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Spicy Thai-style Pesto

Preparation Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 0 minutes Yield: 300ml

Dear wife Eppie has been banging on at me about making pesto. We’ve got this enormous perennial basil bush growing in the back garden, and because it is so vigorous, it sprouts leaves at a rate of knots. If it is left to its own devices, and the leaves not harvested, it eventually goes to seed, and becomes quite woody and the flavours and aromas coarsen somewhat.

Rather than make the traditional Italian style pesto that is so common – and quite fabulous with pasta by the way – I decided to do something with a bit of a bite. I remember tasting a Thai-style pesto some time back at a market stall, and I was much taken with it. From the flavours it had, it clearly contained fresh coriander, basil, chilli, Parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts and of course olive oil.

I harvested 50g of the youngest freshest perennial basil leaves I could find on the bush. The bigger darker green leaves tend to be quite pungent almost resiny in flavour which I hoped to avoid.

The coriander unfortunately did not come from my own garden. I journeyed into the village, and eventually found it at a third store I visited. Seems it’s in somewhat short supply right now.

The pine nuts I fortunately had in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight bottle. They are hideously expensive, and since they are very oily, they tend to turn rancid fairly quickly, so if you do have some in the fridge and plan to use them, taste one or two beforehand to ensure that they are still fresh. No point in ruining a whole batch of pesto now is there!

Some people do say that you can substitute pine nuts with almonds since they are less expensive, but in this instance it would definitely not work. You’d end up with a very peculiar tasting pesto.

You can make pesto in a mortar and pestle, but I used a blender jug with a variable speed motor. It’s a lot easier. I assure you.

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

50g fresh basil leaves: you cam use either perennial or sweet basil. I used perennial because of the abundance in the back garden, and because it is somewhat more pungent than sweet basil and is therefore better suited to this style of pesto. Wash the leaves thoroughly and drain well.

50g fresh coriander: depending on where you buy it, it will be in 20g or 30g packs. Wash it thoroughly and drain well. Chop it roughly just before you add it to the mix.

3 cloves fresh garlic: crushed.

50g pine nuts

1 fresh green chilli: seeds and all. Chop it roughly before adding it.

100g Parmesan cheese: grated. Or the closest substitute that the budget allows.

150ml olive oil: use the very best extra virgin clod extracted oil that you can.

Salt to taste


Add the crushed garlic, pine nuts, chilli and 50ml olive oil to the blender jug. Blitz at a medium speed until you have a puree.

Add the basil leaves and the roughly chopped coriander a handful at a time, and blend in at a medium speed.

Add the grated Parmesan and blend in thoroughly, then add the remainder of the olive oil 50ml at a time.

Blitz until just well mixed, and the consistency is fairly thick, but still pourable.

Season to taste with salt. Serve with Melba toast, or savoury biscuits. Better still, cook 500g of your favourite pasta and toss it in the pesto.

It stores well in the refrigerator in a closed container with a film of olive oil on top, for up to a week. Enjoy!

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