The eight inch tall stone mortar and the heavy club-shaped pestle lying in one corner of a cupboard always made me think of my husband’s grandmother. I have heard stories of how she used to crush and grind uncooked potatoes, garlic, and green chillies and then lightly cook them to make an awesome dish called “batatyacha thecha” (something like a spicy potato Au Gratin). I had never met her, she passed away a couple of years before my wedding, but there are always abundant stories of her sitting down and preparing elaborate dishes.
For a long time now the mortar and pestle make me want to go pick it up and rustle up some basil in it to make the Pesto. Actually, the word pesto itself comes from pestare, to pound.
So much has been written about the versatile pesto sauce. Almost every food website and food blogger have this recipe online. And it can be used in so many different forms! In pasta, on open face sandwiches, on toasts, on pizza, in salads, cooked in rice with peas, for chicken gravy, added to hummus etc etc.. The list can go on as long as your imagination.
The best part is, it is SO ridiculously EASY! You wont believe it till you make it. I did not make it for a long time, because there was no fresh basil available here where I stay. So I asked a local vegetable vendor to get me a bunch of basil, and once that was in my hands, the pesto literally took 15 minutes.
Mushrooms are a house favourite. And they go excellently with pesto.Sauteed mushroom with chillies and olive oil piled up on toasted bread layered with pesto. That’s an excellent breakfast for a lazy morning, when you want to relax with a cup of chai and watch the world go by..
Ingredients and Method :
Yield : 1 cup pesto
- 1 bunch of fresh basil : About 2 cups leaves only, washed and dried
- 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 18-20 pine nuts or 10-12 cashew-nuts , chopped
- roughly 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese, loosely packed and freshly grated
- Salt to taste
- 7-8 black peppers
- A few tbsp of extra virgin Olive Oil
- Chop the basil leaves and garlic cloves and put them in a mortar. Grind them for some time and then add the chopped nuts, black pepper and then again grind and crush with the pestle. Add a tablespoon of olive oil while grinding.
- Scrape down the sides, and grind till it is a grainy homogenous mixture. Add the grated cheese and lightly grind again. The pesto is almost ready. Taste and add salt if required. The cheese already contains salt so always taste the pesto before adding salt.
- Remove from the mortar and store in a jar covered with a thin layer of olive oil, to prevent it from turning black.
Tip : In case you don’t have a mortar and pestle or don’t have the patience to grind it manually, you can very well use a mixer to grind the pesto. However, grind it coarsely in short bursts and stop at the stage before it forms a paste.
Add a few more drops of oil, in case you think the leaves and nuts are not getting ground well together.
For the Chilli Mushrooms :
- 250 gms mushrooms, washed, dried and cut into thin slices
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp Dried oregano powder
- Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the mushrooms, covering it, till soft and tender.
- Add 1 tsp dried oregano and salt. Take it off the heat and drizzle chilli flakes on the mushrooms. Mix well.
Toast 2 slices of bread. Slather one with pesto, layer with hot mushrooms and top it up with the other lightly buttered toast. Enjoy it for your breakfast or brunch and finish up with some fruits.
You can store the pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for as long as you want. Enjoy!