Food is a very useful tool for the novelist. It helps to create atmosphere and round out characters. Their attitude to food might show them to be mean-spirited and miserly, or they might be convivial and appealing people who like their food.
Inspector de Silva, the hero of my new series, is definitely in the latter category. As it's a chilly January day, at least here in the UK, I 'd like to share the recipe for his favourite Cashew Nut and Pea Curry with you.
The Inspector de Silva series is set in the fictitious town of Nuala in the tea country of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and the dish is still a very popular one there. Cashew nuts can be bought fresh in Sri Lanka and, unlike our dried ones, they are tender and creamy, but the texture can be restored by soaking them in cold water for two hours then simmering.
Preparation time - 20 minutes plus 2 hours soaking
Cooking time - 55 minutes
1 tablespoon roasted curry powder
(You should be able to get this in Asian supermarkets or from the Internet but if it's too much bother, just use ordinary curry powder.)
300g cashew nuts
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 stalk lemongrass (or a squeeze of lazy lemongrass from a tube)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 onions, halved
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
300ml coconut milk
150g frozen peas
Coriander to garnish
Drain the soaked cashew nuts then simmer with the turmeric in lightly salted water for about 30 minutes until soft and creamy. Drain and discard the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile trim the lemongrass stem to about 8cms and crush with a wooden spoon. Heat oil in a saucepan or wok add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cinnamon and bay leaves; fry for another 3 minutes until the onion is tender. Sprinkle over the remaining spices and fry for a final 30 seconds before adding the coconut milk, lemongrass and a little salt. Bring to the boil and add cashews. Simmer for 5 minutes then add the peas and simmer for another 2 - 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with rice. Delicious!
|Cashew Nut Tree|