Basil

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If there’s pesto left over, spoon it into a jar and top with a thin layer of oil before sealing. Eat the pesto on toast with ricotta, toss it through broad beans or potato salad, and serve it with grilled lamb chops and fetta.

Blanching the parsley ensures that the pesto stays a vibrant green.

Ingredients

80 grams parsley, leaves only
80 grams basil, leaves only
100 grams mint, leaves only, plus a few extra
60 grams toasted almonds
120 grams parmesan, grated
2 small cloves garlic, sliced
200 ml olive oil, plus a little extra
salt and pepper
400 grams linguine
80 ml milk
200 grams ricotta

Method

Bring a small pot of water to the boil, add the parsley and allow to cook for 30 seconds before draining well.

Place parsley, basil, mint, almonds, parmesan, garlic and olive oil into a food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth, thick paste.

Season with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Cook linguine according to packet directions. Drain and return to hot saucepan with most of the pesto and a dash of milk. Season and serve immediately, crumbling ricotta over the top, garnishing with a few extra mint leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Crispy chicken with nam jim sauce

serves 4-6 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 20mins (approx.) inc. nam jim
main ingredient(s) chicken, wombok, , chilli, Basil, shallots,
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The humble chicken thigh is the tastiest part of the bird because it does all the work, meaning the flesh is a little darker than the breast. It’s also rather fatty, which is the secret to all that flavour. I always buy them with skin on and cook them without oil in a searing hot pan. In 15 to 20 minutes your house will be filled with the glorious scent of caramelised chicken and the thighs will be crispy, crunchy and cooked through.

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
salt and pepper
1/2 wombok
2 handfuls coriander leaves
2 handfuls holy basil leaves
2 red shallots, peeled and sliced
2 red chillies, sliced on the angle
fish sauce to taste
2 limes, juiced, plus 1 extra lime, cut in wedges
3 tablespoons crispy shallots
2 tablespoons peanuts, toasted and crushed

Method

Place a large, heavy frypan over high heat for 4 minutes then add the seasoned chicken thighs, skin-side down. Cook for 8 minutes over medium heat then turn over and cover with a piece of baking paper. Weight down the chicken pieces with another saucepan and cook for a further 6 minutes. Remove the paper and extra pan. Flip the chicken skin-side down again to crisp the skin for another couple of minutes. Absorb some of the fat with paper towels, then drizzle with nam jim. Remove from pan and pile onto a platter.

To make the salad, cut the wombok into wedges and arrange on a platter. Toss the herbs with the shallots, chilli, fish sauce, lime juice, half the crispy shallots and half the peanuts. Pile this herb mixture over the wombok wedges. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and crispy shallots. Drop on the extra lime wedges. Serve the salad with the chicken, steamed rice, and a big dipping dish of my nam jim. Giant prawn crackers are a nice addition too.

See my nam jim recipe for the dipping sauce.

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Basil pesto

serves Makes approx.
2 1/2 cups
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 20mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) Basil, parsley, parmesan
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Every time I make pesto, I reward myself by smearing some on crusty bread, then consider some of the other applications for this key summer condiment. It can be tossed with a splash of cream through any sort of pasta, then topped with a generous handful of grated parmesan or pecorino. It makes a lovely marinade for meat or fish. It’s also the mainstay of the wonderful Salad Genovese, named after Genoa, the Italian town where pesto originated.

These quantities make a decent batch. Give some away or store it in a jar with a layer of oil over the pesto to seal it from the air and stop it oxidising. On the other hand, you can also halve these quantities.

Ingredients

300 grams basil leaves, roughly chopped
100 grams parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
80 grams pine nuts
220 grams parmesan, grated
salt & pepper

Method

Place the basil, parsley and garlic in a food processor and mix to a rough paste. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oil. Pulse until just mixed then add the pine nuts and parmesan. Pulse until combined then blitz to the desired consistency. I usually like my pesto to be quite textured but you may prefer a smoother paste.

Season again and scoop into jars…and onto that crusty bread!

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Panzanella salad

serves 6 as a side
difficulty easy
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 25mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) bread, , Basil, parmesan, celery
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The salad’s success relies on luscious summer-scented tomatoes practically bursting out of their skins. The superb sweetness and acidity of ripe tomatoes is balanced with good quality olive oil and a touch of vinegar. Great bread is essential too: it has to have good, chewy body so it doesn’t become too soggy. Add to that the herbaceous assault of basil and the nutty, salty sting of parmigiano reggiano and you’ve got a summer winner.

Panzanella is lovely on its own and with baked fish and barbecued steak.

Ingredients

200 grams day-old sourdough (about four thick slices)
1 garlic clove
5 large ripe (soft is okay) tomatoes, cored and cut into rough chunks
1/2 bunch basil leaves, torn
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 celery heart, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
120 grams parmesan cheese, shaved
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
25 ml sherry or red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Method

Toast or lightly char the bread, rub it lightly with the garlic, then tear it into chunks. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, basil, onion, celery, a good grind of pepper, most of the cheese, the oil and vinegar. Add the bread and squeeze it with the other ingredients to evenly distribute the dressing, squashing the tomatoes so their juices soak into the bread.

Allow to stand for 5 minutes then serve, piled into a bowl, and scatter with the rest of the cheese, plus more if desired.

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Mixed leaf & snipped herb salad

serves 6 as a side
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 20mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) iceberg lettuce, witlof, celery, Basil, chervil, rocket
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The secret of a great salad is to have all the ingredients fresh, crisp and chilled, and to dress the leaves at the last minute. Make sure your dressing is slightly sharp and perfectly seasoned then toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat the leaves – you don’t want a puddle in the base of the bowl.

Sometimes, I add a handful of baby peas, popped straight from the pod, onto the dressed salad. Chunks of ripe avocado are also great.

Ingredients

1/2 tablespoon flaked salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
30 ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
3 handfuls rocket
1/2 iceberg lettuce, roughly torn
1 witlof, leaves cut in 3cm lengths
5 sprigs parsley, leaves only, torn
5 sprigs dill, leaves only
1/2 bunch chives, snipped in 2cm pieces
1/2 bunch chervil, snipped
1 celery heart, stalks separated
handful baby peas in the pod, optional
1 ripe avocado, optional

Method

For the dressing, put the salt, garlic, shallots and mustard in a little bowl and make a paste with the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and sugar, then stir. Add the oil and the black pepper, then stir and set aside.

Combine the chilled leaves, herbs and celery in a big bowl and add the dressing. Toss with forked fingers, being careful not to squash the leaves. Tip the dressed salad onto a nice flat platter or into a broad bowl. Add peas and/or avocado chunks, if using.

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