Ask Italians the correct way to cook bolognese, ragu, gnocchi or polenta and you'll get a different answer from all of them. And they're all correct! Ingredients and methods vary between regions, creating unique geographical and cultural signatures on the food.
Pesto is no exception. Recently, a charming Sicilian customer was delighted with our vibrant and fresh Australian grown Pistachios, and told me about his family's pesto recipe.
In the south, he said, it's common to have Pesto made from pistachios, basil, olive oil, mint and parmesan. He was insistent on 3 things:
1. Unlike the classic pine nut pesto that most of us are familiar with, which uses just a handful of nuts to a whole bunch of basil. The pistachio version should be all about the pistachios, with the rest of the ingredients playing second fiddle. The mixture should be ⅔ pistachios.
2. Don't grind it finely. You should be able to see some pistachio pieces at the end.
3. "No garlic!"
Here is my attempt at his beloved Pistachio Pesto. It was absolutely delicious. Hope you all enjoy it!
Pasta alla Trapanese, aka Pistachio Pesto
400 g pasta of choice
200g raw pistachios
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
40 g Parmesan or Pecorino grated
salt for pasta and to season
pepper to season
½ bunch basil, leaves only
Handful mint leaves
Put a large pot of water onto a boil for the pasta. Salt generously. "Pasta water should taste like the sea".
Put the pistachios in a blender or food processor, add the grated cheese, lemon juice, herbs and half of the olive oil.
As you start to blend/pulse add the rest of the olive oil until you get a dense pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta al dente. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
Add some of the pasta cooking water to the pesto to make it a little more liquidy and creamier. This step is crucial. It really elevates the pesto to something special.
Then add the pistachio pesto to the pasta and mix together well.
Serve immediately with extra grated cheese as required.
PIMP MY RECIPE
*Fried breadcrumbs are a fabulous addition. Tear 2-3 slices of stale bread into pieces and blitz briefly in the food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Then pan fry them gently in a low to medium pan with a splash of olive oil until just crunchy. Use as garnish before serving.
*If pesto without garlic just feels wrong to you, please add a clove. I recommend sautéing it low and slow first to mellow the flavour.
*Mr Sicilian says that almonds are often used in addition to or in place of pistachios. Roasted gives a better texture
*I love hazelnut pesto. It brings a really unique, modern flavour to the classic simplicity of pesto. Use raw or roasted hazelnuts. No need to remove skin, as it's a rustic dish.
Glorious to look at, with a taste to match, this Pecan Streusel Cake is deceptively easy to get right! A streusel is simply a mix of flour, butter and sugar plus added nuts and spices layered throughout the cake and on top. So you’ll end up with a gorgeous layer cake that will get everyone's mouth watering.
In this recipe, pecans, subtle spices and that gorgeous, buttery streusel topping are perfect for that autumnal afternoon tea.
So get ready to impress. Pop on the kettle and polish the cake forks!
For the Streusel:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 cup raw pecans
For the Cake:
170g butter, cubed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups full fat greek yoghurt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 level tablespoon (15g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
FOR THE STREUSEL:
Place flour, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds to combine.
Add in pecans and cubed butter and pulse carefully until pecans and butter are in pebble-like pieces. Set aside.
FOR THE CAKE:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a large bundt pan well.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. add butter and 1/2 cup of the yogurt and beat until ingredients resemble a grainy, wet sand.
In a separate mixing bowl, add eggs and whisk until beaten. Add in remaining yogurt and vanilla extract and beat for 30-45 more seconds or until combined.
Add wet to dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined.
Basically we are layering streusel and cake batter, so when the cake is cut you get a beautiful ribbon of streusel through it.
Sprinkle some streusel mix into the bottom of the cake tin. Spoon ⅓ of the batter into the bundt pan using a spatula to smooth it out and top with half of the remaining streusel.
Place another ⅓ of the batter on top of the streusel, then final portion of streusel, then the last of the cake batter. Press it gently down into the batter to ensure the strudel mixture at the bottom sticks when cooking.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes then turn out of the bundt pan and allow to cool fully (about 2 hours, sorry!) before slicing.
I always use salted butter in my cakes but feel free to use unsalted. If you do, you might want to add ¼ tsp salt to both the cake batter and streusel mix.
If the amounts of baking powder and bicarb soda seem a lot, just go with it. We want this cake to reach as high as Dolly Parton's hair.
No bundt tin? A round pan or loaf tin will be fine, just adjust baking times. A bundt takes longer to bake than a loaf tin by about 15 mins. Best plan of attack is to check with a skewer at the 35 minute mark.
With this version I added a simple glaze and some reserved chopped pecans. It’s a lovely addition to this cake if you want to up the decadence. Just remember to reserve a tablespoon of the pecans (chop these separately) for scattering over the glaze afterwards. To make a quick glaze: whisk together 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 tbsp of water and then pour or spoon over the cake, after you turn it out and it's still a little warm. Scatter over the chopped pecans and admire.