Pistachio Ice-Cream

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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Pistachios are the most elegant of nuts and, for some reason, the nut that even those who dislike the breed as a generality seem to enjoy. Salted lightly roasted pistachios are the perfect nibble with an aperitif and there is an enjoyable ritual in prising the partly opened shells apart to deliver the sweet and tender kernels, one at a time, pale and creamy inside, tinged green without.

The enchanting pale green of the young nut is used as a description of that colour in a wider context than the purely culinary and here, raw and unsalted, it tints our ice-cream with the promise of its unique flavour. While the majority of the nuts are pureed to a uniform paste, some are reserved to be coarsely chopped and added towards the end of churning, flecking the finished ice-cream and adding a satisfying crunch to every bite. The golden syrup is added at the same time as the nuts to give a rippled effect. Unusually, it contains no eggs.

While it is possible to make most ice-creams without a churn, this is one ice which really does need to have an electric ‘beat and freeze’ system to get the desired consistency and to distribute the nuts and syrup evenly.

When buying your pistachios, they will have a better flavour if you shell them yourself, though vacuum-packed shelled nuts save time. Whichever you choose, make sure that they are raw and unsalted or you will end up with a rather odd-tasting dessert.


  • 1 lemon
  • 30 g/1 oz caster sugar
  • 850 ml/ pt full-cream milk
  • 300 ml/½ pt (double) cream
  • 225 g/8 oz shelled raw pistachios
  • 5 tbsp golden syrup



Pare off the rind from the lemon in strips. Put with the sugar, milk and cream into a saucepan and bring slowly to a simmer.

While it is heating, purée 170 g/6 oz of the nuts in a food processor. As soon as the milk mixture comes to the boil, remove the lemon rind and, with the processor working at full speed, pour the milk mixture through the feeder tube.

Leave to cool to hand-hot and pour into the ice-cream maker. There is no need to wait for it to get completely cold. Churn for about 15 minutes and add the remaining nuts, coarsely chopped, and the golden syrup. These final additions should be made as the ice-cream starts to firm up. With some machines this will be after 15 minutes, while with others it will take 20 or even 25 minutes. You can usually tell by listening to the sound of the motor, which changes pitch as it starts to work harder against the solidifying mixture.

Transfer to a suitable container and freeze for at least 1 hour.


Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving, to allow it to soften to a scooping consistency. To enjoy this ice-cream at its best, do not freeze it for more than 24 hours.

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