Strawberry Pistachio Shortbreads

I love reading. I especially love reading food writing.  I think there’s nothing better than reading the story behind the recipe. A recipe just set down by itself doesn’t grab me the way a recipe does when I get to know more about the cook… the reasons why they made that recipe and just how they did it.

 I have quite a large collection of cookery books  (well over 150) and a mountain of food magazines. The Bear is always on at me to do something with them but I just can’t. I suppose I should go through the magazines at least and cut out the recipes I really want to try but I just haven’t got around to it yet. Part of it is, I think, that I was bought up never to despoil a book (and by extension, a magazine.) I would no more take a pair of scissors to a book than I would turn down the corner of a book or crack its spine. Books are to treasure and read again and again.

Jeffrey Steingarten – now, there’s a writer! A lawyer turned food writer for Vogue, his books “The man who ate everything” and “It must have been something I ate” kept me enthralled for hours and I still go back and read a chapter every now and again. That’s not so much recipes as mini essays and it is one of the things the Bear and I bonded over when we first met. If you are looking for entertaining (hugely entertaining) and erudite, informative stories about food, he’s your man.

Nigel Slater is another – endlessly fascinating with a huge list of cookery books to his name. “Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger” is his autobiography… start to read that and I bet you won’t put it down. His “Kitchen Diaries” is one of my favourite books of all time. Nigel also writes for The Observer and the monthly Observer Food Magazine is one of my treats. There’s always something I want to cook from his articles –   everything he does is so beautiful – just look at his website and see what I mean.

The last Observer Food magazine (June 2010) featured his garden recipes and there was one in there that instantly appealled – Strawberry Pistachio Shortbreads. Strangely, for England, we have been having a marvellous summer – lovely bright days with lots of sun and the strawberries are making the most of it. There are mounds of fresh British strawberries everwyehere and this was my chance to make the most of them.

I wanted to take something nice to a friend’s house and the thought of lovely shortbreads topped with strawberries and vanilla cream seemed to be a brilliant idea. Very summery. Very British. Which would be good, because we were going to J’s house (he’s from Catalonia) and meeting N (from Argentina)  and L from the Czech Republic! Our get togethers are always brilliant international affairs.

Anyway, that was what I was going to make.

I needed  100g of butter, 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, an egg yolk, 200g of plain flour and 100g of finely ground pistachios for the shortbread….

And that is when I started to wonder. If you look at the article you can see a picture of the shortbreads and they seem to have bits of pistachios in there… not finely ground at all. So what should I do?

I sat at my desk (OK, so I was at work, but a girl can’t work constantly…) and flicked through the article again… it definitely said ground pistachios and the picture didn’t show that. Then I noticed at the end of the article was Nigel’s email address at the Observer.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained has always been my motto, so I emailed him, just asking for clarification. I mean, had he done it one way and decided the other way was better?

I didn’t really expect an answer but within 20 minutes he had replied! How marvellous was that? I never for a minute anticipated a reply.. or if I had got one, it would have been a standard response, copied and pasted into an email some weeks later. What a gentleman!

And the answer… you can use ground or roughly chopped as you choose. the resulting difference will only be the texture.

I liked the look of the ones in his photograph so I decided to do roughly chopped pistachios.

So… I was ready…

I weighed 100g of butter, beat it until it was soft and fluffy with 3 tablespoons of caster sugar (that’s superfine to those of you across the Atlantic)

Roughly blitzed (briefly) 100g of pistachios so I got a range of shapes and sizes of bits of nuts

Then dropped the pistachio bits into the buttery mix and mixed it in well

One egg yolk was added to bind it together and then the  200g of flour was added.

It was a stiff mix and Nigel advised adding a tablespoon of water to it all to make it into a firm dough.

This had to be kneaded into a ball and then rolled into a thick sausage shape. As this was to serve 8, I could see how big the roll should be.

Don’t they look pretty?

I pre-heated the oven to 180 degrees C/355 degrees F (actually, Nigel didn’t put the temperature on the recipe but I used what I thought would be appropriate and anyway, it was a bit late to be emailing him again. I couldn’t really expect him to be sitting there just looking at his emails)

In they went, lying on a silicone sheet for ten minutes or thereabouts. They weren’t to get coloured really,  just dry to the touch.

The cream was made by mixing extra thick double cream with some vanilla seeds…

 just slit the pods with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds

and mix it through for the most gorgeous vanilla cream.

I sliced my beautiful strawberries and they were ready to be balanced on great, generous spoonfuls of delicious cream… on top of those gorgeous shortbreads.

What could be more British than strawberries and cream on a hot summer’s day? Our international gathering made short work of them.

Thanks, Nigel. Thanks a lot – they were lovely. And thanks for replying!

13 thoughts on “Strawberry Pistachio Shortbreads”

  1. marry me????
    i want some of these and er NOW!!! if idve seen this before i went to sainsburys i promise i would be making them right now. pfft going to have to wait till i next go to the shops x

  2. We ate a lovely Pear & Pistachio tart in Paris a few weeks ago, where the usual almond ‘frangipane’ filling was replaced by a wonderfully green pistachio mixture. I had not thought about using other nuts in place of almonds for fillings until then …! Then last week I found ready shelled pistachio nuts on our market really cheaply and was looking for other ways of using them, so thanks for this recipe!
    hopeeternal
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’
    http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

  3. Thanks everyone…Oh do try them – they didn’t take long at all – well under an hour from start to finish and that involved a cup of coffee as I gazed out of the window! They were delicious. As easy as anything.
    Oh and Saranna? Well, I would love to marry you, of course… but the Bear has prior claim! :-) Get to the shops, woman!

  4. You drew me in on the strawberries and cream and then I was wowed by the idea of pistachio shortbread – oh yum yum yum! Thanks also for the link to NS’s site. I never thought to look him up on the internet and what a gent to reply to you so promptly. I think bits of green would be better myself than it all ground so fine you couldn’t really see the colour!

  5. Thats amazing that you got such a swift response 😀 Those shortbreads looks delicious and I’m now off to check both NS’s website and Jeffrey Steingarten!

  6. I have been missing from action these past few days and what a wonderful post to come to. Just the thought of strawberries and pistachios together in a shortbread no less makes me swoon and drool. I adore shortbreads and yours truly are perfectly English and perfectly summery!

    What a lovely story behind it that wraps it all up with a large red bow :)

    Ciao,Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  7. Thanks, Devaki! Thanks everyone…
    I admit I have been more or less absent over the past few weeks – work has been getting in the way (how dare it!) and the Bear has been away so I haven’t cooked much… and on my time off I have been heading north to help sort things out.
    I WILL make more effort!

  8. I just LOVE pistachios – the colour is lovely and the taste delicious. So much nicer than most other nuts. I must try this!

  9. Thanks so much for posting this! I have friends for dinner this evening and thought I’d find the omitted oven temperature somewhere online. How clever of you not to use ground pistachios. I am definitely just about to follow suit! And thanks again!

  10. You are welcome Denise! I know they will turn out well! Have a great evening with your friends and tell us later how they turned out… the strawberry pistachio shortbreads, that is, not your friends! :-)

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