Pistachio Pops

These arose from the annual glut of courgettes. After having them grilled, fried, baked, and in soup and chutney, and still having a never ending supply from the veg patch, I started looking for more creative ways to use them up.

I first heard of Harry Eastwood and her vegetable adventures on BBC Breakfast (while in a hotel room in Iceland, bizarrely) a few years ago, and subsequently bought her book, the gorgeously named Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. However, as often happens with cookbooks, it had been pushed to the back of the shelf and largely forgotten about until my courgette quest led me to turf it out. It’s such a beautifully written and photographed book that it’s worth a read even if you never intend to make any of the recipes, but on discovering the dregs of a packet of pistachio nuts I had to experiment.

The idea of using vegetables in cake isn’t entirely alien to me, as I have been an enthusiastic fan of chocolate beetroot cake for many years now (I’m definitely going to have to try that one next!). However, I have to admit I was slightly skeptical as to how these would work out, as courgette is renowned for being incredibly watery and not overly impressive on taste, but it works brilliantly for this Harry-inspired and slightly tweaked recipe. Another advantage of adding vegetables and nuts to cake is that it completely overwrites the need for any butter or oil, so I like to think this justifies having your cake and eating it!

These little buns have a gorgeous green colour (I initially thought this might be off-putting, but combined with the freshly-baked smell it most certainly isn’t) and are perfect bite-sized treats for when that need to have something sweet strikes.

Ingredients:

  • 45g pistachios (shelled weight)
  • 1 free range egg (medium)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g courgette, washed, topped and tailed (this is roughly one of the little baby courgettes you can buy in supermarkets)
  • 40g flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Line a bun tin with 12 cases (bear in mind these are designed to be delicate little mouthfuls, so the more brutish American-style muffin tins won’t get the desired result)
  • Remove a few pistachios from the pile and set aside for decoration
  • Add the remaining nuts to a food processor and blitz into a powder. If there are a few stubborn lumps remaining, don’t worry too much! They’ll just provide a nice interesting texture for your buns
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together until fluffy and pale
  • using the fine side of a box grater, grate the courgette onto a plate, skin and all. Give the courgette a slight squeeze to get rid of any excess juice (not too much though, or you’ll get a dry sponge. Transfer to the bowl and give it a quick whizz to distribute it
  • Sieve in the flour and baking powder, then tip in the pistachio dust. Whisk one final time until everything is stirred in
  • Ignore all worries that the mixture is a bit thin and watery looking in comparison to a normal sponge mixture, and evenly dollop into the prepared cases
  • Bake for 15 minutes, until they have risen slightly, spring back to the touch and have a faint golden tinge, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Note: Flour can easily be substituted for rice flour to make these delicious little mouthfuls gluten-free
Icing
  • Pop the remainder of the pistachios into a small bowl, then (lightly) bash with the end of a rolling pin until they’ve broken into little chunks
  • In another small bowl, sieve in 100g of icing sugar (a tea strainer is perfect for this)
  • Add a teaspoon of water, and stir to combine. Gradually add more water, drop by drop, until you have a suitable spreading consistency
  • Dollop a small spoon of icing on top of each cake, then scatter over a few chunks of pistachio.
  • Make a cup of tea and enjoy the fruits of your labour
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