hey presto – PESTO!

by Pip Dodds

The garden is overflowing with basil at the moment , and we all know what that means – it’s pesto time! There are a hundred delicious things to do with pesto, and if you’ve never made your own before, now is the perfect time to give it a go.

Grab a big bunch of basil from the garden, pick off all the leaves and stuff them into your food processor. (Put the stalks in the compost, or feed them to some friendly chooks.) Take a handful of pinenuts and toast them gently in an oven or frypan (careful, they burn easily). Then put them into the food processor too, along with half-a-cup of finely grated parmesan (guilty secret – I rather like the cheap Australian parmesan you get in the supermarket fridge), half a clove of fresh garlic, crushed ( I DON’T however like the cheap imported garlic from the supermarket), a good splodge of olive oil (make that 2 splodges), and a giant pinch of salt. Murray River pink salt flakes are my favourite – they remind me of camping under the mighty river red gums in my frivolous youth…

Now simply press the green button and whizz it all up till it forms – hey presto – PESTO! If you don’t eat it all straight away, it will keep in a container in the fridge for a week, and still be delicious.

So what to do with it now you’ve made it?

Try a generous spoonful in a bowl of vegetable and bean soup – very Marseille. Or of course as a sauce for your favourite pasta – it goes particularly well with gnocchi, or good old fettucine. Don’t forget to loosen it up with a couple of spoonfuls of the hot water from the pasta-cooking pot, to help it coat the pasta. Just add more of that parmesan and lots of black pepper. Very Italiano.

Or spread it on the bread next time you can’t be fagged cooking and have toasty cheese instead of a balanced meal – very Newtown.

Or do as I did last night and use it in a dressing. I steamed some beans for 2 minutes – I used a mixture of the lovely snake beans we had from the community garden and some French green beans we grew in a pot outside our front door. Then I refreshed them under cold running water to keep them crisp and colourful. While that was happening I mixed up a couple of spoonfuls of the pesto with a good squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil and salt and pepper, and tossed the beans through. Garnished with cherry tomatoes (I wish I’d charred them first – wouldn’t that be yum?), and a sprig of basil, and served alongside a bbq-ed fresh chorizo sausage and toasted sourdough. Very Ottolenghi.

And there may have been a glass of wine in there too. Delicious.