Dee – I’m a big fan of the beautiful green colour and subtle, nutty taste of pistachio, so was pleased to find that they were the November 2013's featured ingredient.
There were several recipes to choose from, both sweet and savoury, but it was the soup on page 138 that I decided to try out. I was extremely curious as to how pistachios would fare in a savoury soup, and of course what the finished soup would taste like.
The first point to note when preparing this recipe was the time needed to shell and peel the pistachios. With a 200g unshelled weight required, I sat down about three hours before starting the cooking to get them all done. I think Jay would have skipped the peeling process (I would have! - Jay) but I wanted to go for a more colourful presentation so carried on with it while Jay got on with making the soup base.
The soup was simple to prepare. Firstly, shallots, ginger and leek were sweated in the pan before stock was added, followed by most of the pistachios. This mixture was them blitzed to make the soup, which was then given a citrus kick from some orange and lemon juice. Yoghurt, a few more whole pistachios and a drizzle of saffron water provided the final garnish.
Appearance-wise the colour of the soup was a lot less vivid than I was expecting. Taste-wise it was as rich as the recipe commentary stated, and our idea of serving it as a starter proved to be a sound one.
The burnt aubergine soup we made in Tasting Jerusalem #16 had a very hearty, homely feel but this one was rich and elegant, with more of a fine dining feel to it. We served it in our nice glass bowls to add to the effect.
The combination of pistachio and saffron reminded me of Persian cuisine, and the commentary accompanying the recipe confirmed that its origins lay with the Iranian Jewish community.The price of the pistachios and saffron, together with the lengthy preparation time made this soup more of an occasional luxury rather than something we’d make regularly, but it made a great starter and I imagine would be a great prelude to one of the other Persian inspired dishes such as the Lamb-Stuffed Quince with Pomegranate and Coriander. I might even be tempted to finish off in style with a helping of Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Rose Water…or would that be overdoing it?
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