I love parsley. I’m not happy until my garden grows herbs, especially parsley. And the challenge of parsley is that it’s a slow grower and it can be temperamental. My mum also always had parsley in her garden – some of my earliest culinary memories are of being sent to pick parsley – usually just as she was about to serve dinner. She, however, only grew the curly parsley and used it mostly as a garnish and for parsley sauce. I, on the other hand, prefer to grow the flat leaf, Italian parsley – it has a stronger flavour. Parsley is also a fabulous flavour enhancer, so if you are short of a particular herb, add parsley!
The Prima Donna
Given parsley’s prima donna status (in my experience, anyway), when it just grows, one just let’s it grow as it’s likely to thrive while one’s seedlings, carefully nurtured, and planted in the optimum position just do ok. So, we have self-sewn parsley all over the garden and when our red onion seedlings needed to be planted out, The Husband had to negotiate a parsley plant – in more ways than one!
Pesto al limone e prezzemolo
It seemed such a waste to hoick out such a beautiful plant and not do anything with it (…the Scottish blood and all that jazz…), so I decided to make Pesto al limone e prezzemolo (aka parsley and lemon pesto). This is a divine, fresh and versatile pesto, and which has just deepened my love affair with parsley. I now try to have a permanent stock of this in the fridge. We use it as the foundation for basting sauces for fish (we braai* fish regularly); when we roast a chicken (on the Weber, of course), I usually make a stuffing to go under the skin of the breast, and Pesto al limone e prezzemolo is now the base on which I build this stuffing. It’s also divine on warm bread…..
The recipe comes from Katie Caldesi’s The Italian Cookery Course which was a gift for my 50th birthday from good friend and graphic designer, Jaynie Lea. This is also the book from which I have learned important tips that have improved my home-made pasta and inspired me to start making pizza dough and bread. But more of those, anon….
To make this pesto, you need equal quantities of dry bread crumbs (stale ciabatta is best) and parsley, zest and juice of a lemon, a clove of garlic as well as olive oil. Whizz all of this together until you have a paste and then either use immediately or store. The olive oil and the vitamin C content of both the parsley and the lemon add to the shelf life, so this keeps well.
- If you are short of parsley leaves, do use the stalks (the whole parsley plant is parsley-flavoured), but before adding them to your food processor, chop them a bit otherwise you’ll be left with pesto with parsley stalks!
- To make breadcrumbs, put slices of bread into a cool oven (about 40°C) for an hour or so, or until it’s dry, and then whizz in a food processor. If the crumbs are still “damp” put them on a baking tray and back into the oven for a little longer.
- And pesto is a great way to use up herbs towards the end of summer to use through the winter – if you make sure that peso is always “sealed” with a good layer of olive oil, they keep much longer than one expects – just another Katie Caldesi tip!
And Jayne, thank you for the gift that keeps on giving – I still get a thrill when my produce looks like the picture in the book – and the passata, below, was my first attempt – last year!
…and you see that “Fiona’s Favourites” was already “branding” my produce…
* this is the Afrikaans and South African word for “barbecue”