Pesto - Back to Basics 33
Pesto. Pesto is an interesting one. Pesto is such a wonderful way to incorporate more herbs into our diets, and herbs are superfoods, with more antioxidant bang for their buck than most of the things that are hyped in the media. For most people pesto means basil, and that is what I have used here. I have also made it with parsley, people massively underestimate parsley as a flavouring, it has a nutmeg like flavour that you can really only get if you grow it yourself, I have made it with chervil and tarragon and mixed Mediterranean herbs, even a gorgeous summery mint pesto made with peas that really opens up your mind to the possibilities of this wonderful condiment, it really is up to you.
Now, to cheese or not to cheese? This is the question. In a lot of pestos you will find parmesan cheese, this used to drive Russell, the chef I trained under, absolutely mad! He was a purist and always insisted that true pesto was made without cheese. I ignored him until I developed an intolerance to cheese and since then I have made it without.
Next, nuts? Which nuts do you use in a pesto, again, what do you like? I make it with macadamias, cashews, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios.....this particular pesto I have chosen cashews and pistachios, cashews for their melting quality and bulk, pistachios because I find them quite a ‘cheesy‘ nut.
Oil? Well, for me the only oil to use in a pesto is an extra virgin olive oil. It compliments the herbs and helps bind everything together.
Acid? Again, for me, I like lemon juice. I have seen vinegar used, especially in commercial applications, I don’t like that. Adding lemon adds more than just acidity, we are also adding vitamin C, pectin, flavonoids, remember, we are what we eat. I would rather be a lemon than a vinegar.
1 bunch basil, leaves only
Juice and zest of one lemon
4 fat cloves of garlic
2 spring onions
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Pop all ingredients apart from salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse, we want this to stay fairly chunky so no slow and steady, we want fast and jerky, when it is processed to your liking turn it out into a bowl, taste and season. It will be fairly bitey at this stage, all alliums react to insult by releasing sulfur compounds, and we have just given our spring onions and garlic a real bash, the flavour will settle pretty quickly. If you find it is too thick for you, thin it down with a little more olive oil.
Spoon into a jar -
Wipe with a bit of paper towel anything sticking up above the bulk or on the rim, now, this is important, this is going to really prolong the fridge life of this preservative free, all fresh condiment, are you watching?
Cover with olive oil, this creates an air lock and will help keep this fresh for a whole lot longer. Okay, lid on, in the fridge, ready for a creamy pesto fettucine, a roasted root vegetables drizzled with pesto, or a very delicious pesto chicken salad, which just happens to be in the blog next door....