I hate “recipes” that are totally obvious. Why are people paying money for books with recipes like Malteser Icecream (recipe: 1 bag of maltesers, crushed. 1 tub of vanilla ice cream, slightly melted. Mix crushed maltesers into ice cream. Eat) That is not a fake recipe, by the way. That is from Jamie Oliver. Similarly, recipes for things like grilled fish (recipe: put fish on tray. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill. Eat) These things are in the same category as warnings on the sides of bags of peanuts (“may contain nuts”) and “caution: hot” on the sides of takeaway coffee cups. Annoying, stupid, nannyish.
But. What if you write a food blog and you want to include things you eat quite regularly that you think others would enjoy, but those things are extremely simple to make? (As the writer of one such blog) I say, put it in, because others may not realise quite how simple it is, and anyway, this blog is free.
So, I want to talk to you about pesto. Pesto is a glorious and wonderful thing. So simple, so easy, so delicious, and pretty versatile. As it comes, it’s perfect on pasta or as a spread on top of fillets of fish. It is also great as a sauce for a fancy starter (I’ll blog about one later on), or in a salad (I made a great one a few weeks ago that I’ll blog about another time too). As long as you have a small food processor at your disposal, I literally cannot imagine why anyone would ever buy pesto, when it is so easy to make yourself, and so easy to tailor to your own tastes. It’s quite high in fat (and not especially high in protein) but it’s worth those aberrations from my nutritional plan as it is so delicious.
Now, here is an interesting question about pesto. Should it contain cheese? As an out of the closet cheese hater, I obviously say no. I don’t think it needs it. As far as my limited research has taken me, I believe that the Italians do not put cheese in their pesto (they may add some parmesan or grana padana at the table), and sometimes the French do. But what do the French know about cooking?
So my pesto recipe does not contain cheese. Second interesting question: what nuts should pesto contain? The conventional nut is the pine nut, and these are delicious. They are also the least nutritious and most fatty of all nuts. After my whole protein/general nutritional awareness started wearing off on Jon, he started hassling me every time we made pesto: “WALNUTS! Why don’t we make it with walnuts? They’re amazing for you.” So, we added walnuts. Then, “BRAZIL NUTS! Why don’t we add brazil nuts? They’re full of selenium, so good for you.” So, we added brazil nuts. But when we tried making it with just walnuts or brazil nuts, it wasn’t so great. The pine nuts are necessary for taste, but the other nuts are good additions to up the nutritional value. (That is my view. Jon wanted me to give, and I quote, “further credit to the walnuts. They add a real depth to the flavour.”) So – try it out. This is the kind of recipe you’ll make over and over again, so you can afford to be experimental. Obviously, the proportions and quantities of these nuts are up to you, and you may decide to just go with the basic pine nut version, which is totally delicious.
Basil, garlic, olive oil. These are the essentials that I haven’t meddled with, although I’ve seen and tried pesto using other leaves. I think they’re OK, but basil is the best.
And finally, salt. Pesto is one of Joe’s favourite foods, but I make his without salt. The baby-friendly version of pesto couldn’t be easier. You put all of the ingredients, without salt, into the food processor, and then extract your baby’s portion. Then add salt to the rest, and give it another whizz.
In the picture above we had it on pasta, with asparagus. Simply steam the asparagus, cut into small pieces and mix in with the pasta and pesto.
Basic pesto, with Jon’s nut recipe
Makes enough for about 2 adults and 1 baby
- 25g fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic, with the last level of skin still on
- 25g pine nuts
- 50g walnuts
- 3 or 4 brazil nuts
- Approx 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Put the garlic cloves and nuts in a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Stir until the pine nuts are toasted (the other nuts won’t change colour as much as the pine nuts).
- Remove the skins from the garlic, and tip, together with the nuts, into the food processor. Remove the stalks from the basil, olive oil and salt (or save the salt until later if making for a baby), and whizz.
- Adjust the olive oil and salt as necessary, and that’s it.
*Approximate nutritional values (adult portion)*
- Calories: 438kcal
- Carbs: 4
- Fat: 45g
- Protein: 7g
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 1762mg