Sunday, 29 August 2010

PISTACHIO CAKE


I am very proud of this cake, an adaption of Greek Karythopitta or walnut cake. I made it with pistachios because I used the walnuts to make cranberry and walnut bread, and I couldn't be bothered to traipse round to Tesco on a Friday afternoon to buy more walnuts. I added some rosewater to give it a more perfumed Middle Eastern flavour. The resulting cake was delicious, its innards a beautiful green colour from the nuts and its flavour very subtly, though most definitely pistachio!

This recipe is adapted from one which appears in Claudia Roden's 'Mediterranean Cookery', one of my most favourite, much-thumbed and very stained cookbooks. It would also work with almonds, pecans or hazelnuts, or a mixture.

Serves 6, generously

50g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
scant pinch of salt
175g pistachios, finely chopped in food processor
3 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp rose water

For the syrup
250g sugar
1/2 pint water
splash of rosewater

Oven 180C. Prepare a cake tin by lining it with tinfoil or baking parchment.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg yolks with about 50g of the sugar until thick and creamy, then stir in the nut mixture. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add the rest of the caster sugar gradually, as if for meringues, until the mixture is shiny. Carefully fold into the nut mixture (it will seem stiff at first, but the egg whites will loosen it). Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crisp to the touch.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup by boiling the caster sugar, rosewater and water together and reducing it to form a light syrup. When the cake is ready, prick the surface of it with a skewer and pour the syrup over it. Leave to cool before turning out of the tin. I like to give the cake a thick dusting of icing sugar. Serve with creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt.

If using walnuts, substitute vanilla essence for rosewater for the cake mixture, and add a tsp of cinnamon to the syrup and omit the rosewater. If using almonds, orange zest adds a nice flavour. Or enhance the almond flavour with a drop of almond essence.

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