Herby sauces! Salsa verde and pesto alla genovese

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Drat, our UK summer looks like it has well and truly buggered off. Which means that all those summery herbs need using up before the frost gets them in the garden. I’m not ready yet to change my diet into a stream of Autumnal stews, and I still want to eat vibrant summery flavours. By the way, can people in the UK stop saying ‘Fall’ instead of Autumn? Yes YOU, Uniqlo. I walked past one of their branches the other day and they had signs in the window saying ‘Fall’ everywhere. For God’s sake, globalisation and the lazy merging of language really pisses me off sometimes. I am incredibly anal about that sort of thing. And what on earth is wrong with saying Autumn anyway??? FFS!

Here are two classic herby sauces that taste like the absolute BOMB. Salsa verde is a seriously punchy sauce that goes really well with fish and roast meats, and just about everyone knows what pesto tastes like. It’s just super nice to make your own – there’s no comparison with the readymade stuff you buy in the shops (which I love too, am a total whore for pesto). Here you go.

Salsa Verde

I based my recipe on that of the Godfather of fish cookery, chef Rick Stein. I love Rick Stein, how he gets really sweaty and angry on TV and starts cursing his cameraman out of sheer annoyance every bloody three seconds, it makes me hoot with laughter. Tell it like it is, Rick! And perhaps try to do something about those sweat patches.

Makes enough to serve 4 handsomely.

This is super nice served with firm, white fish like a whole roasted sea bream (just roasted in the oven rubbed in olive oil and salt, its tummy stuffed with lemon slices) and chips! Literally a dinner fit for champions. Get some nice dry white wine in too. If you make up a batch and have leftovers, you can use it as a sandwich spread to accompany cold meats or mix it into a salad dressing. Keeps for about a week if you put it in a jar and pour over 1/2 cm olive oil to keep out the air.

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You will need:

Big bunch of flatleaf parsley (about 3 handfuls) roughly chopped
Same size bunch of mint, roughly chopped
3 generous sprigs tarragon roughly chopped (optional)
3 tbsps capers
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard (my fave is from Amora, it really has some welly in it)
Juice of 1 small or 1/2 large lemon
120ml extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
Pinch seasalt (eg Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper

You will need a food processor for this, or if you can be arsed, pound it all in a pestle and mortar. Just shove everything in the food processor and blitz until you have a smooth-ish consistency – a few chunks here is not a bad thing. Taste it and add more lemon juice or seasoning to taste. Serve the sauce at room temperature to get the full whack of flavours. Here it is:

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Pesto alla genovese

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I have been growing my own basil outdoors all summer – I got three baby plants from our local food market in June. The stall I get it from, Brockmans, supplies gorgeous produce from its biodynamic farm, and I have no idea what kind of organic craziness they put in the potting soil but their basil is the best I’ve ever tasted in this country – it smells as strong as superskunk and the flavour is off the charts! It grows like a BEAST.

One thing NOT to try is to make basil ice cream with a fully conscious toddler in the house. After binning the first batch, my lapses in concentration with a deranged two-year-old hanging off my leg resulted in a second batch of the most weird, sickly mess. And I don’t think I really cared for the flavour all that much. Much better to stick to the traditional recipes and make a bloody great pesto!

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Makes approx 2 x 190g small sized jars. You can always halve the below recipe to make enough for 1 jar.

You will need:

A big armful of fresh basil (see picture above) – if you’re not growing your own, use three large supermarket pots of fresh basil
200g Parmesan
3 handfuls nuts – I used a combination of pine nuts and whole almonds (skins on is fine)
2 cloves garlic
210ml extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch Maldon seasalt
Few grinds of fresh black pepper

You’ll need a food processor for this sauce. If you don’t have one, I am told you can pound everything up in a pestle and mortar, Italian rustic-style. Just roughly chop your herbs, cheese and garlic and shove it in the food processor together with the rest of the ingredients. Blitz until you get a nice paste – don’t overdo it so that it’s really sloppy, a few lumps here and there give it nice texture.

Taste and re-season if necessary.

Stores well in the fridge for at least a week if you put it in a glass jar with 1/2cm olive oil covering the top of the paste to keep the air out (otherwise it will spoil very quickly).

When you make your own pesto, it’s really worth buying some ridiculously posh pasta and just having a big carbo blowout! It also works really well as a sandwich spread, or you can add it to salad dressings or have it with roasted meats and fish. Mmm .

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2 comments

  1. Looks lush. I’m not growing any herbs at the moment, but our local market sells really cheap herbs so this is a great way to take advantage of it.

    Could you freeze pesto?

    Pesto is also lovely drizzled over tomato-y soups (like minestrone) or over tomato-based stews.

    Like

    1. You can totally freeze pesto. Probably for about a month or two. Get down to the market, sounds brill!

      Like

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