Allyson Gofton - Cashew Nut Curry

Publish Date
Friday, 21 August 2015, 1:56PM
By Allyson Gofton

These two ingredients add a special flavour to this delicious curry.

Pandan essence
Each time I break the seal and breathe in the aromatic perfume of pandan essence I am instantly transported back to Bali; it is the scent of South East Asia and there is no other substitute that can take its place. The fresh leaves are hard to come by, though frozen can be found and the essence is readily available. Dubbed the ‘Vaniilla of the East’, the intense grassy, fragrant taste imparted by the essence distilled from the leaves of the pandanus plant (pandanus amaryllifolius), is so strong that only a drop of two is ever required.

Add a drop or two to …

  • A butter or sponge cake recipe; ideal for patty pan cakes.
  • Boiled short grain rice and serve with grated palm sugar and warm coconut cream.
  • Coconut ice for a unique flavour and colour.


Curry Leaves
Curry leaves have a unique if not slightly acrid taste and are a hallmark ingredient in Southern Indian-style curries being as important as, say, a bouquet garni is in French cooking. Available dried and fresh stir one up in scrambled eggs. Dried curry leaves keep well in an airtight container


Cashew Nut Curry
My first encounter with a cashew nut curry was on a visit to Sri Lanka, where the cashew nuts are large, meaty and with that incomparable cashew nut taste that renders then almost impossible to resist. Adding pandan essence brings a captivating taste to this easy-to-make curry. It also gives a brilliant green hue to those chewy coconut pancakes regularly served in Thai and SE Asian restaurants.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

250 grams raw cashew nuts
2 stalks lemongrass
1 onion, peeled and diced
2-3 green chillies, sliced, deseeded if wished
1½ tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1x 400ml can coconut milk
1½ cups water
6 curry leaves
1/8 teaspoon pandan essence
Fresh coriander leaves


  1. Soak the cashew nuts in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes; strain well.

  2. Trim the white part from the lemongrass and slice finely. Keep the fibrous green of the stem to add flavour or use later to make lemongrass tea.

  3. Heat a dash of oil in a deep frying pan and cook the sliced lemongrass, onion, chillies and garlic for 3-5 minutes over moderate heat until fragrant and beginning to soften. Add the curry powder and stir into the hot ingredients to release the essential oils before adding the palm sugar, coconut milk, water, curry leaves and pandan essence. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

  4. Add the strained cashew nuts and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Scatter over fresh coriander leaves before serving with boiled rice.

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