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Devilled cashew nuts

The term "Devilled" comes from the late 18th century and usually refers to foods cooked with spicy ingredients, most commonly chillies or mustard. The most common of these is of course devilled eggs, but you also have deviled ham and some other classics. The term was derived from the historic depiction of the devil, usually painted in red with flames around him. This leads to the old thought that these foods are from the devil, because of their fieriness. A second and more controversial theory is the fact that chillies are tropical plants and hence discovered through various colonization efforts from Europe. Since the locals were usually darker in colour, this was a term that was derisive to the locals and the foods that were spiced were thought to be from these "devils" as it were.

Today's hot sauce bottles and super spicy food labels still pander to this old concept, usually printed in bright reds, with flames and also depictions of the devil on the labels. Spiciness has been associated with the devil and this trend is embedded in food culture today, though not with the bad cultural repurcations.

This is a simple recipe made with cashew nuts in this case. However, you can substitute any nut or mix of nuts to suit your liking. the recipe is simple, but be careful not to burn the chilli when you add it. You need to take the pan off the stove as soon as you add the chilli and toss the nuts and chilli in the residual heat.

This is an amazing cookbook, so much so that I rarely now go to the other Sri Lankan cookbooks on my shelf. It is a gorgeous cookbook, from which I have cooked at least half the recipes, every one spectacular. I believe what makes this book special is the attention to detail, including recipes for every spice blend, The Roasted curry powder in this recipe, allows this dish to shine.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 tablespoon oil

2 cups cashew nuts, raw or roasted

15-20 curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional, only if you are using raw unsalted nuts

Heat the oil in a frying pan or shallow wok till very hot. Add the cashew nuts and fry till golden, tossing them continually so that one side of the nuts does not burn.

Add the curry leaves and toss well. Take the pan off the heat and add the chilli and salt, if using and toss well. You want to be careful not to burn the chilli that happens very quickly. Serve after 5 minutes, after the cashews have cooled a bit and crisped up again.

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