I'm going to extol the virtues of using a pesto substitute using ingredients that are not only easily shop bought, but that are all able to grow in Britain with our slightly less clement climate!
If you choose to use wild garlic leaves rather than shop bought garlic in your Pesto recipe (which will give it a fresher and definitely more locally sourced angle!), please use common sense when retrieving the garlic leaves outside. There are a number of websites dedicated to foraging for this wild ingredient and getting landowner’s permission before foraging, being safe where you forage and being responsible (not greedy) should all take president over all else.
Here is a useful link to explain a bit more about Wild Garlic: [http://britishfood.about.com/od/glossary/g/wildgarlic.htm]
This recipe set should stand you in good stead for a few springtime dishes with pasta or as we will see below, using pearl barley and walnuts.
The pesto recipe will make a batch with which you can experiment, making your own dishes from pasta, lentils or anything that takes your imagination!
Ingredients (makes enough for multiple servings):
1 large handful of Coriander
1 large handful of Parsley (flat leaf or curly)
1 large handful of wild garlic or 3 cloves of garlic
100g of Lancashire Cheese
1 large handful of hazelnuts or walnuts
5 tablespoons of Rapeseed oil or Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
What to do:
1. Wash and chop the coriander, parsley and wild garlic, place into a blender or food processor and add the salt and oil, gently blitz the ingredients, adding a little more oil to the mix as you go.
2. Chop the cheese into small 1cm pieces and crush the nuts before adding them to the mix in the blender or food processor.
3. Once a fine paste like consistency has been achieved, spoon the ‘pesto’ mix into a jar to be stored in the refrigerator. This will keep for a couple of weeks without problem.
This British pesto style paste can be used in multiple recipes; for a quick tasty snack try spooning a couple of teaspoons onto some lightly toasted bread with a few pieces of extra cheese for a different take on cheese on toast. Alternatively, give one of the two recipes below a whirl for a delicious meal….
This recipe makes a fine side dish for roast meats or even a good vegetarian option for a meal on its own.
British Pesto with Pearl Barley (makes 1 meal or two small dishes)
90g pearl barley
2 table spoons of the British Pesto
small handful of crushed walnuts, lightly toasted
50g grated Lancashire or Cheshire cheese
2-3 stalks of coriander, finely chopped
4-5 stems of chives, finely chopped
What to do:
1. Rinse the pearl barley with cold water through a sieve before boiling in 5/6 parts of water to 1 part of the barley. Bring to the boil, skim the starch scum off the top of the water and leave to simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
2. Grate the cheese of your choice (Lancashire or Cheshire tend to work best, as they compliment the Pesto) and finely chop the coriander (removing the stalks) and chives.
3. Once the pearl barley is soft enough in texture, remove from the heat, drain and rinse again with warm water. Pour the pearl barley into a bowl and combined with the cheese and the Pesto thoroughly so as to evenly coat the barley as much as possible. Now add the chopped chives and coriander.
4. Plate up, sprinkling any remaining chopped herbs and the crushed walnuts over the barley.
3-4 Scallops (hand dived or responsibly sourced)
1 Green Pepper
1 small green chilli
2-3 Tablespoons of British Pesto
50g of diced unsmoked pancetta
Salt and Pepper
1. Rinse the scallops in cold water and then pat dry, place them in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking.
2. Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, allow this to heat before adding the pancetta to the pan.
3. Start to boil the linguine in a separate saucepan, ensure that all the strands do not stick together and are separate throughout. It should take 10-15 minutes for pre-packed linguine, drain the water off and allow to steam briefly by putting the lid onto the pan, removing from the heat.
4. Fry the pancetta until the individual pieces are crisp and browned, now add the green chilli and green peppers sliced julienne and fry for 2 minutes stiring around the pan on a low heat. Add the scallops to the pan, turning the heat up very high and pushing the pancetta to one side to allow control over the scallops for cooking. The scallops should only take about 90 seconds each side to cook.
5. Add the 2-3 Tablespoons of the pesto paste to the linguine (ensuring that is ‘dry’ – no residual water is left in the saucepan with it) and stir through, evenly coating the strands of pasta.
6. Add the pancetta, peppers and chilli to the linguine and stir through, plate these up and then place the scallops onto the bed of pasta.
7. Serve immediately, perhaps with a glass of Sancerre, Chablis, Gruner Veltliner or an un-oaked Italian Chardonnay.
I hope these recipes give you some scope in the kitchen going into Spring!