The very best pistachios might be costly, but they make a suitably sumptuous pudding.

Although most of us may occasionally enjoy pistachios as a baked, salted nut, a wickedly delicious snack (moreish is a weak description here) with shell still attached and busted by heat, it should also be known that this diminutive, green kernel is also there for the imaginative cook – albeit one prepared to spend a little cash.

All fine-quality shelled nuts are relatively costly purchases, but pistachios will usually trump the rest; macadamia nuts come a close second. A small group of Iranian purveyors near me in west London sells the
very best of pistachios in many forms, with small packets of the brightest-green, skinned and slivered kernels kept cool in a small refrigerated unit at the back of the shop. These will set you back almost £5 for just 80g, but they are special indeed.

Whenever and wherever I buy good nuts, once home, I pop them directly into the freezer—the surest way to keep them fresh. Furthermore, if you’re going to grind them to a powder, a frozen nut will process that much better than one at room temperature. The chill prevents them from quickly becoming an oily paste from the whizz of the processor’s blade.

The NutriBullet is now my gadget of choice for finely grinding nuts and I also put both the blade base and canister to chill (but not the machine).

I should further add here that the most delicious and crunchy way to consume those salted pistachios in their busted shells is after placing them in the freezer for about an hour. Who knew?

Pistachio tarts

Makes 15–20 small tarts

Ingredients

  • 150g shelled pistachios
  • 150g softened, salted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium-small eggs, beaten (their weight, in shell, should be a touch over 150g in total)
  • 2–3tbspn amaretto
  • A sheet of ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
  • Apricot or raspberry jam
  • A little icing sugar, for sifting over the tarts

Method
Freeze the pistachios until really hard, then quickly grind until fine. Shake the machine a bit to disperse and desiccate the nuts in as short a time as possible. Put to one side. Using an electric mixer, whisk the butter and sugar in a bowl until white and fluffy – for about 10 minutes for best results.

Now, continuing to whisk, gradually add the beaten eggs, alternately with the amaretto, until both are well incorporated and the mixture is good and thick. Tip in the ground pistachios and briefly, but thoroughly, whisk them in until smooth and pale-green-flecked throughout.

Roll the pastry as thin as you dare – as thin as a 2p piece, if you can. My tart-tray moulds are about 1in deep by 2½in across the top, so use a cutter that’s 3in–3½in, fluted or plain – it matters not. Very lightly grease the moulds, fit with the pastry discs and prick the base of each with a fork two or three times.

Note: always allow the rolled-out pastry to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before cutting out – puff shrinks more than most pastry as it cooks.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6 and put a flat tray in there to heat up (this helps to cook through and crisp the tart bases). Put a teaspoon of jam into the base of each tart, then top with a rounded tablespoon of the filling; have a mug of boiled water to hand, dipping into it between each tablespoon so the filling slides off easily.

Bake for about 7–8 minutes or until the filling is beginning to puff, then turn the oven down to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and finish cooking until the tops are golden brown – about 20 minutes all together. Lift out onto a cooling rack, at which point they will sink slightly, so don’t fret.

Once at room temperature or still slightly warm (don’t serve them hot), sift icing sugar over the tops and serve. Delicious eaten with vanilla-scented and slightly sweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.