Basil … use up that bunch!

The smell of a bunch of basil evokes long warm days and the bounty of summer. But have you ever bought a bunch of basil, used a little, and then discovered its remains some weeks later in the bottom of the crisper? Here are our favourite ways to use up that bunch.

Basil is a fragrant herb which originated in India and was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century. While most of us think of its use in Italian cuisine, it is also a favourite herb in South-East Asian cookery, where it is used in soups, curries and noodle dishes.

If you are growing basil at home, pinch out the flower heads to stop it going to seed and to encourage leaf growth.

Basil is best stored in the fridge with the roots in a jug of water and the leaves covered with a plastic bag.

Our basil bunches at Hill Street are pretty generous so your bunch will stretch over several dishes. Here are our favourite ways to use up basil:

Bocconcini, tomato and basil salad – the quintessential summer combination, these three ingredients, with a slug of good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a twist of pepper, meld deliciously.  Serve as a small entrée or bulk it out with baby spinach as a side dish. Always use good quality vine-ripened tomatoes. Halved grape or cherry tomatoes are ideal for their size and sweetness. Try our other ideas with these ingredients:
Vegetarian caprese salad
Peach and tomato caprese salad

Pesto – making it couldn’t be easier. Just blend a cup of basil leaves with half a cup of olive oil, a tablespoon of pine nuts, two cloves of garlic and 60g freshly grated parmesan.  Toss through pasta, spoon over a fish fillet or spread over a pizza base. Here are some delicious pesto and pasta recipes:
Trenette with pesto, potato and green beans
Basil pesto pasta
Green and gorgeous pesto pasta salad

As a stuffing – basil pairs well with lamb. In a food processor, blitz two chopped rashers of bacon, a good handful of basil leaves, and a few cloves of garlic, then add two tablespoons of pine nuts and spread over the inside of a boned leg of lamb, roll closed, secure with string or a skewer and roast.

Basil butter – basil butter can be frozen in small portions and used when you wish. Simply blend 250g butter with a cup of basil leaves in a food processor.   Scrape out with a spatula onto baking paper, roll up to form a sausage, then wrap in foil and freeze. Basil butter can be used on bread rolls, as a garnish to a soup, especially tomato soup, and added into any cooked tomato dish to impart a basil flavour. This is ideal over winter when fresh basil is out of season.

Basil oil – make up a bottle of basil oil and have it on hand to enjoy with almost everything – it’s a perfect oil for dunking your crusty sourdough, to use as a drizzle over salads and grilled vegetables, or to stir through pasta.  Here’s a great recipe for basil oil served simply over sliced fresh tomatoes.

Want more ideas to use up your basil?  Have a look at these recipes from Hill Street’s recipe collection:
Flathead with salsa verde
Herby parmesan breadsticks
Spinach and ricotta dumplings with garlic basil butter
Roasted truss tomato and basil soup

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