For many years I regularly wrote a food column just before the Academy Awards. I made a point of seeing most of the nominated films (certainly all of the nominees for best picture) and coming up with a suitable recipe for several of them.
Sometimes I replicated food actually consumed in a film. More often I created a dish that merely worked thematically with a picture. For example for Traffic I created poppy-seed dressing to reflect the film’s focus on drugs. For Titanic I made North Atlantic salmon on a bed of lettuce—iceberg, of course! I loved putting together these recipes and articles.
In addition to writing about the Oscars, I used to celebrate them in a big way. My guests in Hawley-wood weren’t necessarily as well dressed as the ones in the big theater in Hollywood, but we probably had as good a time—and we had a lot less traffic to combat.
I festooned my living room with movie posters. One year my local video merchant even gave me a few cardboard promotional cutouts to add to the décor. One of them drove my little dog crazy. I just couldn’t keep the poor creature from trying to defend me from the big guy in the living room with a gun (Bruce Willis advertising Last Man Standing).
Nowadays, however, I hardly make it to the movies AT ALL—and I’m on the road too much to plan an Oscar Soiree. I still love to watch the Academy Awards, however, and I wanted to acknowledge them, however briefly, on this blog. So I’m posting a simple recipe in homage to this year’s feel-good nominated film Slumdog Millionaire, a rags-to-riches romance set in Mumbai.
I SHOULD make Pani Puri, the popular Indian snack both mentioned and consumed in the film by the young hero Jamal (Dev Patel). Pani Puri is a delectable bite—a small fritter-like substance deep fried and filled with spice. It’s the sort of snack it’s more convenient to buy than make, however. So instead I’m making a nibble my family always enjoyed when I lived in India as a teenager, spiced cashews. (I give a batch to my brother David every year for Christmas.)
They’re simple and tasty—and if you happen to be hosting an Oscar party they’ll come in handy.
As for my own Oscar party, there’s always next year. Meanwhile, I’ll be glued to the TV on Sunday evening……….
Slumdog Millionaire Indian Cashews
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (if you have a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin a little to release the oils)
1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound raw cashews
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a bowl combine the salt, cumin, and curry powder. I have made the nuts tasty but mild; if you want more flavor, add more cumin and curry! Mix well.
In a frying pan melt the butter. (I prefer to use a large cast-iron pan that can go straight into the oven.)
Add the cashews and stir to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle on the spices and toss well. If your frying pan is ovenproof and large enough to accommodate a single layer of cashews, place it in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the cashews (and all their flavorings) to a cookie sheet. Place the nuts in the oven. Bake them for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Remove the cashews from the oven and allow them to cool completely on paper towels. Store them in an airtight container until they are all gone. (This doesn’t take long in our house!)
Makes about 1 pound.