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3 Ways With... Basil

It is believed that Ocimum Basilicum originated in India about 5,000 years ago.

Throughout history, it was thought that basil held magical powers. From healing snake bites to giving strength during religious fasting. In ancient Egypt, the herb was used to embalm mummies. In ancient Greece, it was known as the ‘Royal Herb’. Still today, basil may be referred to as the ‘King of Herbs’. Perhaps for its great flavour, perhaps as a nod to its history. Basil didn’t arrive in Britain until the 16th century, but luckily there’s plenty of it to go around today.

I experimented with some of Hooksgreen’s cultivars to create some magical summer recipes, below.

As many of us may find ourselves with more time indoors than usual this season, we’ve got plenty to be getting on with with homemade pastry and fresh pasta, though it’s always possible to substitute those with the bought version if you’re strapped for time. And of course, be sipping on a fresh basil cocktail (or mocktail) as you go.

Melon, Raspberry & Basil Summer Cooler

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It’s hot out there. Mix up this healthy and refreshing beverage to cool you down and keep you hydrated, with the option to add alcohol as you like.

Ingredients
  • White melon
  • Punnet frozen berries
  • Medium-sized handful basil leaves
  • Few sprigs mint leaves
  • 1l sparkling water
  • Optional: white rum or vodka (You can use any variety of Basil, but I recommend sweet basil or purple basil, which looks amazing)
Method
  • Cut the melon into bite-sized pieces and empty the berries into a large glass pitcher
  • Tear the leaves into the jug and top up with sparkling water. Stir vigorously with a large spoon and leave to chill for an hour before serving, to let the flavours infuse
  • Pour into a tumbler with ice and top with an extra sprig of basil. Use a little spoon to fish out the infused fruit. Like a light Pimm’s punch

 

Rustic Homemade Pappardelle With Lime & Basil Mixed Nut Pesto

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Go all out and make everything from scratch - pesto pasta never felt so sophisticated.

Ingredients
For the pasta:
  • Cup plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oil
For the pesto:
  • 50g mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or cashews work well)
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • Large bunch basil, stems and leaves
  • Large handful rocket
  • 1 squeezed lime (if you plan to make the cheesecake for dessert, save the lime zest for topping)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Pinch salt
To garnish:
  • Hard cheese
  • Black pepper
Method

If you’ve never made your own pasta before, now is the time to try. If you thought it was too time consuming, too complicated, or too expensive. Think again! This fresh pasta is ready in under an hour and costs less than a standard pack of spaghetti. Depending on where you live, it’s probably quicker than going to the shop.

  • Mix the pasta ingredients (flour, egg, oil) in a medium sized bowl with a fork, then start to knead it until the dough holds together and becomes smoother
  • Add any extra flour if it seems too sticky
  • Flatten the ball down and dust with flour, leave to rest whilst you make the pesto

If you do have a large stone pestle and mortar, this would be the perfect time to use it! Pesto gets its name from the Genoese verb pestâ, to crush, or to pound, as the sauce was traditionally made this way

  • If you don’t have a pestle and mortar but do have a food processor, simply put all of the ingredients into the bowl and blend.
  • If not, finely chop the basil and rocket and place into a bowl. Crush the nuts using a knife or by placing them in a pack and hitting them on the floor with a rolling pin.
  • Add the nuts and crush in the garlic, add the remaining ingredients and stir until you have a nice consistency. The pesto doesn’t need to be a homogenous paste, but is great with little bits of texture running through it

Finally...

  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt generously
  • Roll out the pasta dough as thinly as you can. If you have a pasta machine, that’s great - feed it through according to the instructions. Alternatively, roll the dough down with a rolling pin or an old wine bottle until you can almost see through it. Try to roll it into a large rectangle shape of about 20 by 40cm.
  • Cut strips of pasta at about 1-2cm thick, depending on how you like your pasta. I cut thick strips for pappardelle, but you could easily make linguini by cutting it thinner. I found the pappardelle easier to handle
  • Place the strips onto a plate and dust lightly with flour
  • Tip the strips into the boiling salty water and cook for 1 minute, 2 minutes maximum, to your liking
  • Drain the pasta and place it back into the pan, empty out the pesto on top and gently mix in with a spoon, being careful not to break the pasta strips
  • Heap onto two plates and garnish with shaved hard cheese (such as parmesan) and lots of black pepper

 

Nectarine & Basil Key Lime Cheesecake

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All of the good things come together in this sensational, flavour-popping dessert. It would be fantastic to serve at a barbeque or (socially distanced) garden party, if you can be strong enough to part with it.

Maybe make two if you think you’ll want a second slice. The pastry recipe makes enough for two 22cm tarts, or one large 30cm, so it’s easy enough to double the filling recipe.

Remember to make it the day before to give it time to chill and set.

A cheesecake filling with a pastry base and a sweet fruit and basil topping. Is your mouth watering yet?

Ingredients
For the pastry:
  • 400g plain flour
  • 80g icing sugar pinch salt
  • 250g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50ml ice cold water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (if needed)
For the filling:
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 284ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • The juice and zest of 2 limes
Topping:
  • 2 large nectarines
  • Large handful sweet or purple basil leaves
  • Lime zest
 Method
Pastry
  • Measure out the flour, icing sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl, and stir together with a fork
  • Add the cubed butter and rub with your fingers - like when making a crumble - so it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Mix the egg yolks with the ice water and fold into the pastry using your hands, work gently into a dough
  • Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 200C
  • Lightly grease a large spring-form baking tin (I used a 22cm and had half of the pastry left for another tart, but this also would work well as a flatter cheesecake of 30cm, using all the pastry)
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin
  • Transfer the rolled pastry to the greased tin and press into the pan, ensuring there are no gaps or holes. Allow the excess pastry to overhang on the sides, the refrigerate for another 20 minutes
  • Remove from the fridge and place baking paper on top of the pastry, then baking beans, rice or lentils to stop it from rising. Blind bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown
  • Set aside to cool
Filling
  • Beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and lime juice and zest in a mixing bowl with a large whisk or electric mixer until smooth. Keep some lime zest back to top at the end
  • Add in the double cream and continue beating until totally combined
  • Spoon the mixture into the cooled pastry base and smooth down, making sure there are no air bubbles. If you have any leftover mix, this is lovely spooned into a small cup with some frozen berries
  • Leave overnight in the fridge to set
Topping
  • Finely slice the ripe nectarines into 1cm thick pieces, and arrange prettily on top of the cheesecake
  • Finely grate the rest of the lime zest over the top
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves, some chopped and some whole

Recipes created by Elena Pollen

Elena is a creative writer who has written for Quinteassential, The Permaculture Research Institute and The Organization for World Peace, as well as maintaining her own blog about permaculture living. She believes in local and organic food practices and follows a vegetarian lifestyle.