Monday, September 10, 2012

Cashew Cream with Rosewater and Pistachios


One of the most scrumptious treats you can possibly eat is znoud el sit: a blob of clotted cream wrapped in filo pastry, deep fried, drowned in rosewater and sugar syrup, and sprinkled with pistachios. It’s just the thing for a mid afternoon pick me up when partnered with a very strong short black, or three.

Arabic speaking friends told me the name translates to ‘ladies’ arm muscle’ which I understood to be some sexy little bicep, and I have spent many a lazy afternoon downing pastries and coffee, dreaming of Scheherazade and marble screens, the buzz of the harem, and scented orange groves alive with elegant fountains.

However, in the interests of this post I have just spent a few disillusioning minutes on the internet, discovering that znoud el sit might more properly be translated as ‘fat ladies’ arms’ or even ‘underarm of the grandmother’. So much for toned biceps. Yet on mature reflection I must admit that, in texture, znoud el sit do in fact somewhat evoke the droopy bit that dangles under one’s arm, commonly known in these parts as a fedoobedah – and so this ultimate comfort food, a soft yielding pastry scented with rosewater, is indeed remarkably reminiscent of a powdery old lady who might just give you a hug.

You can buy these evil delectable treats at Balha’s, 761 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Balha’s was once a tiny hole in the wall kind of shop; now it is a temple to Lebanese pastry stocking pistachio barma, ma’mul maad (dates in semolina) and dozens of other spectacular treats. If you’re not too worried about your waistline, you absolutely must visit. Just don’t go during Ramadan or Eid, or you’ll be in line for hours.

I live way too close to Balha’s for safety; like a drowning woman, I hold fast to the idea that resisting temptation makes one stronger. And as I have no wish to become the sort of woman whose fedoobedahs remind everyone of pastry, whether by their appearance or by their suggestion of how much pastry I have in fact eaten, I resist the siren call, and instead have looked for a way to pay homage to znoud el sit, indulgence in which won’t require open heart surgery.

One night recently, as we were eating cashew cream piled over bottled fruit, I found myself thinking about the texture of the cream in znoud el sit... and inspiration struck.

The next evening, I made a cashew cream flavoured with rosewater and chopped pistachios, and we demolished it in minutes. It was spectacular. Understand, this is not mock clotted cream; it is, however, a Very Good Thing in itself, and my kind of homage. Even better, this cream is gluten free, lactose free, sugar free and vegan – about the opposite end of the food spectrum to znoud el sit. It’s not, alas, local or seasonal; but I’ve been serving it with last year’s bottled plums from the tree, both those in red wine and those in a light sugar syrup, and I figure that’s a good enough excuse to post it here.

Cashew Cream with Rosewater and Pistachios

- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 2 tbs agave syrup
- sea salt
- rosewater, to taste
- a small handful of raw unsalted pistachios, chopped, to serve

Place the cashews into a bowl and cover them with water. Leave to soak for two or so hours. Drain and rinse.

Place the cashews into a blender with the agave syrup, a good pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water and whizz like billy-o, or until it is completely smooth. Add the rosewater. Start with half a teaspoon, and add more little by little until it tastes good to you. Add a little more water if you want a thinner cream.

Scrape into a bowl or dish. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

(Local: salt. Fair trade: agave syrup. Organic: cashews. Nothing too ethical, but you don’t need much: rosewater, pistachios.)

Background image of roses from Botanica's Roses.
Botanica's Roses (Inc CD)

No comments:

Post a Comment