I’ve been growing a supermarket-purchased basil plant for a few months, nurturing it carefully on the kitchen window-sill. More recently I was aiming to make some pesto using it.
Tonight came the time to slay it in cold blood, or at least cut about half of it out! I filled the food processor bowl with leaves (not the stalks, just the leaves) and added a little bit of olive oil, some sea-salt, a crunch of pepper, and a handful of pine nuts. Wazzed it all up, chucked it in among the pasta and browned chicken, and it was lovely. Nicky was quite worried it’d be too strong but it was much better than the jar stuff you get in supermarkets.
The food processor thing wasn’t the entire story – the main bowl in the Kenwood didn’t get it down to the fine consistency I coveted, nor did the liquidiser. Finally I resorted to the hand-blender which didn’t quite do the job but at least made it a lot finer.
Traditionalists please note: it probably wasn’t proper pesto either since apparently you need garlic. I had no garlic bulbs in (fx: sound of jaw hitting floor) but it was lovely nontheless.
Half the basil bush made a few tablespoons of pesto, enough for two plates of pasta/pesto/chicken. That’s better than I was hoping – many recipes or guides suggest you need a whole basil bush for one plateful of pasta.
September 2, 2008 at 10:58 pm
I made my own pesto for a while, until I got lazy. I used 6 packets of bought basil (leaves on the stalk in a plastic wrap) to make a large jar of pesto which would keep in the fridge as long as was necessary.
I used the recipe in Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food book (can’t find the same recipe online, sorry). That book also has how to make veg stock and mayonnaise and other useful things. Yum.
September 3, 2008 at 1:55 am
Isn’t there a law which says that every kitchen must have an adequate supply of garlic at all times? I’ll be contacting the Jamie Oliver Food Police as soon as I’ve finished my coffee!
Your pesto sounds good, but it is a hassle, I find. Like making your own hummus when Sainsbury’s deli is just as good … (or at least it was when I lived in UK).
September 3, 2008 at 8:14 am
I found it tastier than the jar stuff, and the hassle is half the point! It’s fun.
(OK, so N realised we’d run out of the jar stuff after we’d set the pasta cooking… fait accompli really!)
September 3, 2008 at 5:15 pm
On the whole it’s best not to try and grow out supermarket bought basil plants as they tend to be at their peak and ready to use. They will go a bit leggy and end up with a bit of a cat-pissy flavour.
The best way is to get a small plastic greenhouse type thing and cultivate them from seeds, that way you get really sweet young leaves.
September 3, 2008 at 6:18 pm
John: to be fair it was remarkably quick to do. Chicken, pasta, pesto doesn’t take long to cook anyway – basically as long as it takes the pasta to cook nicely and we only realised that we’d run out *after* we’d put the pasta in and defrosted the chicken. Took 10 mins to take the leaves off and make the stuff.
September 5, 2008 at 12:31 am
I’ll give it a go then, Nic. In truth, I’m prepared to fuss and hassle with sauces, then why not with pesto? At least we can (and do) grow lush, leafy basil outdoors here, so my supply should be plentiful!