Hey pesto ... the perfect summer sauce
Please give us your recipe for homemade pesto that you mentioned a while back (23 May).
Well, seeing as you ask, and seeing as summer is basil time, and seeing as basil's so easy to grow from seed - and seeing as it's easier still to break up one of those expensive pots you buy in the supermarkets (basically just a lot of basil plants crammed into one small pot) and then replant them so each one has a bit of space for self-expression...
All the major works on the subject say that pesto is much better made in a mortar with a pestle, and so it is. That said, this approach is very purist, and the truth is you can make a very acceptable pesto in a blender. Either way, it will taste so much better than that pasteurised rubbish you can buy in jars.
For a serious recipe, I turned to John Irving of Slow Food, long-time resident of Italy and a man who knows Liguria, world capital of pesto, well. He came up with the following, from Osteria Luigina in Genoa, which serves four (-ish):
5 bunches fresh basil,
1 clove garlic
1 handful pine kernels
4 tbsp parmesan, grated
1 tbsp pecorino sardo, grated
1 knob butter
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Gently wash and dry the basil leaves. Put the garlic and a few grains of sea salt in a mortar, and pound. Add the basil and, one by one, the pine nuts, the two cheeses and the butter, pounding all the while, until the mixture takes on an emulsion-like consistency. Add salt to taste, and stir.
Transfer the contents of the mortar into a bowl and slowly dribble in the oil a bit at a time, stirring continuously. Before serving with pasta (traditionally trenette or trofie), add a few drops of the cooking water.
Last week I steamed our first new potatoes, skins on, with mint added to the pot and torn over them on serving. To my dismay, they had a metallic taste. Why was this? Is it the variety - these were Accent?
There are few sources of gastronomic pleasure as intense as the taste of a potato just dug out of the ground, boiled within an hour or two and served with a modest slab of butter ... Forgive the gushing, but I've just had my own first earlies, Red Duke of York, which, thankfully for me, had no metallic taint. Having checked various sources, there may be no simple answer to your dilemma. It may be the soil; the plants may be "distressed"; it may be a rogue glycoalkaloid level; it may even be a matter of language - would "earthy" or "bitter" be a better description? One person I spoke to said peeling the spuds after cooking can reduce the "metallic" effect. Failing all that, you could try a different variety next year.
If you had asked me this a few weeks ago, I'd have suggested getting in touch with The Potato Council (potato.org.uk), but it seems they've recently disbanded the department of experts who could answer questions such as this.
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