Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pistachios, deliciously whole!

At first when I re-discovered pistachios, I was impressed by all that I could do with them. I planned experimental recipes for everything from amuse bouche, salads, curries, and stir fries to desserts. But when I got down to actually preparing to cooking with them, I ran into a wall.

Pistachios need to be shelled. A slow nail breaking job!

And I concluded that the a reason there aren’t that many traditional recipes for Pistachios around is because harvesting enough shelled Pistas for any dish was probably a losing battle for cooks throughout history! Even if one managed to protect the precious booty from invasive hands ready to swipe a few conveniently shelled nuts, who would have protected them from the cooks themselves!

On a more serious note, though, for many centuries nomadic tribes that inhabit remote inhospitable areas where wild Pistachios grow, have fought over the right to harvest the nuts which were an important component of migratory diet in the winter when food was scarce. Pista in their whole form were probably easy to store or transport and effortless to eat even when one was on the go. Eating them whole is the most common form of consumption for Pistachios in a lot of cultures even today.

To come back to present times in the Ghildiyal home, I stopped fighting the losing battle against protecting my tediously shelled pistachios when I realised that the entire family was opting for Pistachios over less healthy choices.

Having chosen to be a hands-on mother who works from home, I work 9-5 and switch to being mom after 5 most days. ALOT has to be achieved in the 8 hour work window I have so those hours are extremely intense, requiring me to multi-task between writing, cooking and running a company. It often leaves me too fatigued by snack time. Which is a worry because that 5-6 slot is when all of us are at our hungriest and if I am not vigilant with myself, I end up opting for the convenience of opening up a packet of something. That has changed however, ever since I discovered that both, Aman, my 7 year old, always hungry son and Natasha, my almost 2 year old wants-to-eat-everything-herself – but-can’t-quite-manage daughter both took to Pistachios like little stars I began buying serving them Pistachios.

What a Eureka moment! (Moms out there will attest to how tough it is to have our kids eat something healthy over fried or packaged junk food!) So most evenings now, my kids and I (and their dad when he manages to get home in time) dig into a bowl of Pistachios at teatime; Aman loves the excitement of cracking open the shells and it is ADORABLE to watch how sweetly he shells them for his little sister. And Natasha tweeks my heartstrings with her triumphant smiles every time she manages to get a spoon with perfectly balanced pista into her mouth! And inside me, sneaky mom that I have become, I cannot help but rejoice at all the good stuff I have managed to sneak into their tummies! (Being one of the most nutrient dense nuts they provide vitamin B6, copper, manganese, protein, dietary fiber, thiamin, and phosphorus!).

I have even begun to pack small sachets into my husbands tiffin, so he can have them as an evening snack in lieu of the vada paavs, samosas, chaat and other rubbish he was forced to eat at his canteen before. And while we’re on the topic of husbands, ladies, let me tell you, a bowl of pistas makes a great addition to the rare quiet times we get together. Amidst the crazy pace of juggling two careers and bringing up two children in a city like Mumbai, we often have to carve out time late at night or early in the morning when. If the kids are asleep, the simple activity of shelling pistachio nuts for one another while we watch a late night movie, catch up on each other’s lives or listen to great songs on the radio in the morning mellows the pace of things and adds to the intimacy of the moment and can lead to other things.. if you know what I mean J.
One of the best things by far about Pistachios is that they are one of the most fuss free, guilt free snack options, just open up a packet (or two or three), empty into bowls, serve and watch them disappear feeling like the most intelligent woman in the world for sneaking so much goodness into your family’s diet!

Pistas by nature go rancid quickly and I couldn’t find really good stuff anywhere so pernickety as I am, I sourced quality raw pistachios from Crawford Market and roasted them myself, packing individual servings into zip lock bags for use through the week. Then when I began to look around to find out what other stuff was available around town that had pistachio in it, I came across a brand of ready roasted and Salted Pistachios. Called Wonderful Pistachios, they more than live up to their name, coated in just the right degree of salt, and roasted to perfection they make a satisfying salty snack or treat at any time of day.

Tried and tested – serve pistachios with freshly brewed tea (orange pekoe if you have some) the citrusy notes complement the Pistas beautifully. Surprise him with a chilled bottle of beer instead of tea on his customary cup of tea or coffee, when he gets home, accompanied by a bowl of roasted, salted Pistas and your undivided attention!
Wonderful Pistachios are ready to eat and come in 2 flavours roasted-salted and salt and pepper. They are available in 3 sizes 250g, 100g, and a very convenient 20g sachet that I are ideal tiffin stuffers! Oh and there is a lovely Diwali combo pack on offer at a special price that I highly recommend you add to your Diwali hampers! (Available at Nature’s Basket outlets all over Mumbai.)

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