Pesto is one of those timeless ingredients that everyone knows and most people love. However, variety is the spice of life and a little change to the basic recipe for pesto could do us all a little good. Indeed, though rocket is, like basil, green and incredibly adaptable, it has its own very distinctive qualities. For instance, unlike basil, rocket has a very peppery, almost spicy, taste which gives this pesto a rather unexpected kick. In reality I’m rather loath to call this creation pesto, since its character is vastly different from what people usually assume the term to mean. If it wasn’t for the fact that the process was almost identical a more apt term for this devilish creation would surely have been tapenade. In my mind, tapenade evokes thoughts of a much stronger flavour profile than does pesto.
Myriad different sources the internet has to offer have made it abundantly clear that the use of rocket as an ingredient in pesto is an idea of American origin – it appears that you have scored your first point against me, America. Congratulations! The recipe itself, mind you, was one thought up on the spot yesterday lunchtime. Not only was it spontaneous, as some of the best recipes are, but it was also far more frugal than your average pesto. You see, the average pesto uses a good couple of handfuls of basil and a generous smattering of toasted pine nuts. Basil, particularly when out of season, can cost an arm and leg – one is led to suppose that this is because it is known as a herb; ‘herb’ being a label used to leverage the price of fairly standard ingredients. As far as pine nuts are concerned, their price is fairly extortionate. Their presence in an average pesto is easily justified, since their flavour can be easily identified amongst basil. When using rocket, however, all one needs in order to achieve a full body of flavour is a slight hint of nuttiness. As such, it is perfectly reasonable to make use of the cost-effective walnut.
Makes enough for 8-10 servings
• 60g fresh rocket (arugula)
• The juice of half a lemon
• 1 clove of garlic
• 5-6 walnut halves
• A handful of grated parmesan
• A generous glug of olive oil
• A large pinch of salt
1. One could make this using a mortar and pestle, but that would take ages. So, bung the rocket, lemon juice, garlic, walnuts and a little of the olive oil into a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the parmesan, blend until combined. Add olive oil until you have achieved the required consistency. Season to taste.
Cost: The use of both rocket and walnuts, in lieu of basil and pine nuts, means that this entire bowl of pesto should cost one no more than around 70p – so much cheaper than one would find usual pesto for in a supermarket.