During any big festival, especially Diwali, we're hard-wired to crave everything sweet and everything nutty. Crunchy walnuts, rugged almonds, nutty cashews, creamy pistachios and bulky chironji nuts set the mood of the occasion. They feature in both gift boxes and on the dining table. They also mark the onset of a magical winter and a glamorous Diwali.
Gifting a bag full of almonds, walnuts or pistachios has been a common practice for years and is now almost customary. Some would say it's their because of their emotional appeal and association with celebration, luck and happiness while others are of the opinion that nuts make the ideal gift as they're not alarmingly sweet or unhealthy.
What makes them truly remarkable are their health benefits. They carry a high concentration of fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals. They're also great for the heart, help ease hypertension and in some cases curb that awful belly fat. According to the journal BMJ Open, you should eat 50 grams of almonds, cashews, chestnuts, walnuts or pistachios to control blood fats and sugar. The body takes time to digest nuts which keeps you full for longer. Couple that with exercise and you've got the perfect recipe for weight-loss.
The Indian Nuts Platter
Variety is important and the Indian market has more than enough to offer. There are more than 15 types of nuts easily available in the markets.
Almonds are possibly the most enticing of all nuts. They're sturdy, delicious and the real deal. They grow in the warmer regions of India, mostly Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Almonds boost brain power, help with weight-loss and also give you shiny hair and nails. Walnuts are brown, crunchy and usually come encased in a hard shell that resembles the human brain. They're mainly grown in Jammu and Kashmir, and also in some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
Cashews are beige in colour and make for the ultimate evening snack. They're grown in the westerns and eastern coastal areas and in some parts of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Pistachios are creamy, salty and downright delicious. Once you get past their tough exterior, they're a real treat. There are also betel nuts that are brown, hard, round and grown along the coast of Karnataka and Kerala. They have a sharp acidic taste and are also mildly spicy. They're thinly sliced and mixed with sugar and spices to make supari which is a hot-favourite post-meal mouth freshener for many Indians.
Gather up fresh almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios from your Diwali gift boxes and show them some love. Here's a pot of some excellent recipes that explore both the sweet and savoury side of nuts. You'd be nuts not to try them.
Walnut Brownie - Recipe by Chef Noel Nalin Fonseka, Executive Pastry Chef, ITC Maurya Sheraton
The best brownies are soft and crumbly, fudgy and intense. This recipe takes it a bit further with only handful of nuts. It's also an exclusive from the executive chef of ITC Maurya Sheraton and a must try! Paal Paysam - Recipe by Kishore D Reddy
There's not a kheer in the world that can beat this one. This carefully crafted 7 ingredient recipe was put together to win hearts. Grilled Vegetables with Walnut Sauce - Recipe by Chef Roopa Gulati
Give an invigorating twist to every day vegetables. Grill them, toss them and smear them with a drippy walnut sauce. Kaju Roll - Recipe by Niru Gupta
Cashew makes a brilliant main ingredient and this recipe will show you how. Soft and creamy rolls packed with the goodness of milk, sugar and cashews.
The creamy looking sinful dessert is every Indian's calling. It's a beautiful balance of something soft, something crunchy and something celebratory. Basundi - Recipe by Niru Gupta
CommentsA little bit of saffron, a few almonds and few pistachios make this dish the star that it is. It's a traditional Indian dessert enjoyed specially in Gujarat and Maharashtra and sometimes scooped along with puri.