Gardener's Pesto

This is the only pesto recipe you will ever need... Even if you are not, actually, a gardener!

I've named this little pot of goodness 'Gardener's Pesto' because it is the perfect first recipe to make from your home grown herbs and salad leaves as they begin to peek above the soil, and even a few of your weeds, if you're feeling adventurous...

You can of course use shop bought leaves or herbs for this recipe also. The inspiration came for this today, when I weeded out smaller seedlings of rocket and rainbow chard, to give the stronger ones room to grow. Not wanting to waste the couple of handfuls of tiny leaves I thought to myself, why not make some pesto?

We often make pesto at my children's cookery classes. A common misconception is that the classic basil pesto from Liguria in Italy, made with fresh basil and toasted pine nuts, is the ONLY pesto. It isn't! You can use almost any tasty soft green leaves - spinach, kale, coriander, parsley, dill and more - and combine with almost any nuts or seeds. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are a favourite of mine. Mix these with the other classic ingredients of a pesto - olive oil, garlic, salt and parmesan cheese - to produce your own unique brand of pesto.

Even the cheese is up to you. Any hard cheese works, or replace with nutritional yeast for a vegan alternative.

In the pesto in the photograph, I used:

Green Leaves (A mix of chard, rocket, basil, chives and young dandelion leaves)

Olive Oil

Walnuts

Maldon Sea Salt

Paremsan Cheese

Use the ratios given in the recipe below to make your own delicious pesto, from whatever you have grown, bought or foraged. 

At the end of the recipe you'll find some suggestions for great herb and nut pesto combinations

Freshly made pesto

Ingredients

3 Handfuls / 30g herbs or soft leaves of your choice (Soft herbs like parsley, basil, coriander etc or green leaves such as kale, spinach, chard or foraged dandelion and nettles)

50g Nuts or Seeds 

8 tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 clove of garlic (you may want to add more, but add a little at a time so you don't over power your pesto)

1 tsp lemon zest

30g grated parmesan or other hard cheese

Method

Wash the leaves gently but thoroughly. Shake dry. Add the leaves, oil, salt, nuts or seeds and lemon zest to a blender. Blend until smooth. Finely grate the parmesan and stir through the blended mixture. Taste test! It made need an adjustment. It's too bitter, add more cheese or nuts. If it's a little bland, try more lemon zest, salt and /or garlic. 

Scoop every last drop with a spatula, into a lidded container. If you don't think you'll be eating in the next day or two,pour a shallow layer of oil gently over the top. This will keep the air from getting to your pesto and will preserve it for longer. 

This recipe will keep in the fridge for at least 4 days, longer if you keep the layer of oil on top.

 

Spread the pesto on scones, crackers, homemade bread, dollop on pizza or stir through pasta - delicious!

 

Some classic (and my own favourite!) combinations to try:

- basil and pine nut pasta

- coriander and cashew nut pesto

- spinach and pumpkin seed pesto

- rocket and walnut pesto

- Dill and hazelnut pesto

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe!