Herb pestos – easy, tasty, healthy

This week, I introduced my evening class attendees to a few ways to include more herbs in our diets, in quanitity rather than as a garnish. One simple way is to make fresh herb pestos or salsas. While pesto makes most of us think of the classic Pesto al Genovese (basil, olive, oil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese), there are many recipes so I thought I would share 2 of my favourites.

Skordalia

A wonderfully creamy Greek garlic dip, bringing all the antimicrobial, anti-oxidant and circulatory benefits of garlic together with good fats (olive oil, or an omega 3 rich oil like walnut) and the mineral and vitamin-rich parsley, which helps neutralize “garlic breath”. traditionally served with fried or baked cod, it also works well accompanying meats, vegetable kebabs or as a dip.

Garlic  - good for blood, bad for vampires!
Garlic – good for blood, bad for vampires!

INGREDIENTS

  • 7-8 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound of potatoes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt

DIRECTIONS
Peel the potatoes cut in cubes and boil in water until soft.  Once boiled, strain and mix with a hand mixer/potato ricer until very smooth.  In a food processor process the garlic cloves and parsley with a bit of salt until it is a paste.

Add ½ of the olive oil in the food processor and continue mixing.  Add the garlic paste to the potato and mix with a wooden spoon.  Add the rest of the olive oil gradually, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until oil is absorbed.  Add a bit of red wine vinegar or lemon juice for taste, mix well.

Skordalia with Bread

Follow the same recipe but instead of using potatoes, use 10 ounces of stale bread (without the crust) soaked in water and vinegar. Squeeze well and then mix and whizz the mixture with the garlic paste in the food processor until it is well combined,  adding the olive oil gradually.

Chermoula

This is taken from Dennis Cotter’s Cafe Paradiso Cookbook, but is open to much alteration depending on what fresh herbs and dried spices you have to hand. The basic pattern of blending fresh herbs with good quality plant oils and other ingredients, producing a smooth paste is very adaptable!

Parsley - full of minerals and vitamins A, B, C and D.
Parsley – full of minerals and vitamins A, B, C and D.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 50g fresh coriander
  • 100g fresh parsley leaf
  • 30g fresh mint
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tsps paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (dried powder)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • rind of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange, grated
  • 300mls olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Toast cumin and fennel seeds in frying pan over low heat for a few minutes, then grind in pestle and mortar or electric grinder (I have a coffee grinder I keep for herbs and spices). Put fresh herbs and garli cin food processor and chop them finely, then add remaining ingredients, trickling in olive oil slowly while blending, to achieve a thick pesto-like consistency.

This is fantastic stirred into coucous or rice, spread on bread or accompanying potatoes.  The fennelseeds,  cumin seeds and mint will relax and improve digestion, the parsley and coriander are high in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins and will support kidney detoxification, while paprika and cayenne stimulate circulation and warm the body.

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