WHEN you think of Shortbread you think of Scotland.
Shortbread begins with the medieval biscuit bread, any left over dough from bread making was dried out in the low oven until the top hardened to a type of rusk 'the work biscuit' it means 'twice cooked' gradually the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter and biscuit bread developed into shortbread.
Shortbread was an expensive luxury item and not for ordinary people it was reserved for special occasions. In the Shetland Isles it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the of the head the new bride on the threshold of her new home. (spoilt my hair do)
In Scotland shortbread is offered to 'first footers' the first person to bring in the new year.
Scottish shortbread biscuits date back to 12th century the shape of the biscuit fits together into a circle to echo the pieces of fabric used to make a full gored petticoat during the reign of Elizabeth1, the pattern which was known 'tally' became known as 'petticoat tails'.
The pistachio nuts are not nuts, it is true they are seeds, fruit of the 'Pistacia Vera' originating in Persia. The English name pistachio is derived from 'Pisteh'a Persian name. Also known as the green almond the pistachio is related to the cashew nut. The twenty foot tall trees thrive in stony poor soil under high heat and with little or no rain fall but cannot tolerate humidity.
Legend had it that the queen of Sheba decreed pistachio as an exclusively royal food. Nebuchadnezzar the ancient king of Babylon had pistachio trees planted in his fabled hanging gardens.
The pistachio has been used as a dying agent and a folk remedy for ailments from tooth ache to sclerosis of the liver. Along with almonds pistachio were frequently carried by travellers across the ancient silk road that connected china with the west. Iran is the largest producer of pistachio in the world.
I am combining the two to make these delightful biscuits.
100g shelled pistachio nuts
50g ground rice
250g plain flour
grated rind of 2 lemons
1 vanilla pod or tsp vanilla extract
100g icing sugar sifted
½ tsp salt
200g unsalted butter softened
caster sugar for dusting
1. Blitz the pistachio nuts in a food processor roughly until they are broken down nut not to fine as you want to retain the crunch and texture.
2. I large mixing bowl combine the pistachios with the ground rice, flour, lemon rind and the seeds from the vanilla pod or extract icing sugar and salt, then work the butter into the mixture until and dough forms. Mix in just enough olive oil to form the dough into a solid ball, then roll the ball into a log about 4-5cm wide. Wrap tightly in cling film twisting the ends(like a sweet wrapper) to achieve maximum tightness then put in fridge for one hour.
3. Pre heat the oven 150c/fan130/gas mark2. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Once the oven is hot remove the dough from the fridge and cut into 1cm thick disks. Lay these in the paper-lined sheet leaving a gap of 2cm between each disk. Sprinkle caster sugar liberally over the disks and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges begins to turn slightly golden, but the biscuits remain the same colour prior to baking. Allow to cool before eating.
Serve with a freshly brewed cup of coffee