Saturday, 14 March 2009


Open a jar of supermarket pesto and the response is likely to be 'pest...oh'. You look sadly into the greenish-black sour, flaking mess, knowing that once you plunge in the spoon and extract a tablespoon of gunk you're going to regret it: bitter, coarse, incredibly salty, with no relation to fresh ingredients. Having consumed enough sodium in one supper to make your arteries go 'clang', you turn to the label and discover that the so-called pesto's full of strange nuts and cheeses that should be slapped with a restraining order. NO MORE.


A bunch of basil the size of two clenched fists, all its stalks and shoots removed. Reserve three little leaves for garnish;
An ounce and a third of pine kernels, lightly toasted in a dry pan. Keep the heat on LOW and watch the kernels like a hawk. Shake the pan constantly. As soon as you avert your gaze, they will burn;
One big fat clove of garlic;
4 oz fresh reserve parmesan - 1 and a half oz finely grated, the rest shaved;
Two to three glugs of extra virgin olive oil;
A tablespoon of good white wine (or, if you've already opened a bottle, champagne)
A pinch of salt
Coarse black pepper

Throw your basil into your food processor (or if you're feeling really virtuous, your mortar) along with the garlic clove, finely grated parmesan and three quarters of the pine kernels. Dribble a good gloog of olive oil and the wine and blitz it (or pestle it) until it's absolutely smooth and silky. Add in another glug or two of olive oil - depending on how runny you like your pesto - the remaining pine kernels and the pepper and stir.
Serve with really really good Italian spaghetti; spread on toasted ciabatta; smoothed over a salmon fillet and baked for 15-20 minutes; dotted over a home-made pizza; rolled up in the centre of a good monkfish fillet which is then served with roasted red peppers and red onions and sauteed mushrooms; with smoked salmon on a black bread sandwich. Mmm-hmmm.

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