Fairtrade Kaju Katli (fairtrade cashew nut sweets)

So, Lucas (my 1year old) is down for a nap and I’m sipping some coffee and nibbling some delicious Kaju Katli sweet (yes, they were delicious!) and I’m very excited about telling you about this week’s experience.

Well, we had a bumpy start because on Saturday after Chris and I visited our favourite ‘Exotic Food Shop’ and a couple of supermarkets on the quest to find the ingredients…we just couldn’t find the cashews we needed! When I chose the recipe I knew i would have no problem finding baked cashew nuts, (because I know Liberation sells them) but I thought that I would surely be able to find raw fairtrade cashews in supermarkets under their own label products… but I was wrong! there were loads of conventional and organic cashews but no raw Fairtrade ones!!!… so, I had a bit of a panic and even thought about baking something else etc… but I had done so much research into the recipe and to the method that I really didn’t want to start again… so I just decided to go ahead using organic raw nuts for the paste, but since I would use Fairtrade sugar and the Fairtrade baked cashews to decorate them…I could just about get by calling them Fairtrade! This will serve me as a lesson for planing and preparation in future and it also made me think that there is perhaps a gap in the market!

Now, to the recipe and preparation method.

My best friend (through thick and thin as she says.. thick being 2 pregnancies and thin… the bits in between!) Sandra always laughs whenever I mention a recipe I’ve tried, because she knows that I am simply unable to follow a recipe 100%… I always think that there is too much of this, or not enough of that and that surely it would be better to add this… so in this case it’s no different!

The basic ingredients for Kaju Katlis are:

1 cup of raw cashews
1/2 cup of Faitrade sugar
1/4 water

But I saw many variations that also added, either Rose Essence, or Cardamon. So I decided to add both and some coconut rum!, so in my version I also used:

1/2 teaspoon of Rose Essence
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grounded Cardamon Seeds
1 teaspoon of Caribbean coconut Rum

Cardamon is I think one of my all time favourite spices, and the smell that most reminds me of India… and reading up about it I found that India is not the main producer and exporter of it… but Guatemala! how random…. especially because I really can’t think of any Latin American food that would have  it… but that’s something to research in future!

On spices, I should say that I was also kind of hoping to find fairtrade spices… but only saw a ridiculously expensive bottle of vanilla essence (more than £5 for a tiny bottle!) in my quest… again gap in the market?

To the method itself… which was very simple… but had a couple of sticky steps  (literally) that could go wrong:

1) Grind the raw cashew nuts to a fine powder. Now, this is one of the tricky bits. I read I could use a coffee bean grinder… but that was a disaster, because the nuts just became a paste and clogged the whole internal mechanisms of the grinder. So, I then just used a normal food processor, which was fine, but the other tip I read about, was to be careful to grind in just one go, rather than stopping and starting, because if you do, the oil from the nuts starts to cluster in small balls and then you will never get smooth Kajus. Also it’s important to use nuts at room temperature, and never from the fridge.

2) Boil the sugar and water on a pan to get a syrup (don’t ask why I used sugar cubes… picked up the wring box!). Use a low heat and keep stirring . This is the other sticky point… because you don’t want the sugar to burn… in which case you will get caramel. A good tip I found was that if you keep dropping a few drops of water, when they don’t dissolve and instead just sit on top, you are there.

3) Add the Rose Essence, Ground Cardamon and Rum. and stir.

4) Add the ground cashews and stir for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture thickens up. You will know when it’s ready when you can take a little bit and roll a tiny ball between your fingers, and becomes a little dough ball.

5) Whilst still hot, you need to transfer it to an oiled work surface. I  used baking  paper.You also need to grease your hands. You can use Ghee (the Indian clarified butter) if you can find it, but I just used sunflower oil, and it was fine.When it’s cool enough to handle, you need to knead the dough for a few minutes, and at this point it will lose its grainy texture and become quite smooth.

6) Grease your roller pin as well, and roll the dough to a thin layer. I rolled mine to the thickness of about a pound coin, but I think when I do it again, I’ll roll them a bit thicker and perhaps cut them smaller… so that they sit nicely next to a cup of coffee. Then using a knife, draw lines and cut out diamonds. At this point I also added that Fairtrade cashew nuts for decoration.

7) Leave them to cool and ferment, for at least 15 minutes, and then you can remove them and place them in a serving plate. etc. I spent ages trying to arrange mine in the India Star fashion!

Now to the judges for the results!

While I cooked, my lovely husband Chris and (master chef extraordinaire of the Minter family) and mum in law Peter entertained the kids by making individual score boards for us to use every week.

So, what was their verdict (from 1 -5 fingers)

Big smiles from Lucas and desperate attempts to eat them (he tried a little bit of the sweet bit) and Emilia had stuffed her face with 3 before the others got to them… so i think she liked them too!

Chris really liked them, but would add more cardamon next time and Pete wasn’t sure she liked the saltiness of the baked nuts on top.

My verdict? To be honest, I’ve had Indian sweets in the past and have never been able to finish them because they were simply too sweet for me, however that is not the case with them. They reminded me a lot of Baklava… they are sweet, but nutty most of all and yes next time I will add more cardamon and will forget the Rose Essence and Rum, since they just got lost in the mix.

The real test is whether I will make them again… and the answer is YES… I think they were very easy and are fantastic with a cup of coffee… and since they don’t have any milk or eggs, they have a great shelf life, so would make excellent homemade food gifts, perhaps for Christmas maybe in a lovely jar or box (there a millions of ideas in Pinterest!).

So 5 from me too!