In my humble opinion, everything savoury tastes better with pesto on it.
And you are not able to palm me off with a jar. Absolutely not. Not when it’s THIS easy to make guys.
I’m not one for a jar of pesto. It’s always this dish water green residue that browns within milliseconds of cracking the lid and when you think you can make a super quick jar of your own pesto with the flick of a switch, why bother with a jar?
Pesto adds a WHOMP THERE IT IS factor to everything. Yes. I said Whomp There It Is.
I spread it in sandwiches, drop it into soups, drizzle it over salad, shove it into chicken carcasses… it adds a brand new depth to the meal.
I’ve seen so many variations on a pesto that sometimes I just crave the simplicity of the original. A complicated tangle of flavours brought together in a simple, fresh blitz. I’ve varied the nuts, I’ve varied the oils, I’ve played around with the cheeses but one thing I can’t co-sign is replacing the basil.
Basil, for me, is the familiar hug of pesto. Without the basil, it’s just a herb dressing, right? I want pesto. A pesto without basil is like a bacon sandwich using turkey bacon. Sure, I see what you’re doing but NO… this ISN’T a bacon sandwich!
However swapping around the nuts can definitely provide a welcome twist without ever disrespecting the fundamental flavour. Enter dry roast peanuts.
I was inspired to make this when my Line Manager told me about a pesto he often makes called ‘Ancient Pesto’. Sure, his version involved ginger and chillies and sesame oil and coriander and a whole host of Eastern influence ingredients but the ingredient that really got me in a meerkat pose was the addition of dry roasted peanuts.
Replacing the buttery pine nuts with the hearty smoke of dry roast nuts made total sense. It was as if you weren’t taking away the soul of the pesto, but instead lighting it on fire. I was so intrigued.
So inspired by the concept of ‘Ancient Pesto’ but meeting the twist somewhere in the middle, this pesto has served me very well.
Before we start, I make this pesto in a food processor for laziness but this can easily be done with a pestle and mortar, which I tend to do when I’m feeling ‘rustic’… or when I’ve been to the gym and I’m feeling solid.
Throw 125g of dry roast peanuts in a food processor and blitz them to a fine rubble. Do this before adding the rest of your ingredients as you need the nuts as blitzed as possible as the base.
Now add a big hefty handful of fresh basil, 1 clove of garlic, 200ml of extra virgin olive oil, the zest and juice of one lemon, some salt and some pepper. Blitz this in.
If you find the pesto needs to be slightly chunkier, add a little more basil. Taste the pesto before you’re done to make sure you’ve got the right balance of flavours, adding more lemon juice if you want it sharper or more salt if you want it spikier.
This will keep in the fridge for a good week or so under a small layer of oil.
Whip it out as often as possible. Top tip top – spread this on some bread and dip it into a good Broccoli & Stilton Soup. Game changer.