Spring is officially here in Hobart, and for the first three or four days at least, it actually behaved like spring: cloudless, cornflower-blue skies, sunshine that was warm and cheerful, air that was soft and fragrant. The branches of my cut-leaf birches have glimmers of emerald green starting to unfurl; the colours of the spring bulbs beneath echo the sunshine and sky. Blossom trees are everywhere, pink and tremulous and hyper-feminine (since then of course, we have had hail, rain and snow on the mountain).
The brief show of warmer weather and brighter days set off a craving for pesto, but basil season is still a long way off. I love making pesto in the summer, and once you’ve made your own, there’s no going back to supermarket jars. I was resigned, however, to this fate, when I had a brainwave: parsley pesto! Who knows? It could be good.
Good? It was great. So great I immediately phoned my mum to tell her she must make it. Turns out she has; months ago. Oh.
The parsley version was bright, zingy – springy – and the technicolour green was just astounding. I actually said ‘wow’ when I dipped-and-licked my finger. Then I folded huge verdant scoops though some spaghetti and steamed broccoli and zucchini (a seriously green dish).
Nigella Lawson’s recipe is the only one I use for pesto, mainly because it contains no nuts. Going nut-free keeps the flavour vibrant and the consistency more like a dressing, not a thick paste, and therefore perfect for folding through pasta, dolloping on vegies, or adding to a garden salad. I’m faithful to the ratios of Nigella’s pesto recipe, except for the parmesan (I use much less) and sometimes the oil (using more for a looser consistency). The balance is perfect: in every mouthful you can distinguish every fresh, gorgeous ingredient.
I only wish I’d thought of making this version in the depths of winter; you could not fail to be uplifted by this punchy sauce. Make some now - think of it as practice for basil sauce, if you must - but truly, parsley pesto is no poor substitute.
Daffodils, jonquils, grape hyacinths and other sping bulbs beneath my avenue of cut-leaf birches (I have seven along the driveway), just starting to leaf up.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe. It takes only moments to make – I believe it took longer to pick the parsley from the garden; certainly it took longer to boil the spaghetti.
- In a food processor, blitz a clove or two or garlic, 100 grams parsley, 100 mls light olive oil, 100 mls extra virgin olive oil and 40 grams grated parmesan (in Nigella’s original this is 100 grams as well – see the easy-to-remember ratio?) and a grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt flakes. Add more oil if you want a more fluid, dressing-like consistency.
- Eat within a few days (cover and store in fridge).