Pesto Pasta

This is a pasta dish that hits the spot and is ready in next to no time.  You can use any pasta you like, but I like the fusilli twirled pasta for this, as the sauce gets stuck into the grooves with it.

This dish is reasonably healthy too and is cost effective, especially if you grow lots of basil like myself.  I also like the fact that most of this is store cupboard ingredients, and so is great for making when you are stuck with knowing what to cook.

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 Bunches of Basil – remove the leaves from the stalks
  • 100ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Seasalt – a couple of good pinches
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove
  • 50g Pine Nuts
  • 3 Large Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pasta of your choice (80g per person)
  • Vine cherry tomatoes on top to decorate (optional).

Boil your pasta to the packet instructions.  Whilst it is cooking you can make the pesto sauce.  In a food processor place all the ingredients except the tomatoes and blitz until fairly smooth.  You may need to stop a couple of times and go around the edge of the bowl with a spatula.  Leave the pesto to rest a few minutes, you will see that it will thicken slightly.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return it to the warm pan.  Do not put the saucepan back on the stove.  Place the pesto in with the pasta and mix well, ensuring it is all fully coated in the pesto mix.

Serve in bowls and add some vine tomatoes on top.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tomato Soup

This went down a storm in my cookery demo this morning, and is a favourite soup in our house.  Quick to make and utterly delicious as well as not costing you much, so you cannot go wrong.  Always try to buy premium canned tomatoes where possible.  You can also substitute a couple of items should you wish.

 

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Ingredients

1 Can of tomatoes ( I use a real good quality brand)
Glug of olive oil
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Garlic clove crushed
Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Sugar
400 mls of vegetable or chicken stock
200 mls of milk
Handful of fresh basil leaves
(Optional) Good dollop of creme fraiche or a swirl of cream

In a medium saucepan add the olive oil, onion and garlic and sweat gently until the onions go translucent looking. Add the tomatoes, sugar, stock and pepper then cook gently with a lid on for ten minutes. Then add the milk and basil leaves and continue to simmer for five minutes. Then use a food processor or hand blender and whizz until you have the consistency you like. If too thick for you, just add a little hot water from your kettle to loosen it. You can also put it through a sieve to get an extra silky smooth soup. Eat this as it is, or add some creme fraiche or cream.

Power Of Herbs – Basil

I absolutely love cooking with herbs.  I am not the only one who enjoys eating them either, as my ten month old Patterdale terrier puppy has munched his way through my whole herb garden!  The evidence can be seen below… His particular favourites are rosemary and basil.

IMG_0063There was nothing left and so I have had to replant everything, in an area that is now out of his way.  Basil is one of the herbs that I constantly use, as I just cannot resist fresh pesto or my ultimate favourite Caprese salad, ‘Salad of Capri.’  Caprese salad is not cooking, but about sourcing great fresh ingredients.  It goes without saying that the mozzarella has to be of a great quality and the tomatoes must be just right.  I will give you an advanced warning; if you serve me a Caprese salad with stone cold tomatoes from out of the fridge, I will send it back.  Tomatoes need to taste like they have been kissed by warm mediterranean sunshine, not have had a trip to Antarctica. Fresh basil leaves are also a must.

caprese salad (1)

As well as loving the taste of basil, the nutritional and health benefits are of great interest to me.  For years, friends have been asking me about the benefits of different herbs and spices.  Many people dismiss the idea that certain foods can help with ailments but I always say, there is no harm in trying.  Take for example cranberries, which many women drink to help with urinary tract infections.  It works for many of them, so why should the same not apply to other foods?  Will it work overnight? Probably not, but over time and being integrated into your diet, you may just see a change.  Please let me know if you have used herbs, spices and foods to help with any ailment you have suffered with, as it is always interesting to hear your views.

Going back to basil, it has many different properties.  It has a high level of Vitamin K which is good for blood clotting. It is also thought to help inflammation and swelling, is rich in anti-oxidants and anti aging properties.  All this information is not new, for throughout history it has been used to assist with a number of disorders such as :-

  • Nausea
  • Hypertension
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular
  • Skin Pimples
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Gastric disorders

There is even a suggestion that it could be used to help treat tuberculosis amongst many other things. I will not bore you with the exact science behind it all, as the way that basil is used to help with such ailments differs.  Some use different species of basil; others require the oil or digestion of it.

Put simply, basil is a great addition to our diets and can be grown simply on a kitchen window.  If you are suffering from any of the above medical conditions, then I must add the caveat to keep with your GP or doctor’s advice; but I would  also explore the possibilities of self-help by improving or altering your diet.  Many doctors have been baffled as to how I have managed to make certain medical problems of my own better, refusing to believe that a changed diet or lifestyle played a part.  That is such a shame as the only one who seems to benefiting at the moment is the pharmaceutical companies, and not patients.

 

Emily