|My basil, nearing the end of the season|
Most people think of basil as a Mediterranean herb, because it is used extensively there but it is also a frequent addition to Chinese cuisine where it is added to a a thick soup and is an ingredient in Vietnamese Pho. In Indonesia lemon basil is mixed with fresh or raw vegetables and a basil known as holy basil is grown and used in a wide range of dishes in India and Nepal. Asian basils tend to have a stronger, more pungent flavour than Mediterranean basils which makes them more suited to asian dishes.
My basil is the Mediterranean variety. It grows easily in New Zealand as long as it has at least four hours of sun a day and does not get waterlogged. It does require regular watering through the summer, though, so does best in a raised bed where excess water can flow away.
Pine nuts are a traditional ingredient in pesto but they are very expensive in New Zealand so this year I have made a walnut pesto. It tastes great and will probably be my 'go to' recipe for pesto from now on.
|Basil pesto, just the thing with crackers and cheese|
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
2 cloves of chopped or crushed garlic
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Squeeze of lemon (optional)
1 tablespoon of chopped sundried tomatoes (optional)
Mix the basil and walnuts in a blender until smooth then add the other ingredients and mix well.
This will keep in the fridge for about a week but can be frozen in an ice block tray for later use. Cover the top of the pesto with oil if freezing.
|Basil oil ready for the freezer|
To maintain a good green colour blanch the basil in boiling water for 45 seconds. Then quickly refresh in iced water and squeeze dry. This step will help preserve the basil but is optional.
Pat the basil dry on paper towels and then puree with the oil until fine and smooth.
Strain through a fine mesh and bottle. I don't bother straining it because I like the flecks of basil through the oil.
This will keep about a week in the fridge but can be frozen in blocks in an ice tray for later use.
|It is best with a soft mozzarella, like buffalo|
|Refreshing in summer|