It's the season to be jolly and also the season to grow Basil and make Pesto before the serious and fun Christmas cooking starts. It is difficult in the tropical heat to grow much else, except perhaps other sun loving Mediterranean type herbs, chillies, small tomatoes and eggplant. Our vegetable garden has scaled down over summer and I am now mainly just picking herbs such as Italian Parsley, sage, thyme and of course basil. Turmeric and ginger are soldiering away ready for next year's harvest. However the basil needs almost daily attention to cut off the flower stalks before it all goes totally to seed in the heat. I am allowing a few bushes to go to seed as these will self seed for next years crop and also provide valuable nectar for the bees, although sadly the bees don't seem to be visiting as much this year. They must have had a better offer somewhere else.
So whilst the basil is looking nice and healthy I have made some Pesto, from a different recipe to my usual one, which has fragrant lemon zest and juice and also blanched almonds in addition to pine nuts. I have also tried a different technique for freezing it this year using Jamie Oliver's idea of wrapping it in slices in greaseproof paper, and freezing a whole sliced roll of it. The slices can then be easily be removed for cooking or for dips etc, and it eliminates the need to use lots of small plastic containers for storage in the freezer. You should have about 16 slices of pesto from this recipe.
Making pesto is just so easy, however it needs to be done quickly once the basil is processed in the food processor or it will discolour and turn black. Whilst the discolouration doesn't affect the flavour, it isn't a good look and will affect the quality of whatever it is added to. The pesto you buy has no flavour really and is an expense that can be avoided by growing your own basil, even on a sunny windowsill, or buy bunches of it cheaply from the markets.
Preparation requires a minimum of effort for this recipe and you will have pesto before you have finished your cup of morning coffee while you cook. Promise!
200 g Parmesan cheese
2 large bunches of basil, about 60 g each including tender stalks
2 cloves of garlic
100 g pine nuts
100 g blanched almonds
10 ml extra virgin oil
Break the Parmesan into the food processor and add the fresh basil leaves stalks, lightly ripped apart. Just toss aside the tough stalks. Add the peeled and chopped garlic, the pine nuts and the almonds.
Finely grate the lemon zest, juice the lemon and add both to the mixture.
Pour in the olive oil. These ingredients will fill your food processor bowl, but it will all blitz down to a good consistency. It doesn't need to be too wet or oily though as it will be rolled up in grease proof paper. Extra olive oil can be added later if needed.
Pop into the freezer for 2 hours, then before it gets too hard, remove, unwrap, and slice into about 16 portions or whatever you prefer. Reshape, re-roll, and re-wrap, place the roll into a freezer proof bag, and place in the freezer.
It should last for at least 3 months, but you will probably use it before then. I like to have a stock of it in the freezer to use throughout Winter as the basil dies off in the cold.
Slices can then be removed as needed and used straight away. It will melt really quickly.