Tag Archives: Pesto

Sweltering Summers Day Lunch

27 Jun

Salmon with Asparagus and Spinach

In years gone by, the asparagus season would have been long over by now. I am sure that British Asparagus will be running out soon, but I am enjoying it while I am around. I prepared this dish with the assistance of my friend Matt, who conveniently is a chef, and his wife Helen.

This happened to be my birthday lunch, and as I was anticipating a delicious restaurant dinner with my husband, I wanted an easy, quick and healthy lunch.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 fillet of salmon per person
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus per person
  • 1 bag of spinach (will serve 2/3)
  • chopped garlic
  • butter
  • pesto or lemon and mayo to serve

METHOD

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.While it is heating up, place the salmon fillets in a ovenproof dish. You want to poach them, so fill the dish with some water (or white wine if you are feeling extravagant), to about 1 cm depth and cover with foil.Trim the ends from the asparagus, place in a ovenproof dish, drizzle with oil, adding a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. Leave uncovered.Both dishes will take 8/10 minutes. The trick with salmon is not to overcook it, or it becomes dry. You want the fish to still be slightly pink in the middle. Check after 8 minutes, and if it’s not quite there stick it back in the oven. My advice is to use a timer for those last couple of minutes, as its so easy to be distracted and overcook the fish by accident.

While the fish and asparagus are cooking, grab a jar of good quality mayo, decant some into a dish and mix in the zest of a lemon. Alternatively, put some fresh pesto out to serve on the fish. Melt 50/50 butter and oil (about 1 tbsp) in a pan then add garlic on a gently heat for 1/2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add fresh spinach and allow it to wilt (keep turning). Turn heat off once wilted. If I serve this with lemon mayo, I cut the zested lemon into wedges to serve on the side.

Lay the table and pour yourself a glass of chilled rose (or whatever tipple takes your fancy). By now the fish should be done, so all you need to do, is serve, then relax and enjoy.

Pesto Presto

27 Apr

Hands up those of you that get your pesto out of a jar? For years I used to buy the slightly muddy green coloured stuff that’s sold in the supermarket for less than a cappuccino. It’s quite nice, if you haven’t tasted the real deal. But once I had tried the delicious fresh version sold in deli’s there was no going back. There is only one snag, which now I am not working is quite a big one. It’s very expensive. At the place I used to go to it now costs £4.50 for a tiny container which I think is about 150g worth. Now I may have champagne tastes, but at the moment I am definitely living on a Cava income.

I have to confess that I might be slightly keener on Pesto than most. In fact, when my son David’s gorgeous Australian godmother stayed with us in spring 2007, at the end of the trip she remarked ‘if there is one thing that I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that I didn’t know you could use pesto in so many different ways! Ok ok. At the time I was working. I had 3 different varieties in the fridge and it was a great and quick way to add flavour to a dish. So we had, various types of fish with pesto, chicken with pesto, pasta with pesto, quick home-made bruschetta with pesto…you get the idea.

A few months ago, when I wandered past a couple of large bags of basil going cheap, I decided to take the plunge and make my own. It is amazing. And for the same price as a small pat of the fancy stuff from the deli, I can make a large jar at least 3 times the size. It takes less than 5 minutes. So what are you waiting for?

Don’t be too worried if you don’t have the exact amounts of all the ingredients here. I vary the combinations depending on what I happen to have to hand. Sometimes a few less pine nuts or a bit less cheese. It still works.

Method

Approx 1/2 packet pine nuts (around 50g). I toast them by dry frying them in a pan, but if you don’t have time then miss out this step.

150ml extra virgin olive oil

1 dessertspoon of ready chopped fresh garlic (I buy it frozen)

80g basil (this just happens to be the amount in a packet sold at the supermarket). Wash. Give a quick twist to the bunched stalks and remove the majority of stalks in the middle.

teaspoon natural sea salt flakes

approx 50g hard cheese like parmesan, finely grated. I use a variation of any of the following, parmesan, pecorino,grana padano

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz (by pulsing). Be careful not to over process.

Place in sterilized jar and cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil. This should last for at least a week in the fridge.

Tips

Make sure that the jar you use is clean and sterilized. On one occasion I didn’t bother to sterilize the jar and had mould growing within days. What a waste!

Once you have put it in a jar, cover it with a layer of oil to stop the top of it oxidising and going brown.

If you are not sure how quickly you will use it and worry about it going off, then freeze it in an ice-cube tray. It freezes brilliantly and then you can just get a small amount out at a time.

If I don’t have fresh garlic (or I cannot be bothered to peel and chop it) I reach for the bag of helpfully, peeled and chopped frozen garlic in the freezer (most supermarkets sell this).

Money savers

Basil can be quite expensive, as can pine nuts, so for a bit of a change make a rocket pesto. Replace the basil with rocket leaves (I still add a little basil for flavour), and use walnuts instead of pine nuts.

If you like something a little fiery  instead of basil use sun-dried tomatoes with a sprinkle of chillies (again I buy the frozen jalapenos)

Pesto Ingredients

The finished product. My home-made pesto

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