The herb of summer, basil. The vibrant green leaves just sing summer, sun and outdoor living. Perfect buddies with tomato, pasta, eggplant, charcuterie, lemon, pineapple, chillies and the list goes on. It’s just an all-rounder good guy who can turn something a bit bland in to bloody yummy. The big green glossy leaves, will, as a garnish, bring any dish alive. So you buy a bunch of basil, then what?
First thing that come into my mind is pesto. So versatile, from a dish of pasta to cheese toasties. If made correctly, which isn’t hard at all (makes me wonder how so many chefs can bugger it up though, generally it’s just not seasoned enough) so I’ve put my recipe down.
Don't be scared of salt and pepper, they enhance the flavour, bring the basil, garlic and cheese to party together. As they should, get down and basily
Another idea for basil and to keep it through the winter months, is to dry it. Hang upside down in a cool draft free place and let the moisture naturally disappear. Store when completely dried in an airtight jar. This is great for dry spice blends, my new food porn. Personally though, I like to freeze, as dried basil it's ok in some recipes but just sometimes doesn’t pack the punch required in others.
To freeze basil. Dip in and out of boiling water, in and out, seconds, then straight into and iced water bath to refresh. Dry completely on paper towel. To Freeze, place leaves on tray and freeze. When frozen they can be placed in zip lock bags. Won’t be garnish basil but for cooking will do the trick.
Grab some basil from the market, start creating and preserving. Any questions just ask.
Classic basil pesto
Pesto has so many uses. Pasta and toasties as mentioned before but the list goes on. Mix with mayonnaise for coleslaw with a twist, smear it on a pizza base, or use as a marinade. Add to gravy for richer roast, mix with breadcrumbs, lemon zest and some caramelized onions for a chicken stuffing. Yes, the list goes on.
1 1/2cups of picked, washed and dried basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nuts, pine-nuts are tradition but almonds, peeled or macadamia nuts are fab
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
In food processor start with nuts, ½ the oil and garlic. Basil bruises very easily, so it’s best to blend these ingredients up before adding it to the mix. Then add other ingredients, except oil and pulse blend whilst adding oil. Try not to over blend or it will go dark quickly. TASTE, check seasoning. Store in the fridge with a slight film of oil on top, this will stop discolouration. Will keep for a couple of weeks.
Basil, pumpkin and feta filos
Basil, pumpkin and feta cheese are a really good combo, whether on a pizza, cannelloni or as this recipe shows in filo triangles. Filo is easy to work with once you get to know each other. Never buy frozen, asking for trouble. Do use a damp cloth to keep from drying out, see pictures, but only damp. If too wet it will make the pastry soggy. Same with the filling, nothing too wet. These can also be rolled any way. Bigger rectangles, cigar shape. Have a play, become friends and even if looking for the healthier option, milk can be used instead of butter. Will it taste as good? Well think about it!
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 brown onion
1/2 block of feta cheese
1 packet filo pastry
25 ish 2cm basil leaves
100g butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste, add at the end as feta is salty
Optional: fried bacon, salami, chorizo, even roast chicken can all be added for little extra zing. If the pumpkin isn’t a sweetie, a little brown sugar won’t go astray. TASTE IT!
Peel, seed and chop pumpkin into chunks, same size to cook evenly is best. Place on tray, spray with a little oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper. Rub to coat and roast till just tender.
Whilst waiting finely dice onion and fry till transparent. If using one of the meat options, add now whilst frying.
When pumpkin and onion is cool mix together with feta, TASTE, season. Taste after feta as it's a bit salty.
Now let’s get rolling. If you haven’t played with filo before I suggest adding some chopped basil to the mix, get to know filo then give this a try.
Place 2 sheets filo on a chopping board or bench. Cover the rest with a slightly damp cloth. Now cut through the filo, 5-6 times, evenly spaced to form long wide strips. Go 5 if not to confident. Bigger strip easier to handle. Place approx. 2 good teaspoons at the bottom, lightly butter strip and fold to make a triangle. See photos.
As you get to the end, fold just one of the sheets, pop in basil, little more butter and continue to roll and fold. Seal end with little more butter. The photos should best explain this. Wrap left over filo in glad wrap and store in the fridge. Try not to leave it to long as will start to go brittle. Bake at 180 for 14 mins till golden and crispy. Enjoy.
Basil and pineapple pops
These are a very easy summer time icy pop. Fresh, tasty and zingy. Basil and mint can be varied to taste.
2 cups of chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 teaspoon coconut sugar (optional, depending on sweetness of pineapple)
Wash and dry herbs. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend till pineapple is nearly smooth, little texture isn’t a bad thing. Pour into firm paper card muffin cups that are on a tray that will fit in your freezer. Or pop them in where you have room. Let mixture start to freeze then pop in icy pole sticks. Freeze completely. Any leftovers can be store in the freezer in plastic zip lock bag.