose terrified me. For the first time, I had no set plan. And, in my fear of finding something new, I played it safe. Then came the inevitable regret.

Fortunately, life gives you more than one chance to leap… and sometimes, as in my case, it just pushes you right off the edge.

I finally realized that having a world of possibilities meant exactly that. Anything is possible. The simple truth is that unless you get lost, you may never wind up somewhere new.

The times when I feel the most lost- the times when my life’s pages seem to be the most terrifyingly blank- are the moments just before something amazing presents happens. But you won’t know until you let the page turn.

There are no challenges, issues or crises that do not contain within them the seed of opportunity that could not otherwise have existed.

So get lost. Enjoy it. Take a leap.

Revel in not having it all, but in its possibility.

It’s all one big adventure that has barely begun…

And so, a seed… or rather a nut. A delicious, pan roasted, salted peanut to be exact. The perfect accompaniment to an ice cold beer and a few minutes to look around and enjoy.

Pan Roasted Peanuts
 
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Salted, pan-roasted redskin peanuts
Author:
Recipe type: Small Bites
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 280 grams (2 cups) raw peanuts
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Instructions
  1. Rinse and drain peanuts well.
  2. Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Once hot, add the peanuts being careful not to get spattered by the oil.
  4. Roast peanuts, stirring frequently, until peanut begins to turn golden brown (about 8-10 minutes)
  5. Remove from heat and add salt to peanuts. Stir well.
  6. Pour peanuts out on to baking tray to cool for 20 minutes (if you can wait that long!)
  7. Then eat them, of course!
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 23 grams (1/6 cup) Calories: 152 kcal Fat: 13.9 g Saturated fat: 2.0 g Unsaturated fat: 0.1 Trans fat: 0.0 g Carbohydrates: 3.7 g Sugar: 0.9 g Sodium: 387 mg Fiber: 2 Protein: 5.8 g Cholesterol: 0.0 g

 Ben’s Verdict (aka MeatEater responds):

I only ever eat peanuts  in the pub with a pint of warm bitter when I am desperately hungry and they have run out of crisps (like many Englishmen, I suspect). They fill a whole but I have never been overwhelmed by them. That changed when I popped some of these little freshly roasted beauties in my mouth! They were small, round and with a crispy, dark exterior that gave them a complex texture. Salty, crunchy and with a great depth of flavour, not at all like the common bar peanut I’m used to. The setting didn’t hurt either as we ate them with an ice-cold Chang beer whilst looking out at the hills of Chiang Mai- somewhere that neither of us would be if we hadn’t gotten lost and took a leap of faith.