Basil and pesto are almost an obsession with me. I can make a bazillion (yes, I know that isn’t really a word. But I like it. OK?!) excuses to use them in so many different ways! Anyway, more about that later!
So there’s nothing really THAT Indian about this version, just that it makes use of ingredients which are more easily available here. But if you can get your hands on the real deal, nothing like it.
Here’s what I used, to fill a 200 ml bottle:
2 cups (loosely packed) basil leaves
1 cup grated cheese (ideally, Parmesan but I used Amul processed cheddar)
4-5 fat cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts (ideally, use pine nuts – Indian chilgoza will also do but they’re SUCH a pain to peel/ shell)
2/3 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Here’s how I made it:
I measured the basil leaves and admired how pretty they are… (And wondered to myself whether I would ever get it together to plant some. Immediate access to basil would be heavenly!!)
I put these in the grinder/ processor and measured out the cheese…
So in terms of flavour, this cheese didn’t do any harm to the pesto at all. But in my (limited) experience, and I’m no connoisseur, Parmesan is dry-er than this cheese so it doesn’t clump together. Results in a much smoother paste/ sauce! But like I said, absolutely no harm done! I added this cheese, the walnuts, the garlic, salt & pepper to the grinder…
I processed these till about 65-70% smooth. Then I measured out the oil and added it to the grinder…
Process for another few minutes until smooth… I took some out with a big spoon, set it on a plate and admired it!
Then I found a CLEAN bottle and transferred the pesto into it…
Please ignore the undesirable view of the stove! Anyhow, I ate up the spare spoon of pesto (because it wouldn’t fit in the bottle) and stored the bottle in the fridge. It usually keeps for a couple of weeks without spoiling. The colour tends to darken after a while, but only on the surface. If you stir it up, it returns to the normal yummy pretty colour!!
By itself, the flavour is pretty concentrated and intense. So I generally like to use it in the following ways:
- Marinate 2-3 chicken breasts in 2 tbsp of pesto before grilling – to eat as is, or sliced up in a sandwich.
- Use about 2-3 tbsp of this along with some cream and (starchy pasta boiling) water to make a pasta sauce – excellent with fettuccine and topped with crumbled bacon and some finely chopped tomatoes.
- Add a tsp of the pesto to mayo and use as a sandwich spread/ filling along with your choice of cold meat.
- Add 1 tsp pesto to 3-4 tbsp cream/ top-of-the-milk/ cheese spread to make a dipping sauce for cold cuts!
- When I’m feeling extra adventurous, then spread a tbsp (without dilution) directly on a slice of toast!!
Also, my cousin Gautam, suggested I try a mint pesto one of these days… He made some and used it to marinate scallops that he grilled! I’m pretty kicked about it and I do have a whole bunch of mint at home! It might be tonight’s experiment! The variations for the mint version from the above recipe are:
Substitute basil with mint leaves
Substitute walnuts/ pine nuts with blanched almonds
Add zest and juice of 1 lemon
Also, you don’t have to make it in such large quantities! Halve/ quarter if you like! I like to hoard it so I don’t have to run to the fancy vegetable vendor for basil every time I have a craving!!