Monday, 12 June 2017

Aromatic Basil in some recipes you will use again and again.

My basil, nearing the end of the season
I love Basil.  I think it is probably my favourite herb.  I love the way it fills the air with its fragrance when I brush past it and how just a few leaves can convert a simple tomato sandwich into something  gourmet. This year I have had my best crop ever so now that the cooler weather is here I have been making the most of it to take me through to next summer.  I have made pesto and basil infused oil and also used it in casseroles, simmer sauces and in a dressing for roast chicken.  It's been fun.

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
2 packed cups of basil leaves
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.


2 packed cups of basil leaves
Basil oil ready for the freezer
1 cup of olive oil (extra virgin is best)

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
So easy to put together - so yummy!

Fresh sun ripened tomatoes
Soft and succulent mozarella
Basil oil

Lightly fry the capers until they just pop.
Slice the tomatoes and the mozarella and lay in a dish, alternating slices
Sprinkle with the fried capers and drizzle with basil oil
Add fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkling of coarse ground rock salt.


Here is a really quick and easy cocktail for non alcoholic drinkers or for anyone to enjoy on a lazy summer's day.
Refreshing in summer

Ginger ale
Lemon juice
Lime juice

Put some crushed ice in a tumbler and top with 6 parts ginger ale, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part lime juice and a sprig of basil.  Muddle well making sure to bruise the basil. Decorate the glass with a strawberry and a slice of lime.  Enjoy!

So there you are.  If you have a good crop of basil make the most of it.  Pestos and infused oils are expensive to buy but you can whip up your own in a few minutes for a fraction of the cost....and it is so satisfying!