Lots of us grow herbs - either on the window sill or in the garden - and the supermarkets now sell big bags of many different fresh herbs. If you grow your own, keep picking them as this will encourage fresh young growth rather than letting the plants go quickly to seed. Experiment with different herbs - use mint in a stir-fry (not just with lamb or Pimms!) and add parsley, lovage, chervil or coriander to green salads. And if the plants have made flowers or seeds, sprinkle a few of them over salads too. Chive, fennel, borage, nasturtium and pansy flowers are all tasty and colourful. Enjoy the sunshine! E.L.
CORIANDER PESTO (Makes 300ml / ½ pint)
I usually make a double quantity of this as pesto sauce is so versatile (see below). You can use fresh basil instead of coriander if you prefer.
80g / 3oz coriander
40g / 1½ oz parsley
6 chives (optional)
1 large clove garlic, peeled
80g / 3oz parmesan cheese, grated
40g / 1½ oz pine nuts
salt and black pepper
70 ml 2½ fl oz olive oil, plus extra
Put the garlic, parmesan and pine nuts into a food processor and process until the pine nuts are finely chopped. Roughly snip or chop the herbs into the food processor and process again until you have a bright green, fairly smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper then, with the motor running, slowly add the olive oil to make a softer paste. Transfer the mixture to a jar, drizzle over a little extra oil to keep out the air and cover the jar. Store in the fridge.
With pasta... Cook pasta, then drain, saving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of Coriander Pesto per person, together with the reserved cooking water. Serve immediately.
With barbecued meats, baked potatoes or roasted tomatoes... Serve topped with a teaspoon or two of Coriander Pesto. Delicious!
With chicken... Slice halfway through a chicken breast to form a pocket. Fill with Coriander Pesto then wrap in Parma Ham or thinly-sliced streaky bacon. Place in an oiled dish and roast in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through.
With salads... Stir Coriander Pesto through cold pasta shapes or rice then add chopped tomatoes, cucumber or peas to make a quick and tasty summer salad.
With fish... mix equal quantities of brown bread crumbs with Coriander Pesto and spread the mixture over fish fillets before roasting or grilling.
MINT, PEA & PRAWN RISOTTO (Serves 4 / main or 6 / starter)
Risotto should be eaten as soon as it's cooked so have warm bowls or plates ready and waiting!
1.2 litres / 2 pints hot vegetable stock
15ml / 1 tbslp olive oil
3 shallots or small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
400g / 14oz risotto rice
2 glasses white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and black pepper
50g / 2oz butter
200g / 8oz fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
450g / 1lb peeled prawns
2 handfuls, or a large bunch fresh mint, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
Keep the stock hot in a separate pan. In a large skillet, or wide based pan, heat the oil and gently fry the onion, garlic and celery until soft but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.
Turn up the heat slightly and continue cooking the rice for a minute or until it begins to look translucent. Add the wine and stir until it has bubbled away or been absorbed. Next add a ladelful of hot stock and turn the heat down a little so that the mixture is still simmering but not madly! Keep stirring so that the starch in the rice makes the stock turn creamy. When this stock has been absorbed add the next ladelful. Carry on like this until all the stock has been added and absorbed. The risotto should be creamy and the rice soft but with a slight bite in the centre of the grain. Season and beat in the butter.
Throw in the peas and the prawns and continue cooking for two more minutes. Stir through the mint and enough lemon juice, to taste. Check the seasoning, adding more black pepper, salt and lemon juice if needed and serve immediately.