Baked Nectarines & Pistachios

May 15, 2018

Caught up in the exercise of questioning everything, which by the way, I apply and reapply to almost everything in my life, I too, like a lamb, strayed for a while. And it’s good to stray sometimes, because otherwise how would you learn anything new? To clarify a little bit, I’m talking about baking or dessert-making.

As I’m not following a specific diet, sometimes I’ll use regular sugar and full-fat butter in my baking but more often than not, I won’t and I’ll look for healthier options. Part of this comes from an ongoing observation process of how the food I’m feeding myself, as well as my family or friends, is affecting our bodies and minds. I noticed how refined sugar can negatively impact both body and mind and I use it so rarely now that I immediately feel it kicking in when I have a little too much of it. I’ve also seen how using nut flour or no flour at all makes a dessert less inflammatory. On the other hand, a large piece of raw-vegan can be quite the calorie bomb, providing us with more sugar than we need, granted it comes from a natural source, but still, it’s sugar. Anyway, you get the picture, my belief is that a little bit of everything, mindfully ingested, won’t harm you and as you know, I’m a big believer in the fact that passing up a piece of cake is more or less the same as passing up joy in life.

What happened with dessert making was that I started questioning the idea that I had no specific primary cooking or baking style, it was a little bit of everything: I’ll make and eat a proper Tarte au citron meringuée with as much gusto as I will a slice of Raw-Vegan Blackberry Cheesecake. And for a while the thought that there’s something wrong with that crept in and I started to believe I needed to pick a side. So, I went to cooking school to get a diploma in pastry and baking and I started making “real” desserts, refined-sugar full with all the trimmings: glucose and gelatine and . And I enjoyed every second of it, making complicated desserts and mirror glazes, mousse cakes, entremets and the like. I stocked up on classic baking ingredients and experimented with them at home and that was fun, I won’t deny it.

But slowly, as I was noticing myself obsessively checking temperatures with my sugar thermometer or perfectly frosting a cake or tempering chocolate, I realised this is not what drives me. Flavour and taste over presentation and intricacy is the stuff that drives me. Yes, I like my desserts to look good, I will always have a deep admiration for perfectly chiseled, almost too-pretty-to-eat cakes, but it just so happens that it’s not what brings me joy in a dessert. So, I’m back on track, pursuing simple and great things, like throwing together the simplest of cakes with a dollop of perfectly whipped cream just to have an excuse for say, the most flavourful in-season and local strawberries or looking for ways to make these beautiful Iranian pistachios I had on hand shine, which found their way into the dessert below. This dessert is really easy to make and what it does is it uses soft and sweet nectarines to bring out the richness and nuttiness of the pistachios. There’s also no refined sugar and it can easily be made vegan if using a plant-based alternative to the whipped cream or none at all. These nectarines would also work really well paired with Honey sweetened Labneh or vanilla ice-cream on a warm day.

Baked Nectarines & Pistachios

4 nectarines, halved and stoned

4Tbsp/60g shelled raw pistachios

175g/​3cup coconut sugar

3 Tbsp coconut oil

One drop pure almond extract, optional

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Whizz 45g/3 Tbsp pistachios along with the sugar, coconut oil and pure almond extract in a food processor or blender until paste-like consistency  is obtained. Separately, roughly chop remaining Tbsp of pistachios. Place halved nectarines on a baking tray, top each one with a spoonful of pistachio mixture and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Bake for 15 minutes, until the nectarines are soft and the topping becomes crunchy. Remove and allow to cool.

To serve

200ml/1 cup unsweetened full-fat heavy cream

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp orange zest

With a mixer set on low speed, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Add the honey and orange zest and mix slowly to incorporate. Serve alongside slightly warmed or cooled nectarines.

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