The pistachio nut is an increasingly popular ingredient making a resurgence in Australian cuisine and is one of the most delicious flavours in the chef’s arsenal. The nuts grow on trees and are native to Western Asia, around Afghanistan. Pistachios were common in the classical era with Greeks and Romans. The trees flourished in North Africa and the Middle East, where pistachios are essential in tajines and stews
French terrine or Italian gelato?
These little green nuts form the stunning textural highlight in a rich French terrine or the basis of an exotic Middle Eastern dessert. During the 1950s, the first Italian gelato shops opened in Sydney and Melbourne, serving smooth ice creams flavoured with ground pistachio. Versatile and aromatic with an attractive green hue, pistachios add a lovely flavour to dishes made to tempt the sweet-toothed and crunch, colour and flavour to savoury foods.
More than a decorative ingredient
When it comes to savoury dishes, pistachio makes its mark by being a beautiful little textural and decorative counterpoint. Think how a green sliver of pistachio can make a slice of mortadella into a meaty mosaic while the addition of pistachios to a duck neck sausage adds a slightly piney resinous note that cuts through the richness of the fat. The same note adds an aromatic highlight in a filling for chicken sandwiches, perfect cut into small triangles or squares to cater to a crowd. The addition of lemon and a little fresh thyme to the chopped chicken and mayo really holds the mixture together, flavour and texture-wise. But it is in one of Italy’s most popular yet under sung dishes in which pistachio plays a pivotal role – pesce crudo. Described as Italy’s version of sashimi, pesce crudo features the finest freshest seafood – snapper, whiting, sea perch, calamari or scallop.
Very finely sliced, the seafood is dressed with a little salt, olive oil, lemon zest, finely chopped onion, micro herbs and pistachio for extra crunch and flavour bringing together the luscious texture of the flesh with the high notes of the citrus. While other nuts such as hazelnut and walnut are more associated with winter dishes, pistachio has that bright green hue that adds zing to spring dishes.
Chocolate lovers combo
Many chefs would argue that pistachio nuts come into their own when used in sweet dishes. There are those who believe pistachio’s rightful place on this earth is with dark chocolate. It could be crumbled on top of a choc parfait log or used whole and toasted to pattern a Belgian chocolate tart. Chocolate and pistachio seem linked at the hip, combining their complex flavour to become greater than the some of their parts. You will often find pistachio ice cream teamed with chocolate as it tends to help clean the palate with each bite. Then again, pistachio ice cream is a dessert in itself and a favourite in an ice cream bowl.
Pistachio nuts take the dessert beyond sweetness, turning it into a perfumed dish that harks back to the sweet flavours of the Middle East. Try a stacked Persian meringue that carries the aromas of rosewater and orange blossom essence, the soft brittle texture of Persian fairy floss (pashmak), the exotic crunch of pistachio and the decorative flourish of rosebuds. With customers looking for a sense of a change of season and perhaps something a little exotic, the crunch of pistachio and its perfumed aroma will help lift your desserts above their expectations.