So what have this delightful ice cream and this delicious little eclair have in common?
They were both made with a beautiful home-made pistachio paste which tastes so good that it had my toes wriggling with delight!
Pistachios are one of the most delicately-flavoured nuts in existence. The beautiful emerald-green nut is hidden beneath papery rose-kissed covering which is obscenely painful to remove, and the colour will start to change to a rather unattractive brown once the nut is exposed to anything other than a low heat. Not only this, but once roasted, the flavour of the pistachio becomes lost as it transforms in both scent and taste to something kinda-but-not-quite like a toasted almond.
In short, cooking with pistachios can be a downright b*tch.
The question then becomes one of figuring out how to capture the flavour of pistachio and using it in ways that best carry the beauty of the nut straight to the tastebuds.
At my visit to Taste of Melbourne this year, I found myself in exquisite pleasure as I indulged in the beautiful pistachio panna cotta with salted caramel popcorn that could be purchased at the stand for Sarti. After pleading to speak with the man in charge of such delight, I questioned him about how he had flavoured the panna cotta. I’m not sure if my pleading was persuasive or it was the fact that I all but got onto my knees to grovel, but he soon revealed that the secret to the flavour lay in the quality of the French pistachio paste that they used.
Now, Bronte Pistachio Paste is (from what I hear) the best thing to use, but the fact of the matter is that the commercial pastes incorporate dairy or oil in some way, and I wanted a truly versatile paste that I could use for anything from ice cream to cookies, so the liquid content had to be as minimal as possible.
After reading what seemed like a hundred different recipes and methods for making your own pistachio paste, I set myself to task with a kilo of untoasted pistachios, a $40 domestic food processor and an afternoon of experimentation and came up with the following – which I must admit that I’m incredibly pleased with.
This is a very thick paste so regardless of how it’s used, you’ll need to “loosen” it before use by incorporating it into whatever liquid is a part of the recipe that you’re using (if there is no liquid, then you can mix it into softened butter and take it from there). But if you decide to give this a try, then I hope that you’ll enjoy using it as much as I do
Homemade Sweetened Pistachio Paste
500g skinned pistachios **
250g caster sugar
1 tbsp glucose syrup
1/3 cup water
Optional – 1 or 2 drops green food dye
** The best way to skin pistachios is to soak them in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes, after which the skins can be slipped straight off. Once the skins are removed, drain the nuts and spread them in a single layer on a baking tray and “dry” them for about 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 100 degrees Celcius – careful not to toast them as I find this changes the flavour (and colour) to something akin to toasted almonds.
1. Place the skinned pistachios, sugar, glucose syrup and water into a food processor
2. Give the ingredients a quick blitz, after which you’ll see the nuts break down into smaller pieces. Scrape down the sides and continue to process for a few minutes at a time, making sure that you stop intermittently to scrape down the sides to ensure that it’s blending evenly.
3. Once the mixture starts to form a smooth paste, you can add a few drops of green food dye to give the paste a very pretty colour – make sure you don’t add too much as you don’t want the paste to resemble a crayon, but rather to be as close to the natural colour of pistachios as possible.
4. Once the paste is as smooth as possible (home food processors won’t have the power to make a silky smooth paste like the commercial ones that you can find), you can place it in a ziplock bag which can be stored in the fridge for a month (or frozen for longer).
This paste is fabulous because it can be used for any number of applications – you can use it to make ice cream, flour a buttercream, cake batter, pastry cream – whatever you like! Or you can save it for my next two posts – pistachio ice cream and pistachio salambos