Almond, pistachio and cardamom cookies

Almond-pistachio cookies with cardamom

Almond-pistachio cookies with cardamom

Well, I went on and on about Charles Dickens, yesterday, with appropriate verbosity, a quality that I feel he and I share. I was thinking, through the night, that I should have let Dickens speak for himself. I should have quoted the man. So that’s what I plan to do now, with two passages from David Copperfield, one of my other favorite Dickens novels. I believe this was the first novel he wrote in the first person, a point of view from which you think it would be tricky to reveal and maintain all of the complexities of a Dickens plot. David Copperfield’s voice is so sweet and funny and self-deprecating, and his observations so honest and human, that it becomes, instead, the perfect point of view from which to reveal the plot, and the reader relishes the uncertainty with which it unfolds. I chose these two passages because I think they demonstrate how powerfully Dickens uses humor. In the first example the situation is indescribably sad, and the humor and the awkwardness add a sort of unsentimental poignancy. This is the moment that David, away at school, learns of the death of his mother…

    “Mr. Creakle, at whom of course I looked, shook his head without looking at me, and stopped up a sigh with a very large piece of buttered toast.

    ‘You are too young to know how the world changes every day,’ said Mrs. Creakle, ‘and how the people in it pass away. But we all have to learn it, David; some of us when we are young, some of us when we are old, some of us at all times of our lives.’

    I looked at her earnestly.

    ‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’

    I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her earnestly, making no attempt to answer.

    ‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’

    A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then
    I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.

    ‘She is very dangerously ill,’ she added.

    I knew all now.

    ‘She is dead.’

    There was no need to tell me so. I had already broken out into a desolate cry, and felt an orphan in the wide world.”

The second example is just funny, but it makes us love Copperfield, and feel some kinship with him. He’s not the most handsome or wealthy or able person in the novel, he’s regular, like us, and full of flaws, and how nice it is to be able to laugh with him at our weaknesses! Here he is, drunk…

    “Somebody was leaning out of my bedroom window, refreshing his forehead against the cool stone of the parapet, and feeling the air upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing myself as ‘Copperfield’, and saying, ‘Why did you try to smoke? You might have known you couldn’t do it.’ Now, somebody was unsteadily contemplating his features in the looking-glass. That was I too. I was very pale in the looking-glass; my eyes had a vacant appearance; and my hair – only my hair, nothing else – looked drunk.

    Owing to some confusion in the dark, the door was gone. I was feeling for it in the window-curtains, when Steerforth, laughing, took me by the arm and led me out. We went downstairs, one behind another. Near the bottom, somebody fell, and rolled down. Somebody else said it was Copperfield. I was angry at that false report, until, finding myself on my back in the passage, I began to think there might be some foundation for it.”

I love that! And I love these cookies!! They were inspired by a recipe I happened upon for Halwa in an Indian cookbook. The combination of pistachios, almonds and cardamom sounded so perfect, that I decided, this being Christmas cookie season, to combine these elements in a sort of shortbread or butter cookie. The recipe is very simple and easy, and very adaptable, as well. You could roll these cookies out and cut them into shapes, or chill them as a log and cut them off as refrigerator cookies, or spread them in a pan and cut them after baking, like shortbread. I chose to roll them into little balls and then flatten them by hand.

Here’s Uncle Tupelo with I Got Drunk. He got drunk and he fell down, too! Just like our David Copperfield.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cardamom
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pistachio kernals

Preheat the oven to 350, and lightly butter two large baking sheets.

Beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the egg.

Briefly process the almonds and pistachios till they’re crumbly, but not ground.

Add the flour, salt, cardamom, and nuts to the butter mixture, and stir till everything’s combined, then work with your hands till you have a cohesive dough.

Break off a small piece of dough, and roll it into a ball about 1 inch across. Place it on the tray and press gently to flatten it. Repeat. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, till they’re just starting to brown on the bottom, and seem set and un-shiny on top.

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3 thoughts on “Almond, pistachio and cardamom cookies

  1. I’m reading David Copperfield at the moment! (Well, not the exact moment, obviously, since I’m commenting on your post, but shortly, when I go to bed, I’ll be picking it up and reading it some more.) For some reason – I can’t think why, because I love Dickens – I’ve never read it before and I am enjoying it mightily!

      • It’s called An Evening With Charles Dickens and it was written by our stage manager – how often does that happen? Dickens is being interviewed in a TV studio about his life and work, with dramatised scenes from his books as illustration. I thought it was a really naff idea when I first heard about it, but in fact it works really well and the audience loves it! (Plus I’ve had a round of applause every night for my A Christmas Carol reading.) Three shows down, two to go!

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