Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipe: Pesto Sauce

If your're a tentative gardener one of the easiest edibles to attempt growing yourself is basil. Providing you get at least six to seven hours of sunlight a day, basil will grow very happily in a garden bed, a balcony pot or even a kitchen window sill. It loves regular watering and a fortnightly seaweed liquid fertiliser will ensure big juicy leaves. Pick your basil regularly and it will grow bushy rather than tall and straggly. Pick leaves from just above where new leaves are sprouting on the plant.

A week ago I sowed a gourmet basil seed selection from Yates which contains exotic sounding cinnamon basil, lemon basil, purple basil and Thai basil.

As they mature I'll select the more robust seedlings and thin out the weaker ones.

I love the contrast of green and purple

My existing sweet basil crop is ready to go into a homemade pesto sauce.
Recipe :
1 large handful of freshly picked basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the basil leaves, the garlic clove, the salt and pepper  in a mortar and pestle and pound the leaves until you have a smooth green paste. Add the pine nuts and pound. Then stir in the grated cheese. Pour the olive oil into mixture in a steady stream and stir to emulsify. Adjust seasoning. This will make about 1/2 cup of sauce. Keep in the fridge in  a sealed container under a thin layer of olive oil . Will keep for about a week.

I prefer using a mortar and pestle because a food processor tends to bruise the leaves and affect the aromatic oils that are released from the basil leaves.

Most supermarkets sell tasteless bleached garlic from China. Look for Australian-grown organic garlic for a wonderful heady pungent hit.

You can dry roast your pine nuts before you add them to the sauce. I experiment with substituting walnuts or almonds as well.

Authentic pesto sauce recipes call for a combination of parmigiano and pecorino cheese. If you can get a good fresh pecorino it does add another earthy note to the sauce.

A great extra virgin olive oil can turn an ordinary pesto sauce into a gastronomic experience. Source the best one you can afford and enjoy the difference.

I still use my mum's 30 year old pepper grinder that has a blade adjustment for when I want a finer or coarser result.

I use Maldon Sea Salt or those wonderful pink Murray River salt flakes

put in a bit of elbow grease....

add the parmesan....

stir in the olive oil...

I like spreading my fresh pesto on toast and then squishing a just-runny soft boiled organic egg on top

look at those colours...

Why go out for Sunday brekkie when you can stay home and dine at Cafe Edible Balcony?... (just need to get some chickens now.....)


  1. Basil pesto is my FAVOURITE!!!
    I too grow basil (in order to support my pesto addiction) ... now to figuring out how to grow pine nuts!?!?

  2. Pesto is also nice with cashews :)

  3. Seeing those eggs brought to mind a discovery I recently made while poaching eggs. I use the add-vinegar-to-the-water-and-take-off-the-heat-before-creating-a-whirlpool-and-gently-sliding-in-the-egg method, which hardly ever lets me down (unless the yolk sac is torn).

    I like asparagus with my poached eggs on toast (haven't tried eggs with pesto, looks marvellous, will try) and up to now I've always had two saucepans going, one for blanching the asparagus and the other one for the eggs. But the other day I was lazy, thought to myself I don't mind a green tinge to my egg, being natural and all, so I went to poach my egg in the leftover green asparagus water. I added my few dashes of white vinegar and ... alchemy! The water became crystal clear.

    This may be old news for some, but I'd not seen it before and felt very chuffed at having made a serendipitous foodie discovery, and one that saves water to boot.

    In case you're wondering, the poached egg gets lightly rinsed with warm water and rolled dry in a paper towel before serving.

  4. Oooh Indira I love these photos and the end result. I want, I want!

  5. That's my idea of a perfect breakfast (or lunch or dinner actually)...

    I manage to make a mess of growing basil. I'm pretty hopeless at gardening unless it's trees or grevilleas! The snails usually eat my basil, and who can blame them? It's pretty tasty.

  6. Hi Sally,
    I don't know you but I'm liking your style more each day! Indira

    Hi rachel,
    thanks for the tip. Will try with cashews and maybe coriander for that Asian twist. Indira

    Hi robskee,
    Assuming you're a bloke welcome onboard! Love my gals but appreciate it when a boy leaves a comment. Fascinating discovery about vinegar and asparagus water. Did not know that. I love a good poached egg but have a hit and miss average. Will keep persevering. Indira

    Hi Sathya,
    Glad you liked the post. It actually tasted better than it looked. Aahhhh simplicity! Indira

    Hi arista,
    yes one advantage of a balcony garden is that pesky snails and slugs have to be pretty determined to scale the 13 floors to the basil! Indira

  7. Very nicely done! Makes me wish my sweet basil was big enough to be harvested already.

    How long did it take you? From seedling to harvest-ready basil?