Free from / Fruit & veg / gluten-free / vegetarian

Spinach & mint pesto

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Let’s just pretend it’s summer. Just for a bit whilst this most recent cold snap eases its grip and until the lone daredevil crocuses are joined by crowds of daffodils trumpeting the arrival of lambs and hot cross buns. Well that’s what I’m going to do. I think my toes would fall off if I attempted flip flops so I’m starting in the kitchen. And to me, mint is the No. 1 taste of summer. It transports me to sipping sugary sweet mint tea in Marrakech and mojitos on a balmy Spanish eve in Cordoba; it smells of tabbouleh, potato salad, Pimms. Mint is refreshing and lively and doesn’t taste like February food at all – hooray!

Cue my spinach and mint pesto. To be eaten with pasta, grilled aubergine, as a spread on bread, with lamb – whatever takes your fancy and is lucky enough to find itself in your fridge.

Spinach & mint pesto

Serves 4 as a pasta sauce

Ingredients:

– 120g spinach
– 5 large sprigs of mint (about 25 big leaves)
– 1 clove garlic
– juice of 1/2 lemon
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 tablespoons pine nuts (and extra for topping)
– 3 tablepoons parmesan*, finely grated

*If you’re making this vegetarian, make sure you use a parmesan-style cheese that doesn’t contain animal rennet.

I do not add salt as I think the parmesan lends enough saltiness to the dish, particularly if used as a pasta sauce and you add salt to your cooking water.

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Method:

Toast the pine nuts in a pan on a medium heat until they are slightly tanned. Set aside to cool.

Place the spinach, mint leaves (discard the stalks), garlic and lemon juice into a blender and pulse to coarsely chop the ingredients (scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure all the ingredients are combined). Tip: Because the garlic is raw, a little goes a long way. If your cloves are over-sized, I think half would do (particularly if you are on a date!).

Add the olive oil, toasted pine nuts (saving some for topping) and parmesan and briefly pulse again. Tip: The consistency of your pesto is totally up to you but I like a textured sauce where I can still distinguish the separate ingredients and that has a nice bite to it. If in doubt, have a taste and then pulse some more if you need to. You do have more control if you opt for the traditional pestle and mortar method but I would not recommend this when using spinach leaves – they are tougher than basil.

If you are using the pesto as a pasta sauce, add a couple of tablespoons of cooking water from your pasta and pulse a final time to give it a lovely silkiness. Stir into your pasta and top with the rest of the pine nuts.

If you made a big batch like me, cover with a thin layer of olive oil to seal and keep in a container in the fridge. I am sure it could be kept for a couple of weeks although how long until it disappears is another matter!

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Source: Recipe and photos by pip & little blue.

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