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  • Writer's picture Annabelle Utrecht

Non-Identical Twins: Part I. (Lima Bean Brine) Pistachio Parfait (1911).

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Pistachio Parfait (Parfait aux Pistaches) is an exquisitely delicate 19th century dessert that still delights palates today - and this variation includes a novel ingredient, sure to surprise.


The inspiration for this dessert came from a Hot Weather Luncheon menu, compiled by Miss Helen Louise Johnson (c.1867-1926), a nationally recognised American home economics specialist, cookery column editor and Suffrage campaigner. Published in 1911, Johnson's luncheon was themed green and white, and her Pistachio Parfait was a delectable conclusion to a pretty and appetising meal which started with clam bouillon, asparagus tips with cream sauce on toast, baked shad roe, cucumbers, potato roses, and a lettuce-green pepper salad with cheese balls.

The word parfait, derives from French, meaning perfection. In a culinary context the terminology refers to a specialité among ices - characteristically, the particularly delicate and creamy glacés. In Sweet Dishes: A Little Treaties on Confectionery and Entremets Sucrés (1881), a companion to his earlier Culinary Jottings for Madras (1879), food enthusiast and culinary writer, Brigadier-General Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert (1840-1916) of the British Indian Army, wrote, "A parfait is consequently a softish ice, for if properly made, it cannot be turned out very stiffly frozen." Correspondingly, Miss Johnson's Pistachio Parfait is a delicate and velvety dessert, which is at its best, lightly frozen.

Miss Johnson routinely endorsed good nutrition and pennywise recipes, so in keeping with her approach to advancing home economy, I've adapted the 1911 recipe to reduce cost and food waste. Instead of incorporating egg whites, I'm substituting with the brine suspension leftover after straining canned lima beans (which were used in the accompanying video to make Lima Bean Souffle). Thus, from one can of lima beans, two very satisfying dishes have been achieved, and this Pistachio Parfait is hands down, the best I've ever made.

A word of caution to novice ice-cream makers. Because parfaits are best just-on frozen (semifreddo), they are notoriously difficult to unmould, especially from metal forms. I intend on uploading a Mistress-Masterclass on the subject in the future, but for those who desire a stress-free dinner service, I recommend using a sealable, freezer-safe, tub or container to chill the parfait in.

That way you can just scoop out a desired quantity and serve it in parfait or coupe glasses, garnished with fruit of choice, or fruit sauce, and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts. This adaptation of Johnson's Pistachio Parfait, is a delight, that should not be missed!

(Lima Bean Brine) Pistachio Parfait


¾ cup lima bean brine

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup cold water

1 ½ cups of whipping cream

¼ cup orange juice

½ teaspoon of vanilla flavouring

½ teaspoon of almond flavouring

¼ cup of chopped pistachio nuts

Sliced fruit or fruit sauce to top with

1 good tablespoon of chopped pistachio nuts to garnish


1. Open a can of lima beans (butter beans) and drain, reserving the beans for Lima Bean Souffle or any other lima bean dish. Pour bean brine (aquafaba) into a large heatproof bowl.

2. Place granulated sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved and then allow the syrup to boil without stirring further. Continue to reduce until the sugar water is thickened and syrupy.

3. Beat the lima bean brine until very stiff (it may take a few minutes but it will form lovely peaks eventually.)

4. Remove the syrup from heat and slowly add to the stiffened lima bean brine, beating continuously until the mixture has cooled.

5. Measure out 1 ½ cups of cream, and whip it to fullness, before gently folding it in to the lima bean meringue mixture.

6. Follow by folding in orange juice, vanilla and almond extract, and finally the chopped pistachio nuts.

7. Turn the pistachio parfait mixture into a wetted mould and cover, OR, for a much easier presentation, into a sealable freezer-safe container. If you like, you can chill on salted ice, but placing the parfait in the freezer is probably a more practical option.

8. Chill for two hours.

9. To serve turn out of mould in the usual manner; or serve as generous scoops in coupe or parfait glasses. Garnish with preferred fruit of garnish and a sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts.


Chickpea aquafaba would work just as well in this recipe.

Lima bean brine can be stored in the refrigerator for a week without issue, or frozen for future use.

Serves 4-6.

Watch on YouTube.

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