Not sure about you (although I suspect I know the answer to this) but I love cooking with fresh herbs, so my garden is full of them. You’ve got the tenacious, hardy flavours of rosemary and sage to get you through winter, fuelling casseroles, sauces and roast potatoes, fresh herbs from the garden even there waiting for the Christmas meal cook up epic, stunning pesto variations all summer thanks to basil and more, and it seems that herbs are the only type of plants I can’t have a good crack at killing off.
Seriously – how one tiny rosemary plant in a small pot turned into the massive plant currently presiding over the front garden at home, which has in turn given myself, my family and workmates plenty of fresh cut or dried leaves or even cuttings of their own baby future herb monster, I don’t know. I just put it in the ground and a couple of years later I have enough rosemary to supply probably half the restaurants in the county (now there’s an idea….). and it’s pal the sage plant is just as bad…well, I mean good obviously, but what to do with it all?
(I say I can’t kill them, but that mostly applies to the woody varieties – basil just does not like to grow for me – any tips for the coming summer growing season gratefully received!)
So I got thinking about a more winter / spring friendly sage. I’ve always enjoyed switching out ingredients with summer basil pesto – pine nuts for walnuts or almonds etc – but had started to pine (no pun, promise) for that huge flavour hit of a good pesto in the recent pretty dull winter.
And it was the sage that ended up taking the brunt of the inspired experiments that followed. Because that monster needed cutting back, badly.
I love sage in so many winter – and particularly Christmas time – meals, but doing something a bit different with it was fun, matching it with almonds which I also love giving it a little different profile and taking it away from the recipes which perhaps I’d resigned this lovely herb to for a little while now just out of habit.
The beauty of a pesto – for all this is a very far departed recipe from the classically accepted version – is the versatility. Basically in my book, as long as it’s a flavourful and delicious sauce which brings a new dimension of flavour, rich olive oil and seasoning to a meal, then by and large anything goes. But this combination of sage and almonds was a particular favourite of mine recently, so I hope you like it if you decide to go for the same combination.
40g parmesan, diced
Loosely packed cup of sage leaves – woodiest stalks best ripped out of the leaves in older leaves but smaller ones are pretty much fine
30g almonds – skins still on is fine
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
Pinch of Maldon Sea Salt and generous seasoning of fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil, to texture
In short? Yes you could do this in a pestle and mortar if you grated the parmesan etc, but it’s so easy to put this together before a meal in a processor – so just dry ingredients in, pulse until they’re starting to break down but not too much – I like a little texture in a pesto and this one is ideal for it with the almonds providing a nutty hit here and there, especially if the skins are left on. Instantly, massive flavour.
So I blend up to a rough consistency and then add a nice olive oil to preferred texture – so personally I add the oil quite generously and quickly so as to not lose that dimensional texture but also, I’m a sucker for a good olive oil-heavy pesto.
In short, with all the best recipes, you’ll find your own tweaks to *precisely* how you want it – but this is a lovely, vibrant pesto which friends who aren’t even fond of sage have said is really enjoyable and is balanced out by the addition of almonds into something more spring-like than the wintery recipes it often gets used for.
Might just be me but this goes particularly nicely with some cajun potato wedges – who knows why these things work but they do! But lovely with so many things.
Hope you enjoy x