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I really fancied something made with a lemon from the fridge and lots of mint from the garden today. But the mint is straggly and chewed. An alternative would have been lemon balm, but that was even worse, every single leaf had multiple holes. So I cut both of those back in the hope I will get some fresh new leaves.
The slugs have beheaded the parsley, the only herbs left were basil in the greenhouse, with which I’ve already made some pesto, a huge rosemary bush, which I didn’t want to use today and a flourishing sage plant.
So, sage it was then. I picked off all the tender top clusters, picked off all the leaves without any damage and weighed them. It came to 30g.
So, olive oil then, the lemon, what else would go. Gazing into the Armageddon cupboard I thought a handful of raisins would offset the sourness of the lemon nicely, and nuts? Ooh, how about some of those pumpkin seeds. They should go. And a bit of Parmesan from the freezer.
I dragged out the food processor. I don’t use it often enough to give it a prime spot, so it’s always a bit of a faff getting it out. Then I simply put everything in, added generous grinds of black pepper and whizzed it for a bit.
Mmmm, lovely! Surprisingly mild in sage flavour, a very slight sweetness from the raisins, nuttiness from the pumpkin seeds, a little citrusy hit and that distinctive Olive oil flavour.
I don’t think it would have been sour enough from the lemon to need the raisins, so next time, I’ll probably leave those out.
A success methinks. I shall use it with pasta, of course; on a jacket potato; with cheese on toast; in a sandwich with some of my favourite value soft cheese; on top of a bit of chicken – breast for him, leg for me; and everywhere else you use a little pesto, it’s a very versatile flavour booster.
You could change all of these ingredients and get very different variations. The oil could be any of the cheaper vegetable oils, or a fancy pants walnut, hazelnut or avocado one, all contributing their flavours.
The sage leaves could be basil, mint, parsley, lemon balm or very very finely chopped rosemary. Or a mixture of course.
Use dried apricots, currants, figs, dates or mango in place of the raisins, or just leave them out.
Swap out the pumpkin seeds for sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, ground almonds, walnuts, Brazil’s or hazelnuts.
Use mature or cheapy cheddar in place of the Parmesan, or any other cheese you have and want to use. The hard cheeses would give a similar result with the flavour of the cheese. A soft, Brie type, cheese, would give a much creamier result. Or if you want to make it vegan, either use a vegan alternative type cheese, or leave it out. It is already gluten free, and without the cheese, dairy free too. And if you use seeds rather than nuts, nut free as well.
The zest and juice of an orange would be good, or lime.
You could just leave out any one, or possibly two, of the ingredients if you don’t fancy it or don’t have it.
Other possible additions include black or green olives, not too many of those or you will have tapenade; a little anchovy fillet; a sun dried tomato or three or a little squirt of tomato purée; a couple of capers; a couple of dried porcini mushrooms; a little miso, or anything else you want to try. Keep tasting and adjusting to get something tasty – do some variations and it will be different every time!
30g sage leaves, 70p
50g raisins, 84p/500g, 8p
50g pumpkin seeds, £125/150g, 42p
50g Parmesan, £2/100g, £1
125ml olive oil, &3.50/litre, 44p
Zest and juice of a medium lemon, 35p
Generous black pepper
Total cost if you buy everything – £2.99 for 405g.
MySupermarket shows Tesco selling Sacla pesto at £2.40’ish for 190g, and their own green pesto at £1.49 for 280g. So even a cheap pesto is almost twice as much, and that assumes you buy your herbs. Bargaintastic!
I would keep this in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Any longer than that and it would need to be frozen, either directly in the jar, or you could use ice cube trays. Freeze them, then pop them out and put in a bag and keep in the freezer ready for when you want a couple.