Pesto alla Poly Tunnel

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August 21, 2018

Like many, I think I might have overdone it a bit on the tomato planting in the poly tunnel yet again this year, so any way of preserving them in their semi fresh state is to be jumped at. My basil is also entering its 'use it or lose it' stage so when Rachel Roddy started eulogizing about the about pest alla trapanese in the Guardian a few weeks ago when I was on the verge of binning bucket loads of its two main ingredients, I sat up and took notice. The third ingredient, almonds are far cheaper than pine nuts, but I still couldn't resist substituting a part ration of sunflower seeds. That seemed to work, leaving the possibility of swapping olive oil for rapeseed oil, for a true Pesto alla Brexit. Rightly or wrongly, I've always been a bit wary of the neonicotinoid/rapeseed connection so tend to avoid it, but I'm sure it would work.

A brief online search revealed that the Pesto Trapanese recipe is about as loose as they come - the main areas of divergence being the amount of garlic and whether or not to add a pecorino type cheese. I quickly decided that the cheese was best left until the end but the garlic was more difficult. Rachel Roddy's 1-3 cloves seemed more reasonable than others' 6-10 but whilst the latter puts me in quarantine for a week the former was a bit insipid. Tempering the full amount by lightly roasting might seem cowardly but it bought about benefits in terms of body, depth and untuosity (good word).

I imagine it would be good with pasta but it never gets further than a piece of toast in my house - maybe with a slice or two of griddled courgette - I have an abundance of those too.


100 g bunch of basil

60 g blanched almonds

60 g sunflower seeds

10 unpeeled garlic cloves


250 ml olive oil

400 g ripe tomatoes, peeled, desseded and left in a colander to drain


1Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Spread the almonds and sunflower seeds on a tray and roast at 180°C until they begin to brown.

2Separate the basil stalks and leaves. Bin any stalks that look too woody.

3Blitz the remaining stalks, nuts, seeds, garlic and half of the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and basil leaves and pulse to a rough, slightly chunky paste. Mix in the remaining olive oil.

4I'm sure that if you pot up in a sterile jar and cover with olive oil, it would keep in the fridge for several weeks. Any longer and you'd have to give it the water bath treatment which would probably dull the flavours a little but with all those tomatoes going begging and winter coming, I think I can live with that. Or freeze!