In Season Series: Basil Pesto

Basil is a perfect match in the kitchen as well as in the garden, and if you plant them between tomato plants it is said they even make tomatoes taste better!

In Australia, Basil grows from Spring through to Autumn when the weather is warm. Basil prefers to be watered in the morning rather than at night. You can easily keep your basil organic by spraying the leaves with organic insecticidal soap if they are attacked by whitefly or greenfly. When harvesting basil, pick young leaves regularly from the tips - this encourages new growth and young leaves have more flavour.


Zesty Basil Pesto


-1 ½ cup freshly picked basil leaves
-½ cup raw cashews
-2 small garlic cloves
-½ cup grated parmesan cheese
-6 tablespoons olive oil
-Juice of half a lemon


Pre-heat the oven at 150°C. Scatter cashews on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes, or until golden brown. By roasting the nuts at a lower oven temperature you preserve much of the nutrients and oils found naturally in nuts, and you will also avoid having to add more olive oil at a later stage.

Gently rinse the basil leaves and set aside to dry slightly.

I feel the same way about garlic as I do about red onions: beautiful companions to a milieu of dishes, but in pesto it shouldn't be completely raw. Therefore, poach the garlic by placing them in a cup of freshly boiled water for just under a minute. Set aside to cool. After poaching, the garlic flavours are more subtle and won't override the pesto. 

Grind the nuts in a food processor, gently adding the basil leaves and parmesan cheese. With the blade running, carefully drizzle some of the olive oil in the mixture, alternating with lemon juice until the mixture has enough moisture to blend smoothly.

I prefer basil pesto as a paste rather than an oily sauce, but you can take liberty in how much olive oil you would like to add. Lemon juice is a great addition to any pesto, since the natural acids and Vitamin C found in citrus prevents browning, and keeps your pesto looking fresher for longer.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and remember to remove in advance to enjoy at room temperature.

Embrace the warmer summer days by having pesto on fresh tomatoes, salads and pasta.