This particular snack brings back memories at warp speed. When I was growing up, this dish was considered a guest worthy treat. That meant, when guests dropped in for a visit, which was non-stop, my mom would rustle some variation of spiced cocktail peanuts.
My mom is all about proper etiquette, especially when guests are over. There was a rule (well there were many, but let’s focus on this specific one) that us kids were not allowed to touch any snacks put out in front of guests, even when they offered us something. Let’s just say this rule was broken a few times.
Honestly, it was not our fault. My mom would set out an array of delicious snacks, items she didn’t make on a regular occurrence. The temptation for snacks like these Munchable Masala Peanuts was too much. Sometimes it was worth one of her disapproving looks. And when the guests were gone, man would she be upset. It was scary. These episodes prompted her to set aside some of the treats so we could eat the snacks in the kitchen or our rec room, while the adults had a proper visit.
These Munchable Masala Peanuts are roasted deeply and completely, until toasted through and through. As all cocktail snacks do, the nuts serve a dual purpose. They prime ones stomach for the onset of alcohol and prevents one from ravenous hunger, especially when mingling.
These spicy nuts were inspired by the ones sold by street vendors in India. If you can only find salted peanuts, omit the added salt. Add the maximum amount of chili and cayenne pepper if you want an extra hit of spice. I am a garam masala addict, so I add a good dose of fragrant garam masala and I might be a little biased, but these are good.
The lime or lemon juice adds the necessary tang, while the jaggery and sautéed red onion add a subtle sweetness. I use cumin, ground ginger and garlic powders, turmeric, and chaat masala to elevate the flavours further.
They make the house smell incredible. You will find yourself, eating them while they are still too hot, causing them to slightly sizzle when they interact with the moisture in your mouth. Once they have cooled, it will be game on.
To ensure the most even toasting, I pan roast these nuts at a low temperature, stirring often. I’ll stir in a little bit of sugar, just enough to make them shiny and subtly sweet without them even coming close to candied nut territory.
You can use any combination of nuts: peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, brazils, event walnuts. I just happened to have peanuts on hand. Plus, using a higher proportion or all peanuts will make this dish less expensive. Even though they are called nuts, peanuts are actually legumes. The fruits containing the nuts forces its way into the soil, and peanuts mature underground as opposed to the other nuts, which grow on trees. Depending on where you live peanuts are known by other names such as earth nuts, ground nuts, and pygmy nuts.
6 cups unsalted cocktail peanuts
1 small red onion, chopped
6 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon jaggery or regular brown sugar
6 tablespoons chili pepper
3 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons chaat masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
In a pan dry sauté the red onion with a bit of water. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe pan down with a paper towel. Dry toast the peanuts in a pan on medium fire. About 2-3 minutes or until light brown. Mix up the lime juice and spices in a separate bowl. Take off the fire and add the rest of the ingredients. Place back on the fire and toast about 2 minutes. Toss and serve immediately.
Jessie Kaur Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a blog that shares food stories, recipes, and photography. Reflecting a love for meshing global flavours and South Asian aesthetics, Jessie explores culture and identity through food. Find more food stories at indianinfluence.ca