Monday, 30 January 2012

Making pesto ~ a basil and walnut recipe

Pesto is a fine addition to pasta of any sort, and can also add tasty seasoning to salads, stews and soups; and if you are looking for a variation to garlic butter for your oven-toasted French bread you might like to try this instead.  Basil leaves are usually the distinguishing ingredient, although other herbs can be used, and traditional recipes use pine nuts rather than walnuts.  If you have fresh basil in your garden it is very simple and economical to make; even more so if you have access to a walnut tree! 

Sweet Basil

The coast of southern Otago where I live is not a place where basil grows with any degree of enthusiasm.  In an experiment I planted three seedlings in a sunny sheltered spot in the garden and another three in a large tub which I placed in a sunny spot inside the sitting room.  The outcome was that the two surviving outdoor plants scarcely grew at all, whereas those grown indoors grew to almost shrub-like proportions - too large really, for the plants to comfortably support!  

Freshly shelled walnut pieces
Yesterday I gave these plants a haircut, and made pesto from the mountain of chopped leaves: from three and a half cups packed with these I got 750 grams of pesto, enough to fill two smallish jars and one plastic container which had previously contained 475 grams of jam - a handsome yield!  The two jars I made to give away and the plastic tub is now in the freezer from which I'll be able to take out spoonfuls as desired.  

Recipes for such things are fairly elastic: 
I use these ingredients:
  • Basil - about a firmly packed cupful of freshly chopped leaves / 100gm
  • Cheese - 100gm - which packs into a single cup.  I use Edam for lower fat content
    • Oil - start with a third of a cup and add more as needed
    • Walnuts - one third to half a cup of chopped pieces / 50gm
    • Garlic - one clove.  This really does bring the flavours together well.
    • Salt to tast.  I find half a teaspoon is ample.
    Whiz in the food processor until fine.
     Yield: about 300gm of pesto.

    When placing into storage containers cover pesto with a little more oil before capping, which will improve storage freshness.  Cap firmly and place in the fridge or freezer.  

    The Wikipedia article linked to above says it will keep well in the fridge for about a week.  I would have thought rather longer myself.

    Kept in the freezer the oil content makes if fairly easy to scoop out portions as needed.

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