Gracious, whatever is the Daily Spud coming to? Not only do we have Spud-Sunday-on-a-Monday again (oops, yes, too much out-and-abouting by the blogger-in-chief will do that) but what’s all of this pasta and pesto business? Never fear, I am still a spud lover at heart (as if you doubted it for a second) and I promise that the pasta, pesto and potatoes will all live quite happily together in the end.
I finally did it.
I threw out the three sad, barely alive basil plants that have been languishing on my windowsill for months. It was really the only course of action, having been, not six days ago, to see the lush green basil fields of Alessandria in Italy. Even in their prime, no basil grown on my windowsill was ever likely to compare.
Basil, the not-on-my-windowsill Italian kind
I did consider scooping up a truckload of Italian basil to bring back with me (and it would have been some fun trying to explain that one to the customs officers if I’d had), but, in the end, I settled for the fact that, until such time as I restock my windowsill with new basil plants, I can at least take myself to the nearest supermarket and buy a jar (or several) of pesto made from that Italian basil, and no passport required. Indeed, it was pesto and specifically Saclà – who produce a whopping 40 million jars of the stuff every year, or around 150,000 jars per day – which had brought me to northern Italy and the basil fields in the first place.
Basil, basil everywhere:
fields of basil on the Amateis farm in the province of Alessandria in northern Italy - the Amateis family have been supplying basil and other leaf vegetables to Saclà since the 1980s
So, how much fish do you think you could scarf down in one day?
If I had been asked that question before attending the fish cookery course in Clodagh McKenna’s cookery school last month, I would probably have underestimated by a long shot.
While I was there, I managed several helpings of gorgeous Thai fish curry, sneaky pieces of fabulous Irish crab from the crab cakes, a glorious pesto-crusted fillet of sole, a more-ish pile of clam-filled spaghetti vongole, not to mention the fact that we were all sent home with the finished crab cakes, some creamy smoked haddock chowder and mackerel fillets with a lovely beetroot and horseradish relish. I feel full all over again just thinking about it.
Clockwise from top left:
Crab cakes; Spaghetti Vongole; Pistachio pesto crusted sole; Thai fish curry;
And yes, I was very full afterward.
Sometimes, I wish Mother Nature would do labels.
A little sign, saying “makes great pesto” and pointing towards that untended clump of leaves at the bottom of the garden would have been really helpful. Instead, for years, I had supposed that this plant’s only part of edible interest was the flowers. Oops.
Thanks to a little research, I now know better.
Wild garlic - not just about the flowers, you know