Archive for basil

Autumn squash soup with walnut pesto

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

There is an abundance of squashes and pumpkins on the market at the moment; the deep orange-fleshed varieties offer the best flavour and colour.

a good knob of butter
1 small leek, roughly chopped and washed
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1kg ripe, orange-fleshed squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1.5 litres vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto:

40g good-quality walnuts, lightly toasted
50g fresh basil leaves and any soft stalks
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
a good pinch of sea salt
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp freshly grated mature Pecorino (or use 6 tbsp Parmesan)
100-120ml extra virgin olive oil (preferably a sweeter variety)

To make the the pesto, put the walnuts, basil, garlic and salt in a liquidiser and coarsely blend. Add the cheese and blend again briefly, then transfer to a bowl.

Gently cook the leek and onion in the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan until soft. Add the squash and vegetable stock, bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper then simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Re-heat the soup and adjust the consistency with a little vegetable stock or water if necessary and re-season with salt and pepper. Serve with a spoonful of the pesto on top.

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Nigella Lawson’s pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

This excellent recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s new book Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home.

Of course her finger-licking fridge-raiding foxy flirt TV persona is a wicked self-parody more outrageous than anything an impressionist could achieve, although Ronni Ancona comes close. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t find her extremely attractive, and the same could be said for many bloggers (male and female) I have contacted.

But look beyond that and what you have is a very fine food writer. Her books are well worth reading. So here she is with one of my old favourites, pasta and pesto:

Children – who are perhaps more honest about their tastes than the rest of us – seem to have an overweening preference for carbohydrates, and I am more than happy to exploit this. If I’ve been working late, am feeling lazy, have forgotten to go shopping or suddenly find out that their friends are staying over and I don’t know what they will or won’t eat, I reach gratefully for a packet of pasta.

I can honestly say I don’t know how parents managed to feed their children in the days before pasta became universal culinary currency. Oh, yes I do, actually: they didn’t care whether we liked what they cooked or not; we just ate what we were given.

My children wouldn’t care if all I ever gave them was pasta with some bottled sauce poured over, and I don’t deny that’s sometimes indeed what they are given; but to please myself, and them, this is what I make when I get it together a little. Making this is hardly effortful; the potatoes cook in the pasta water – requiring a little extra time, nothing more – and the pinenutless pesto is whizzed up easily by the processor.

And if you’re going to do this recipe, then do make the pesto yourself. Using pesto out of a jar is nothing I’d ever apologise for, but this is a dish in itself and needs to be kept distinct. For those who feel cooking potatoes with pasta is playing too much into the hands of kiddie carbomania, know that this is a Ligurian tradition. And it really works: the potatoes thicken into a sweet sludge to which the pesto adheres, to make a fantastically, elegantly comforting and fragrant strand-coating sauce. The green beans add to the verdigloriousness of the whole, making you feel good that you are getting the children to eat vegetables. That said, I remain quite adamant that there is no such thing as ‘children’s food’, that food is food and that’s that; this makes a perfect supper for grown-up company, too, and certainly earns a place in my Last Meal menu.

500g large floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices, each slice quartered into chunks
500g linguine pasta
200g fine green beans, trimmed and cut in half

For the pesto:
100g basil leaves (2 fat bunches from the greengrocer, or 4 supermarket packets)
100g grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled
100ml regular olive oil
100ml extra virgin olive oil

Put the prepared potato chunks into a large saucepan with enough salted water to take the pasta later, and bring to the boil.

Cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes, then add the pasta. Check the packet cooking instructions, and at about 4 minutes before the end of the specified cooking time, add the green beans. If you are using artisanal egg linguine, which takes less time, you will need to alter your strategy.

While this is bubbling away, whiz the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor.
Before you drain the saucepan, remove and reserve about ½ cupful of the cooking liquid.

Tip the drained potatoes, beans and pasta back into the dry pan.

Add the pesto from the processor and enough cooking water to give a runny sauce that coats the strands of pasta as you work it through with a fork or pasta claw. Serve immediately.

How to make perfect pesto

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Do you have a passion for pesto? What’s your favourite pesto recipe, and is there any better way to eat it than with linguine and green beans?

(Source: Guardian)

Energetic Italian grannies make their pesto by hand in a marble mortar, adding the basil leaves one by one. The result is the silkiest, smoothest pesto imaginable. Modern granddaughters are more likely to reach for the food processor, and the result is almost as good.

4 packs basil, or 1 large basil plant, leaves only
25g pine kernels
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp granular sea salt
50g freshly grated Parmesan
100-200ml extra virgin olive oil

Wash and dry the basil leaves. Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast the pine kernels lightly for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

If you’re using a mortar, pound the garlic with the salt to make a soft mush. Pound in the pine nuts, then work in the basil leaves, 2-3 at a time, with a circular movement of the pestle, until all is reduced to a silky paste. (The mixture can be frozen at this point). Work in the cheese, then beat in the olive oil with a wooden spoon until you have a thick, dense sauce. Add more or less oil depending on the texture you like.

If you’re using a processor, drop all the ingredients in and blitz to a luscious green sauce.

To serve, cook the pasta of your choice according to packet instructions. Ligurian cooks put a few small cubes of potato to cook with the pasta because the starch improves the sticking power of the pesto. Before dressing the pasta, dilute the pesto with a tablespoonful of pasta cooking water.

To store the pesto, pour into a jar, float a layer of olive oil on top, cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Salad niçoise

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

The anchovies have been blended into the dressing with the capers so they act like a seasoning for the whole salad.

8 new potatoes
200g french beans, trimmed (or sliced runner beans)
4 eggs
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 artichoke hearts, cooked and quartered
3 little gems, washed
2 tbsp small black olives
200g tuna chunks in oil, drained

For the dressing:

juice of 4 ripe tomatoes, squeezed and sieved
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp capers
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 anchovy fillets
small bunch of basil leaves
75ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Blend the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor (you can use some of the oil from the anchovies or tuna). Season well.

Wash the new potatoes and cook them in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain, cool and cut into halves or quarters.

Cook the beans in salted water for 5 minutes until slightly squeaky. Drain and cool.

Boil the eggs for 5-6 minutes, cool quickly, peel and quarter. The yolks should be a little squidgy still.

Separate the leaves from the little gem and arrange in a serving dish, ripping up the larger leaves.

Toss the tuna chunks, cherry tomatoes, french beans, artichoke hearts and potatoes in the dressing. Transfer to the serving bowl and combine gently with the little gem.

Top with the quartered eggs and olives, and sprinkle with shredded basil.

Greek pasta salad

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

250g dried fusilli pasta
½ cucumber
1 x 200g pack Roussas Barrel Aged Feta, crumbled
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
½ x 250g pack baby plum tomatoes, halved
½ x 30g pack fresh basil, leaves shredded

For the dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp dried oregano

Cook the fusilli pasta according to the pack instructions, or until al dente. Drain and refresh under cold water, and drain again.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and dried oregano, and season to taste.

Halve the cucumber lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds, then cut into thick slices. Add to the pasta along with the crumbled feta cheese, red onion, tomatoes and fresh basil. Pour over the dressing and gently toss. Season and serve.

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