A New Take on Pesto

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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I[/dropcap] love Winter. The frosty mornings. The crisp clear days. Snuggling up by the fire with a good book and a glass of red.

And then there’s the food. Soups and slow cooked delights. Self saucing ginger puddings with ice cream.

If I was forced to choose my favourite season it would be a toss up between Winter and Autumn (Fall).

That being said, it’s about this time of year when I get a little nostalgic for long, sultry Summer evenings. And not having to pile on wellies and layers just to go and feed the chooks.

I also get a little nostalgic for basil. Especially in the form of verdant green pesto.

Of course, I can still buy bunches of basil at an exorbitant price all throughout the Winter but it’s just not the same.

The good news is I’ve discovered a Winter-friendly alternative. If you’re a stickler for tradition, it’s probably best if you stop reading now and check back next week.

But if you like to try new things, read on!

It uses mint and almonds instead of basil and pine nuts. And it’s just the thing to liven up Winter soups and stews.

Although if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment and are sick of eating basil, this could be just the thing for you too!

I can also imagine it sitting proudly on an outdoor table waiting to accompany a piece of fish or chicken from a Summer evening BBQ…

What about you?

What’s your favourite season and seasonal foods? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

mint & almond pesto-2

Mint & Almond Pesto

Serve this pesto pretty much any where you’d serve regular pesto. Dollop on soups or salads. Use as a sauce for pan fried fish, chicken breasts or even steak. My personal favourite is to team it with lamb… Either lamb cutlets cooked until still rosy pink or slow roast lamb shoulder literally melting off the bone. It’s also great to liven up some steamed green beans or peas.

Enough for about 1 cup
large bunch mint, leaves picked
1 small clove garlic
3 handfuls almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Whizz mint, garlic and almonds in a food processor until finely chopped.

2. Add oil and a little lemon juice and mix. Taste and season with salt, pepper and extra lemon if needed.

summery – replace mint with basil. You can replace the almonds with pine nuts but I’m also a fan of cashews because they’re delicious and much more affordable.

nut-free – replace almonds with half soft breadcrumbs and half finely grated parmesan.

other herbs – flat leaf parsley, carrot tops, coriander (cilantro) are all possibilities. I’m also a fan of a little bit of sage or oregano combined with parsley.

garlic-free – sometimes I can’t be bothered with garlic and it’s still lovely but I do find it needs more salt and lemon to make up for that garlicky sharpness.

no food processor – just finely chop everything and stir together for a more rustic chunky pesto.

With love,
Jules x
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  • This comes right on time! I seem not to be able to grow a decent bunch of basil, but the mint is doing extremely well, so this one will be on my list. Is there a way to preserve it? How long would it hold in the fridge, or is there a way to make it have some sort of shelf life?

  • I have been making my pesto with walnuts for a while and I love it, we also get something called baerlauch in the spring here in Switzerland and it’s a form of garlic tasting leaves with a basil like texture which I find especially fantastic for a garlic free pesto, will try this minty alternative as we are getting a winter like summer here too and my basil looks pretty sad in the garden :)

  • I always do a mixed herb pesto in winter, also often includes rocket, loads of parsley a tiny bit of rosemary, I never add cheese as it is more versatile without and I add cheese to the dish if it needs it. I also usually add some sunflower seeds and pepitas

  • Love alternatives to traditional pesto, especially as pine nuts are so expensive in France…even in comparison to almonds, which are not cheap either. I have the same question as Elvira, how successfully does it keep?

  • Give me Winter over a sweltering hot Summer any day! I do love basil though and my Greek basil is still green and productive [here in Sydney]. I still made a batch of pesto and froze it just in case. It’s easy to cut off a chunk even when frozen because of the oil content – I just take it out the freezer and let it “relax” a little. I forget I have it sometimes then I get a nice surprise when I have nothing in the fridge and have to raid the freezer:-) I also use half-half pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Much the same flavour but not quite as rich.

    I also make pesto with rocket and toasted pistachios. Very tasty!

  • I can’t find pine nuts here, so YAY for this timely alternative! I never knew!!

    And while I’m here, I’d like to say thanks for adding the “Mise-en-place” section to the meal planner. I prepped the mushrooms on Sunday and made the mushroom & goat cheese salad in under 10 minutes on Monday. I only had a 30 minute window to make & eat supper. Like so many of the menu ideas, I thought uck, but I’ll try it anyway. And of course, it was delicious AND satisfied my hunger.

    You’re an angel, Jules. Thanks!

  • I love the idea of using cashews in place of pine nuts for pesto, and also having a garlic free option. I also love the idea of mint pesto with lamb instead of mint jelly – it’s healthier and more appetizing to me.

    My favorite season is spring, with all the flowers and rebirth/renewal going on. I live in the desert, so I get it twice a year – the usual time, plus we get wonderful flowers in September at the end of our rainy season. I guess my favorite seasonal food for spring is asparagus. But I like so many things it’s hard to choose just one.

  • oh yes i prefer fall and winter too
    roasted vegetables and roots and pumpkinsoup and carrotsoup
    all the hot chocolate and tea by the fireside
    and my inner child loves the long evenings the candles and cookies
    and all this christmas stuff
    but i’m a little sad too that now days getting shorter and soon i will not be able to walk with the dogs before i go to the office
    love this pesto and try it at weekend bbq
    thanks for your inspiration
    lg birgit

  • For winter my favourite recipe is Macadamia and apple crumble adapted for a gluten free diet.
    • 6 Green Apples

    Crumble mixture

    1 cup plain gluten free flour
    • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
    • 125g macadamias chopped
    • 100g melted butter
    • ½ cup gluten free rolled oats
    • 1teaspoon cinnamon

    • Peel, core and slice apples thickly and place in a greased ovenproof dish.

    • Mix flour, sugar, macadamias, rolled oats and cinnamon in a bowl. Add melted butter and mix thoroughly to combine.

    • Scatter crumble mixture over fruit.

    • Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade for 30-35 minutes until the topping is crisp and golden.

  • I love pesto, I’ve never made it with almonds and I usually use walnuts as a cheaper alternative to pine nuts. I love my basil pesto but I made a sundried tomato pesto for the first time last week, it was yummy. I can’t have dairy so to make my pesto cheesy I had a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast.

  • I love pesto, and mint, so will definitely have to give this a try!

    I make pesto with leftover coriander (you know how it lasts 3 minutes in the fridge!?) – it’s a great way of using up leftover coriander, stores well in the freezer and makes a delicious quick dinner! I just process it with some garlic and a little bit of olive oil (enough so it turns into a paste) – and add more oil when I’m using it. Yummy :)

  • So I have made pesto in the traditional way: lot of oil and less herbs, I use olive oil, parmesan and basil. I firstly put the oil to heat then add the basil until I start to see the herb a little toast, after I pour everything into the blender and add some garlic and +. And then again to the heat. My question is does your kind of pesto need to heat and boil? also I think it’s sort of healthy pesto (great) You could plant basil:)

    • No heating Pali… I’ve never thought of heating pesto.. Would really change the flavours… Interesting

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