The tree (Pistacia vera) is native to Iran (Persia), so naturally, in medieval Britain it was an expensive imported delicacy and medicine. In 1541 Thomas Elyot, in his Castel of Helthe placed them in his list of ‘Thynges good for the Lunges’, but modern medicine is favouring it (and various other nuts too) for possible benefits to the cardiovascular system. Let us hope the evidence mounts up that way.
We say ‘nut’, but the pistachio is another example of the difference between culinary and botanical terminology. Technically, the pistachio is a seed. Cooks don’t tend to care about the fine details of botany however, so here we have a fine example of the nut being used in an elegant meringue-topped custard..
Eggs with Pistachio Nuts.
Oeufs aux Pistaches
Put half a pint of cream into a stewpan with two ounces of castor sugar and the very finely- chopped peel of one lemon; place the stewpan in the bain-marie, and let it remain for half an hour on the side of the stove; put into another stewpan one ounce of fine flour, and one ounce of butter, mix together till smooth, then add the cream mixture, and stir till it boils; have six good whole eggs beaten up with a fork, flavour with one tablespoonful of orange-flower water and a few drops of essence of vanilla, add three ounces of finely-shredded and blanched pistachio nuts, and eight or ten drops of Marshall's Sap Green, and pour this with the cream mixture into a buttered sauté pan; stir with a wooden spoon for two or three minutes over the fire until thick and like a batter, then turn out on to the dish on which it is to be served ; cover over with meringue mixture (vol. i.), forming roses of it with a forcing bag and large rose pipe (see design, Asperges à la Princesse), then dust over with icing sugar, and put into the oven on a tin containing boiling water; when a pretty fawn colour and crisp on the top, sprinkle here and there some shredded pistachio nuts, and serve quite hot for a dinner or luncheon sweet.
Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cook Book of Extra Recipes (London, 1891)
Quotation for the Day.
Avoid fruits and nuts. You are what you eat.