So you remember the herb garden experiment?! Sure you do. One quick trip to Columbia Road flower market and I ended up with lots of herbs. Well I am pleased to announce the herbs are blooming. In fact they have started to get a bit out of control. Me and my housemate cannot get through the basil quick enough. I have already got a batch frozen away in the freezer ready for winter (in cubes and also on the stems). I have to admit I am rather pleased with myself. I have never had such horticultural success. Hurrah! The ever growing herbs seem to be thriving in this fabulous summer we are having. Goodness knows what I will do if they die over winter….
The basil is the one causing the trouble, its growing out of control; it’s like something out of Day of the Triffids. There I am pondering my basil predicament, and a moth flies out of the pot, a moth! Well that was it, decision made the basil needs cutting back, I cannot have a bug sanctuary forming in my kitchen. With so many herbs in my procession, I am going to go Italian.
As the old saying goes when you have basil, make pesto! Ok so it isn’t an old saying but it should be! I love Pesto; I put it in everything, from salads to sandwiches to generously pour on pasta.
My Pesto recipe is based on one by the great Don of Italian Cooking, Antonio Carluccio. This is one simple recipe
Makes 200g of Pesto
2 fistfulls of fresh basil leaves
1 garlic cloves
25g pine nuts (toasted)
About 125ml olive oil
4 tbsp freshly grated pecorino picante cheese
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in an electric mixer and blend briefly until you have a tough textured sauce.
If you do not have a mixer then you can use a pestle and mortar. Chop the basil leaves roughly and slice the garlic. In the pestle grind the garlic to a paste, and then add the basil leaves and pound until they break up. Add the pine nuts and pound them. At this point slowly start to dribble in the olive oil, enough to obtain a semi liquid sauce. When the sauce becomes liquid enough, add the cheeses, stir in well and season lightly with salt.
With the basil now looking more manageable its time to move onto another herby sauce, my favourite cherry tomato all pasta sauce. This sauce is so easy to make and it freezes well and goes with everything – pizza, pasta, topped on bread with cheese.
600g cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 white onion chopped finely
1tsp chopped fresh basil
1tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil or olive oil spray
Heat the oil in a large pan, and cook the onions on a medium heat with the garlic until soft and translucent. Then put the tomatoes in the pan along with the herbs and stir. Leave the tomatoes on a medium low heat for 20 minutes until soft and they start to break down. Season to taste and that is it, sauce done!
Both these sauces are so versatile, they are great to have in the fridge and freezer for a handy quick meal. A couple of suggestions of how to use the sauces –
Courgette and Halloumi Skewers
Half a red pepper
Half a block of light Halloumi
2 wooden skewers
A couple of tsp of homemade basil
Cut the courgette into 8 pieces, the same with the pepper, and the halloumi into 6 pieces. Alternate the pieces on the skewer. Drizzle the home made basil over the skewers and pop them in a preheated oven of 180 degrees for 20-25mins.
Tomato and Mozzarella Ciabatta
1 portion of cherry tomato sauce
1 ciabatta roll
2-3 tsp homemade pesto
Cut the Ciabatta roll in half and then spread the pesto over each half. Top the bread with the cherry tomato sauce and then top with mozzarella. Put in a preheated oven of 200 degrees for 15 minutes.
OK, that is a lot of recipes all on one page but see how versatile these sauces are, the possibilities are endless!