Sunday, April 27, 2008

One Perfect Ingredient: rocket and cashew pesto

Along with many food bloggers, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of the new book by Marcus Wareing: 'One Perfect Ingredient'. In this book, Marcs uses everyday ingredients to create 120 dishes aimed at the home cook. It is organised by ingredient, so, for example filed under 'peas' you find pea and broad bean salad with Manchego cheese, gratin dauphinoise with peas and leeks and pea and bacon velouté. He pushes the idea of 'everyday ingredients' somewhat in my mind - how often do you just happen to have a pot of brown shrimps sitting forlorn in the fridge? Ditto mangoes. But on the whole I like the idea.

I'm always wary of cookery books written by chefs. All too often they are full of overly cheffy recipes that are hard to reproduce at home in a domestic kitchen without a brigade of sous-chefs chopping and clearing up after you. On the whole though, I was impressed with this book. There are the occasional signs that this is a man who probably doesn't do his own washing up (a tasty sounding recipe for Savoy cabbage with nut butter sounds simple but in fact uses a whopping four different pans). But most of the recipes seem fairly simple, well-explained and wholly achievable. And most of them are enormously tempting; an initial read-through found me eagerly grabbing the post-it notes to start bookmarking recipes to try soon. Amongst those that caught my eye were sea bass with a pine nut crust and red wine vinaigrette, carrot and coriander galette and orange syrup cakes. Photos in the book are simply and beautifully shot and are refreshingly short of cheffy flourishes. I would have liked to see more though personally - I'm a very visual person and am probably over 50% more likely to try a recipe if it is accompanied by a photo.

I decided to start with one of the books simplest recipes: linguine with rocket and cashew pesto. I'm pleased to say that it was a resounding success and I'm sure it will become a regular addition to my weeknight suppers. Everything is whizzed together in a food processor and the flavour makes a good change from basil pesto.

For four people, you'll need around 100g rocket, 100g cashew nuts which should be toasted in a dry pan, 40g freshly grated Parmesan and 100 ml extra virgin olive oil. Add the oil slowly - you may not need to use it all.

The pesto was great with the suggested linguine but I found some other used for the leftovers - I also found the flavour better the next day, once the flavours had had time to mingle. Spread on crostini and topped with a slice of cherry tomato (or sundried tomato), the pesto made for pretty and delicious little canapés...

Mixed with natural yoghurt, the pesto was also delicious along with cold sliced lamb stuffed into pitta breads, following last week's Sunday lunch.

I'll definitely be trying other recipes from the book. As far as chef-written (as opposed to cook-written) books go, Marcus Wareing has succeeded on coming up with a selection of interesting and exciting recipes which on the whole use simple ingredients and basic techniques. As such, the book had a fairly broad appeal - there is enough to interest the experienced cook and yet the recipes are clear enough for the less confident.


Nilmandra said...

i've been eyeing that book too. I think it will be useful for seasonal cooking as well, to look up whichever ingredients are in season and find new or forgotten recipes. Btw you've been tagged :) Please check here.

Shaun said...

Antonia ~ I like the idea that an ingredient is shown to "perfection" in its application to particular cooking methods and ingredient partnerships. I love what you have done with this twist on pesto as well.

Abitofafoodie said...

Nilmandra - thank you for the tag, which I've now completed. Must cook some more things from the book as there are quite a few good ideas.

Shaun - Welcome! I like the premise of this book too and think I'll be using more of the recipes.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great recipe - I discovered pesto when I was about 15 - half my life ago now - and got very excited about it - it seemed so exotic at the time! It is always good to update old favourites!