A few kilos of peeled fresh pili nuts is a fine, fine gift to receive… Fresh pili nuts are EXTREMELY hard to find in Manila, so I am thrilled whenever someone from Bicol returns from a trip bearing pili nuts. I have written about pili before, first here on the fruit and nuts, then a post here on nuts harvested seconds before I photographed them on a farm outside Legazpi, then a post of several types of sweets or delicacies made in Albay, how to peel and blanch the nuts, making pili nut brittle dipped in dark chocolate, a pili nut cake made by Sister which is just like one our mom used to make when we were younger, and finally, my last version of pili nut brittle, here, served at a dinner with the author Tom Parket-Bowles.
If you have the nuts down to the brown skins, simply blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, squeeze them gently to separate the skins from the nuts. It is a bit tedious in that you have to do them one by one, but it’s easy and goes rather quickly. Once they are skinless, you can roast them in a hot oven for several minutes until toasted and starting to turn a bit golden, but watch them carefully and toss the nuts every so often to avoid burning them.
I made this pili cake (several of them actually) with the untoasted nuts and it was as good as I recall it from my childhood. Sister recreated the recipe and it’s one I make at least once a year, or whenever we have the pili nuts. But this time around, we had a really bounty of pili nuts, so I was trying to figure out what to do with them, and decided I would try my hand at a simple marzipan… next.