Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sweet, spicy, cheesy, now: Quick Chestnut Pesto

Tis the season of slow-cooked, one-pot meals and soups in this house at the moment.  I began making a dark veggie and lentil stew this afternoon, with the "help" of my 22-month-old.  (Quick digression: before I had kids, I would scoff at the mention of a child's age in, days, weeks and months.  Why couldn't they just say their kid was one?  Or even one-and-a-half?  Now I know that, from the first birthday, these little crazies can basically do something new every day, so calling my 22-month-old just one-and-a-half would be doing him out of those 120-odd extra skills.)  Like standing up at the kitchen counter and moving ingredients from one container to another; an activity which buys me relatively peaceful time at this hardest part of the day with wilting, moany, hungry and restless Smalls flopping about the place, hurling hard toys at each other and practising fairly sophisticated wrestling moves.
So as my 22-month-old moved cooked chestnuts from one little dish to another, we tasted one, and realised that it was far too good to boil up in a stew for half an hour.  The sweet, creamy, rich flesh was so delicious that my first thought was to puree them into a sweet butter, but then it struck me: chestnut pesto.  "Chesto", surely.  What a result!
And so, while this recipe - and I almost don't want to call it that, as it's so simple - came about during a slow-cooked meal, it can be whipped up in a few minutes and melted through pasta or slathered on oatcakes for a super-quick meal or snack.  I'm going to make vacuum-packed chestnuts a new cupboard staple, for that day when it's suddenly twenty minutes before dinner time and I've nothing planned. 
A quick search online reveals that I am not, of course, the first to give chesto a go.  There are various recipes but this is mine and, as a first attempt, it'll no doubt evolve over time.  As usual, I added what I had around.  I'll probably try it with basil or maybe a little mint next time.

Chestnut 'Pesto'

makes enough to fill a 280g jar
What you'll need
a food processor with the main chopping blade attached
200g chestnuts, cooked until soft (roasting gives heaps of flavour) or buy ready-cooked
2 garlic cloves, smashed open (this makes for a good, strong garlic taste so use a single clove if you're not into that)
approx. 25g grated parmesan (or more, to taste)
small handful dill (or whatever mix of herbs you like)
approx. 30ml extra virgin olive oil
What you'll do
  • Tip the chestnuts into the processor and pulse to crumbs
  • Add the parmesan, herbs and garlic and pulse until chopped and well-mixed
  • Gradually add the oil through the processor's funnel and pulse until the pesto comes together and is the consistency that you like
  • Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge
Mine is on it's fourth day and still going strong.  The garlic develops over time so it's getting quite fiery now!  Try it through hot pasta, on toast, as an alternative to standard pizza sauce, stirred into some yoghurt as a dip, on top of hummus, add it to a sandwich...the list is endless.  Chesto, chesto, chesto!

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