A kind of Middle Eastern panforte, this ancient Arabic sweetmeat comes from Spain courtesy of the Moors, and is simplicity itself to make. It is a bit fiddly skinning the blanched pistachio nuts, and not absolutely essential if you can’t be bothered. But the resulting little nuggets of brilliant jade green are a joy to behold. Toast them for a few minutes brushed with a little oil in a really hot oven to make them nice and crunchy. Similarly, it is worth shallow-frying the almonds to a golden brown — it makes for a toastier flavour, and a superior crunchy texture. Once the business with the nuts is out of the way, the rest of the recipe is an absolute doddle. — Greg and Lucy Malouf, authors of Moorish
- 1 3/4 fluid ounces vegetable oil
- 4 Ounces whole blanched almonds
- 1 Ounce unsalted pistachio nuts, blanched and peeled
- 9 Ounces honey
- Coarsely grated zest of 1/2 lemon and 1 orange
- 5 1/2 Ounces stale white bread, crusts removed
- 1 Teaspoon orange-blossom water
- 1 Teaspoon aniseed, toasted and lightly crushed
- 2 sheets rice paper, each 9 1/2 inches square
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the almonds over a gentle heat until golden brown.
Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the pistachio nuts.
Put the honey into a saucepan with the citrus zests and slowly bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, blitz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.
Add the nuts to the hot honey, and then the breadcrumbs. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
It will look very unpromising to start off, and after a few minutes it will begin to come together in a solid mass, and thicken to a stiff, almost glutinous paste.
Keep stirring and turning, which will become increasingly hard work, until the 5 minutes is up. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the orange-blossom water and aniseed, stirring again to incorporate into the mass.
Turn the mixture out onto on sheet of rice paper, and pat it into a round disc about 8 inches in diameter. Cover with the second piece of rice paper and press down gently to about a finger’s width in height.
You may find it easier, as we did, to use a small jar, or a rolling pin to roll the paste out to a smooth, even height.
Neaten the edges with a sharp knife and allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin and slice off pieces to serve with coffee as a petit four.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Moorish: Flavours from Mecca to Marrakech by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant Books, 2014)