"We were in Isfahan a week or so before Persian New Year and the local gaz - nougat - shops were doing a roaring trade as all households need to have vast supplies on hand to dispense during the endless socialising that takes place at this time of year. We enjoyed sampling several different styles: some were set firmer and were chock-full of almonds or pistachios, others were soft and a little bit squidgy. When you're making nougat at home, we strongly recommend you read the method through carefully to be sure of the timing. It's important to have everything ready to go - no scrambling around at the last minute for a forgotten ingredient or implement - and imperative that you warm the fruit and nuts before adding them to the nougat mixture. Be organised and you'll be rewarded! Gaz makes a lovely gift. Look for edible rice paper - widely available now, including from good supermarkets - which makes for neater presentation and easier serving."
- 140 gm unsalted pistachio kernels, roughly chopped (1 cup)
- 250 gm dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (see note)
- 50 gm eggwhite (from 2-3 eggs), at room temperature
- 380 gm caster sugar
- 120 gm liquid glucose (1/3 cup)
- 230 gm honey (2/3 cup)
- 1Preheat the oven to 110C. Scatter the pistachios and dried cherries onto a baking tray and put them into the oven to warm while you make the nougat. It’s important that the nuts and dried fruit are warm when added to the nougat mixture, or it will seize up and be unworkable.
- 2Prepare all the ingredients: put the eggwhite into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk; put the sugar, liquid glucose and 100ml water into a small saucepan; put the honey into another small saucepan. Line a 20cm square baking tray with edible rice paper, shiny side down, or baking paper.
- 3Begin cooking the honey over a medium heat and measure the temperature with a candy thermometer. When the temperature reaches 108C, begin whisking the eggwhite on medium-high speed. Continue cooking the honey until it reaches 120C (6-8 minutes), by which time the eggwhite should have reached the stiff-peak stage. Turn off the mixer and take the honey off the heat.
- 4Now begin gently heating the sugar, glucose and water until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and bring to the boil.
- 5Meanwhile, turn the electric mixer back on to a low speed and mix the hot honey into the eggwhite. When incorporated, increase the speed to high. Continue whisking until the boiling sugar syrup reaches 155C (15 minutes). Slow the speed of the mixer down again and pour in the boiling sugar syrup slowly and carefully until incorporated. Increase the speed of the mixer again and whisk for 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and, working quickly, take the warm fruit and nuts out of the oven and tip them into the nougat. Fold in as quickly as you can, then scrape into the prepared baking tray. Smooth out the nougat with a large, strong spatula to a rough rectangle, about 3cm deep – don’t try to make it fit the shape of the tray. The nougat will be very stiff to work with, but try to make the surface as even as possible; use a rolling pin if you like. Cover with a second sheet of rice paper or baking paper. Rest overnight, turn out then cut into portions using a hot wet knife. Nougat will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 months.
Note This recipe makes 750gm. Dried sour cherries are available from select delicatessens and online from Pariya Food. Reproduced from Saraban ($79.95, hbk) by Greg and Lucy Malouf, published by Hardie Grant Books. Recipes have been reproduced here with minor Gourmet Traveller style changes. This recipe is from the November 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.