Pistachio paste is a smooth paste made of pistachio nuts. The paste is used to flavor pistachio puddings, custards, pies, macaroons, ice creams, cakes, biscuits and other pistachio dessert dishes. It may also be used to flavor other savory foods. While cooking with pistachios has become quite prevalent in the Western part of the world, it originated in the Central parts of Asia.
Pistachios have been widely cultivated for centuries in the desert regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Jordan, and the pistachio nuts are known to have been very popular with the Mughals, the Assyrians and the Persian royal families; owing to this, pistachios are often described as shahi or "royal." In Roman times, traders introduced pistachios to the Western world and pistachio trees began to be cultivated in many European countries. Pistachio cultivation began on the American continent in California in the 1850s, and was sped up in the 1970s when relations between the USA and Iran, the chief exporter of pistachios to the USA, soured. Pistachio cultivation has also been quite successfully carried out in the dry regions of Australia and China.
There are over a hundred varieties of pistachios, and this can make for a wide difference in size, color and taste. The nuts are picked when they are ripe, shelled, air-dried, and sorted and processed for the market. The pistachio nuts are excellent to eat as they are rich in carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. Since harvesting and processing these nuts is a very intensive manual work, however, pistachios and pistachio products can often be rather expensive.
The pistachio paste can be purchased ready-made or made from raw pistachios. To make the pistachio paste, the raw pistachios are blanched, roasted and crushed. The other ingredients used in making the paste include sugar, honey, water, almonds, and butter. Green food coloring may be used if a bright green paste is required. Sugar and honey may be omitted in some cases, especially if the paste is to be used in dishes other than desserts.
When the paste is ready, it is sometimes mixed with butter to give it a smoother texture. The pistachio paste should be stored without the addition of the butter, and preferably in an airtight container in a refrigerator. If kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the pistachio paste can last for up to a month.