Home > Cooking with Herbs > Cooking with Basil

Cooking with Basil

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Dec 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Cooking With Basil

Fragrant, Mediterranean-scented Basil brings sunshine and sparkle to the kitchen. From fresh pesto to tomato soup, many recipes depend on this bright herb to transform the ordinary into the gourmet. If you’ve grown your own this year, try one of our recipes – favourite bruschetta or home-made pesto – and benefit from the just-picked taste that you can’t get in a supermarket.

Growing Basil

Basil likes a sunny climate, so it’s best grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. If you live in the milder south, it’s possible to grow basil in the summer outdoors. Start off the seeds in April, sowing lightly on seed compost and covering finely. Put in a warm spot and keep the soil damp (water into the tray, so you don’t disturb the seeds). Thin out the seedlings to give the best a bit more room, and pot on when the seedlings have 3-5 true leaves. Put the pots in the greenhouse or plant out in a sheltered, sunny spot.

Don’t let the basil flower, as this alters the taste and prevents the plant from putting energy into leaf production. Pick leaves as you need them and, towards the end of the season, harvest the plants – use fresh if you can.

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

Fresh pesto is completely different to the manufactured type that you can buy from the chiller cabinet. In Italy, home cooks are fiercely defensive of their own pesto recipe – and some villages celebrate special pesto-making festivals. This simple sauce is one of the very finest ways to dress good pasta – a perfect summer lunch. It’s absolutely worth giving this a try.

You need:

  • 250g picked basil (try not to bruise it yet).
  • 1 clove garlic.
  • 40g pine kernels, toasted in a dry frying pan
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • 40g Parmesan, freshly grated.
  • 200-300ml good olive oil.

Use a pestle and mortar to first crush the garlic with the salt. (Tip: if you are not keen on garlic, just rub a cut clove around the inside of your mortar before continuing with the nuts.) Add the pine nuts and continue to grind together until you have a medium-coarse, sandy texture. Now start adding the basil leaves, a few at a time – they will quickly wilt down. Once you’ve crushed the leaves well (check for stringy bits), stir in the cheese and use a fork or spoon to whisk in the olive oil, quickly, to produce a thick green emulsion. Don’t overwork the pesto – as soon as the oil’s in, it’s ready to serve. Great over freshly-cooked linguine.

Basil Bruschetta Recipe

If you can lay your hands on fresh tomatoes as well as fresh basil, make this classic Italian treat. Traditionally served as part of the antipasto, it also makes a lovely summer lunch.

You need:

  • 500g ripe tomatoes.
  • 1 clove garlic.
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Handful fresh basil.
  • Sugar, salt and pepper.
  • 1 loaf French or Ciabatta bread

Dice the tomatoes straight into a roomy bowl. Taste to see if they need a little extra sugar to enhance the sweetness. Dress them with the vinegar and oil, and stir in the crushed garlic. Tear the basil finely with your hands and stir into the mixture. Season to taste and cover the bowl with clingfilm; put it in a warm place, like a sunny windowsill, for as long as possible to let the flavours warm up and mingle. When ready to serve, slice the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Toast or griddle it and arrange the slices on a large platter. Put a spoonful of tomato on each piece and serve with extra olive oil, if you like.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Mamie - Your Question:
Can pine kernels be omitted or be replaced by other nuts as cashew or almond?

Our Response:
Yes, it gives a different flavour but we know this certainly works with cashew nuts.
HerbExpert - 14-Dec-15 @ 2:45 PM
Can pine kernels be omitted or be replaced by other nuts as cashew or almond?
Mamie - 14-Dec-15 @ 1:20 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • McKate1973
    Re: Growing Mint
    I've just gone into my communal garden to check on the progress of my mint which had just started to shoot up only to find the little boy next door has…
    13 April 2017
  • Phyllis
    Re: Growing and Harevesting Borage
    Can I cut borage plant back in the spring; if so, how much?
    8 April 2017
  • HerbExpert
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    Alcina - Your Question:MARTNAMM: assuming it's a specimen in a pot, not one you grew from seed, you can start chopping leaves off right away,…
    24 March 2017
  • HerbExpert
    Re: Cooking with Thyme
    Ann - Your Question:We've all done it.Oops! Too much herb in the pot. Add liquid.water, stock, wine, vinegar or a combo. Maybe a pinch of…
    23 March 2017
  • Ann
    Re: Cooking with Thyme
    We've all done it...Oops! Too much herb in the pot. Add liquid...water, stock, wine, vinegar or a combo. Maybe a pinch of sugar. If what I'm…
    22 March 2017
  • Alcina
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    MARTNAMM: assuming it's a specimen in a pot, not one you grew from seed, you can start chopping leaves off right away, in fact if you want you…
    21 March 2017
  • Kaz F
    Re: Growing Horseradish
    Hi every summer my horseradish leaves get eaten, end up looking skeletal I've now put raspberry canes next to H.R. Will they be ok and what…
    5 February 2017
  • MARTNAMM
    Re: Growing Bay Leaves
    hw long does bay leaves tree take to begin harvesting.
    26 December 2016
  • none
    Re: Cooking with Sage
    What do I use to get too much sage in chicken and rice soup.
    3 December 2016
  • none
    Re: Cooking with Sage
    How do I get too much sage out of chicken and rice soup?
    3 December 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HerbExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.