Herby goes potatoes
By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 10 2015 08:00AM
We wrote on Wednesday about the lack of fresh veggies coming from the garden this month. But one crop is already thriving - fresh garden herbs are loving the warmer weather and we're getting some fantastic growth in the WS herb garden.
April and May will see a variety of home-grown soft green herbs coming into season including parsley, basil, chervil, mint and wild marjoram (oregano). Of course, herbs won't provide a meal in themselves but they add fresh, feisty flavours to any number of dishes.
One of our real pleasures in the spring is making our first batch of fresh garden pesto. Traditional Italian pesto (Pesto Genovese) requires parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and basil. But the Italian's don't have a monopoly on good food and you can make your own pesto with any combination of fresh green herbs - half the fun is using whatever you happen to have lots of and seeing how it turns out.
So, you can use our March recipe for wild garlic pesto as a guide for the ratios but otherwise feel completely free to experiment with any combination of ingredients. You'll need a stronger flavoured hard cheese but you certainly don’t have to use parmesan (a good strong cheddar makes a pesto tasty enough to match its finest Italian cousin.) Go nuts with the nuts - we've recently been using up some leftover walnuts from Christmas and they have a real depth of flavour and slightly bitter edge that really adds to the punch of the pesto. Finally, we tend to use a cold pressed British rapeseed oil rather than the traditional olive oil but you can certainly use any good quality oil you happen to have to hand.
The rule here is: there are no rules. Use whatever you have in the garden and in the kitchen, and as long as that includes some fresh herbs, a good quality oil and a punchy cheese, you'll end up with something marvellously Mediterranean in flavour but brilliantly British in origin. Stir your personalised pesto into soup, mix it with fresh pasta or drizzle over a bowl of freshly boiled new potatoes for a truly unique spring dish.
PS. If pesto ain't your thang, try mixing a good handful of finely chopped herbs into some fresh mayonnaise for an instant herby dip to accompany some spring chicken goujons or to pile on top of those first barbecue burgers.