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.
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.....)