Nougat is a popular treat at Christmas in Europe and it's name comes from the old French Occitan "pan nogat" which means "nut bread". The French town of Montelimar is renowned for making it, dating back to the 18th century. There are three basic kinds of nougat: The first, and most common, is white nougat (which appeared in Cremona, Italy in the early 15th century) is made with beaten egg whites and honey. The second is brown nougat (referred to as Mandorlato in Italy, Turrón in Spain and Nougatine in French) is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. The third is the Viennese or German nougat which is essentially a chocolate and nut (usually hazelnut) praline.
Nougat is made with sugar and/or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and recently macadamia nuts are common), and sometimes chopped candied fruit. You can vary the flavours of Nougat by adding lemon zest, liqueurs, pine nuts, coffee and chocolate. Adding dried cranberries would be a good idea if you are making this for Christmas!
In the Middle East Nougat is made with pistachios and rosewater and I have found a recipe for you to make at home. You will need a sugar thermometer as trying to make Nougat without one usually results in a mess. Glucose syrup is one of the ingredients and you can find this at most super markets. Glucose Syrup helps control the formation of sugar crystals when making cake-icing, desserts, confectionery and jam.
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups glucose syrup
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 ½ tsp rose water
1 cup toasted pistachios
Line a pan with foil and spray with non stick cooking oil. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whisk until stiff. Combine the sugar, glucose syrup, salt, and water in a pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 250 degrees. Remove from the heat and slowly pour a quarter of the mixture into the stiff egg whites, with the mixer running constantly. Continue to beat the egg whites until the mixture holds its shape.
Return the pan with the remaining sugar syrup to the hob, and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 300 degrees. With the mixer running, pour the remaining mixture slowly into the mixer and continue beating until thick and stiff. Add the rose water and nuts and beat until combined.
Spoon the nougat into the prepared pan, and press it smoothly and evenly. Keep it in refrigerator until the nougat is set. Take it out of the mould and cut it into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.