Is there such a thing as too much basil? Perhaps yes, but only on a day when your plant is going to seed and needs cutting back, when there are a thousand other autumn jobs to do in the garden which seem more important than stripping basil leaves off the plant rather than see them go to waste. But what started off as just another job turned into a treat for the senses. The air became filled with the scent of basil, enjoyed by us and by all the dozy autumn wasps which took not the slightest bit of notice of me as I plucked and sorted. They buzzed indolently around my bowl and the huge pile of basil stems with its white star-like flowers, all of us companiably druggy on the pungent perfume. After an hour I had a large bowl full of basil leaves, a pile of stems covered with green and dried seedheads, and a much reduced pile of prunings in the trug. We then faced an immediate deadline imposed by the basil leaves, their cut surfaces turning brown in the fresh air in the breath of a second. Pesto was called for. We followed Jamie Oliver’s basic recipe and doubled up, therefore:-
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
6 good handfuls of fresh basil leaves
2 handfuls of lightly toasted pine nuts
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly-ground black pepper
Juice of a lemon [to taste] Put the garlic, basil, cheese and pine nuts into the food processor and pulse gently. Do not grind it to a paste, pulse gently so the mixture retains some texture. Add the olive oil a little at a time, to bind the sauce until it is the right consistency which Jamie says is “semi-wet but firm”.
Taste the mixture, add salt and pepper. Finally add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste, and if needed add a little more. For this quantity of basil leaves, we needed the juice of a whole but small lemon. We made far too much to eat at one go, so we stored it in three boxes. One for the fridge, two for the freezer. There is nothing better on a cold winter’s night than a bowl of steaming pasta with fresh home-made pesto.
We changed our lunch plans and, instead of leeks vinaigrette, ate a toasted tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich. Impromptu food is so often the best and this was wonderful, especially as we ate our lunch on the terrace which was still swimming in the scent of basil prunings. 5 to remember
demasidao/a – too much
tareas por el jardín – garden jobs
más importante que – more important than
un gusto – a treat
los sentidos – the senses
‘The Naked Chef’ by Jamie Oliver