Saturday, 14 August 2010

Cut and dry...



...or what to do with an abundance of basil. The pots on the terrace sit there all day soaking up the sun, creating the most glorious perfumed waft as you brush past. My mother kept a jar of dried basil in her cupboard. Untouched, dried, tired and possessing as much of the fragrance of the fresh herb as cinders. This need not be. This year we have so much basil I have experimented very successfully with home drying the leaves. Cut branches and leave them to dry on a tray or in a bowl. After about a week the leaves will crispen up, at this point separate the leaves from the stalks and discard the stalks. Continue the drying out process until the leaves crumble in your fingers. Put the crumbled leaves in a pestle and mortar and grind them coarsely. Put them in an airtight spice jar until ready to use.
The combination of fresh and dried basil sprinkled over a tricolore salad gives it a subtle lift. Sprinkled over the top of a pizza, fresh from the oven just before serving gives an aroma of an Italian kitchen.

The best way to store basil in the freezer


Stuff 55g of of fresh basil leaves into your food processor or blender. Process with enough fruity olive oil to make a stiff paste, about 5-6 tablespoons. Freeze in small containers and store for up to three months. Bring it out of the freezer in the winter and give yourself a heady reminder of the summer just gone by.

1. A great base for making pesto.

2.Use it for sauces or dips

3. Blend it with soft creamy goats cheese, and spread it over slices of bread
as a healthy alternative to buttering a sandwich

4. Stir it into hot plain rice, risottos, mash

5. Stir it into winter vegetable soup to create a summer flavour

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