Many of the recipes served at lunch are taken from Vanessa’s 2nd book Food for Thought You can buy a copy and bring it with you to be signed if you like, or I usually have some here at the school for sale.
Pesto is ideal to serve with hunks of cheese and thick slices of sourdough, or as a pizza topping in place of our tomato sauce, or stirred into soup. I especially love this in the cannelloni bean soup. We pick our herbs fresh from the garden, and I guess one of the things I always hope is that the closeness of the herb garden inspires bakers to connect to the garden. I use whatever herb is in season so the main ingredient can change from week to week, but it’s not just basil that you can turn into pesto. The name is derived from the Genoese dialect word, pestâ, which simply means ‘to pound’, because it was made using a mortar and pestle, so it’s about the method and texture rather than a particular ingredient.
By using whatever herbs are in season, you can make this fresh, vibrant and versatile paste almost all year round, particularly if you can keep a few things growing in pots on a sunny windowsill, to extend the normal growing season you’d have in your garden.
A single packet of seeds costs less than the price of a packet of herbs flown in from thousands of miles away, so once you have established some pots of herbs you can make this pesto for next to nothing. Plant soft-leaf herbs like oregano, tarragon, parsley, basil, coriander or dill, and early in the season the first shoots will appear. You can keep on picking them throughout the summer and autumn, and well into winter in the case of parsley.
I know not everyone has a garden, but you think you don’t have space for herbs, then look again for somewhere you can grow them. Talk to your neighbours and ask if they would be interested in sharing some space for herbs, or your parish council might need local window- or planting-boxes tended. Sometimes, independently-owned pubs are delighted to have some herbs growing in the pub garden, or find a local community garden. Get out there. Look for opportunities and then, boom: you meet people, you laugh, you chat and you share. This is the life. Then bake some sourdough and invite everyone round.
I promise it feels great.
Makes 1 x 350ml Jar
- 1 small garlic clove
- 150g nuts, such as pine nuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, but if you can find local cobnuts even better
- a large handful of grated hard cheese
- a handful of fresh garden herbs
- 150ml olive oil, plus extra to cover
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a pestle and mortar rather than a blender, smash up the garlic, add the nuts and blend. Add the cheese and chop the herbs into 2mm lengths using scissors. Mix in, then add the olive oil just a few drops at a time, mixing until you get the consistency you like. I find I use almost an equal measure to the nuts. Season with salt and black pepper. Your pesto is ready to use. To store, spoon into clean, sterilised jars and cover with a 5mm layer of olive oil. It will keep for 3–4 days in the fridge.
Please note: At The Sourdough School we endeavour to use fresh, seasonal, locally produced ingredients wherever possible. We reserve the right to change certain ingredients depending on availability and rely on students to contact the school before attending a course if they have any food allergies or intolerances.