I love a challenge, I do.
And as I’m sure you know, the food blogging world is simply full of challenges. WTSIM, SHF, DMBLGiT, Daring Bakers, Paper Chef, HHDD, WHB, Click (to name but a few)… the choice is yours! On any given day of the week you can search the Net and find a foodie challenge that’s right for you.
But for a terminally disorganised person like me, these challenges can present a problem. Sometimes you forget to look for the event announcement. Or you buy all the stuff for a killer recipe and then forget the deadline. Or you just can’t get inspired about a theme. Or you look at the brief and hyperventilate in terror.
So isn’t it nice that it’s also possible to have little private foodie challenges outside this more formal framework? Challenges without a theme or a deadline – no pressure at all, in fact. A few weeks ago (OK, I confess, in MAY!!) Andrew arrived for dinner at Vivat Bacchus and said with a twinkle in his eye that he had a proposition for me. “Well, Andrew, you’re a lovely guy and all – I’m just not sure I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level”, I replied. Andrew rolled his eyes (as he does) at my incurably juvenile sense of humour and explained that this proposition involved food – nothing more sordid.
Andrew’s idea was to challenge me to a mystery ingredient exchange. He proposed that we buy each other a mystery ingredient which then had to be used in a dish and posted on our blog. My mystery gift to him was a packet of South African dried mango slices (which became a delicious-looking lamb and mango tagine), and his to me? A bag pistachios!
Pistachios are old. Very old. They were known to the Romans and are one of two nuts mentioned in the Bible (the other being almonds). The are also hot. Very hot. I’d go so far as to say prone to spontaneous combustion.
If you can get over your fear of spontaneous combustion, they are also my favourite type of nut, possibly rivalled only by macadamia nuts. There’s something about their crazy purple-on-green colouring and savoury flavour that appeals to me immensely and will have me eating an entire packet in one sitting if I’m not careful. So you could say I was quite pleased when Andrew presented me with my mystery ingredient. Clearly, he’s a man who knows his audience
One of the few desserts that I can be relied upon to order if I see it on a menu is pecan pie. I have happy childhood memories of my mom serving us slices of warm pecan pie with cream at teatime on winter afternoons when my dad came home from work. As a family we’ve always eaten dinner late, so when my dad got home my mom usually had something sweet ready for him to enjoy with his coffee. His favourite was Black Forest gateau that he sometimes ordered from the bakery near his surgery, but my favourite was warm pecan pie, hands down. So when Andrew gave me the pistachios, I recalled that he had posted a pecan pie recipe on his site recently which, in turn, set me wondering… what if I were to make pecan pie but without the pecans?
The result was these fabulous little mini pistacho tarts. The tops were deliciously chewy and nutty, while the pastry was buttery and crumbly, with a caramelly layer between them redolent with rum. What’s not to like?? The finished tarts were perfectly formed, yet robust. Because they would transport easily and beautifully, I think they would make the perfect picnic dessert, so I am submitting them as my entry into this month’s Waiter, There’s Something in My… event which is picnic-themed.
FOR THE FILLING:
100g golden syrup
150g granulated sugar
3 Tbsp clear honey
3 Tbsp rum
pinch of salt
150g pistachio nuts
FOR THE PASTRY:
200g cake flour
50g icing sugar
pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp iced water
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Rub the butter into the flour and other dry ingredients. Add the lightly beaten egg yolk and water, mix well and knead lightly until the dough comes together. Roll the dough out to about 3mm thickness and press into lightly greased loose-bottomed mini fluted flan tins. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes if you can.
Gently heat the syrup, butter, honey, rum and salt. When the mixture is warm, dissolve the sugar in it – make sure the sugar if totally dissolved before removing from the heat. Once it has cooled a little, whisk in the eggs and nuts.
Fill the pastry cases with the pistachio mixture and bake for 15 minutes or until set (As I only had 4 mini fluted flan dishes, I used the remaining pastry and filling to make the slightly larger square tart pictured below – it took a little longer to cook).
Serve warm with a good dollop of double or clotted cream.
And if you have not yet done so, please remember to vote for my short story! Voting closes early next week so these are the final days…
Here’s what other food bloggers made with pistachios:
**UPDATE** I have also entered the first photo in this post as my entry into the September edition of CLICK, the monthly photo event hosted by the lovely Jai and Bee over at Jugalbandi. The theme this month is CRUSTS – check out the entries gallery.