Sometime back I bought a mortar and pestle. A petite, shiny marble one. Inspired by the Jamie Olivers of the world, I tried to make a pesto in the mortar and pestle. Later tossed prawns in some white squishy stuff and flattened basil leaves. Gia, our guest that night, sportingly praised the dish and then pointed out that I needed a bigger mortar and pestle, that I should have smashed the garlic, pine nuts and cheese one by one, that I should have removed the stalks from the basil leaves and then crushed the pesto mix.
I heard her. Next time I used the mixer grinder to make a perfect pesto.
Then I went to a cooking school at Chiang Mai, Thailand. Inspired I followed that with a trip to the local market. I lugged home the most beautiful and sensuous mortar and pestle West of Chiang Mai.
Yesterday I made a pesto mix that was much closer to what was required.
I remembered Gia’s wise words. I took a teaspoon of pine nuts and hammered into them in the new mortar. They became powderish. Then I added a tablespoon of peeled garlic. Bang bang bang. A proper paste. To this I added about 50 g of Parmesan. More pounding. A proper paste again.
Talking of Parmesan, what was with the girl at the cheese counter of Godrej Nature’s Basket, Bandra, yesterday? She guarded the cheese as if she wanted to eat it all herself. When we wanted to taste some she reluctantly parted with a sliver for one and for another said we could not taste another as there was very little. So only if we were buying it. We did buy a Gouda but frankly I was put off by the attitude of this Sour Puss as well as the long strand of hair in the cheese display. I went to Sante at Pali Naka and bought my Parmesan which was one fourth the price of that at Godrej Nature’s Basket. I must say that the guy at the meat counter at GNB was nicer and we picked up some ham and Thai sauces and ice tea too. But seriously, they need to put a less possessive person in charge of the cheese counter.
Well coming back to the pesto I took two handfuls of basil, leaves, removed the stalks as Gia said, and added them to the mix in the mortar. Wham bam bang bang and soon I had a good mix. I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and pounded again. A jet of oil flew out with the first bash. I had to do it far more delicately after that and blended it all together with a spoon. I was quite happy with the end result. It was ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship’.
Here’s the recipe for the sausage penne in pesto that I made:
- Heat olive oil in a pan
- Add 200 g of sausages chopped into rings. Stir till they brown
- Add 20 g of pre-boiled penne
- Add in pesto, salt, gently stir, add a bit more olive oil so that it doesn’t become too dry
- Top with some Parmesan shavings and your dish is ready
This dish becomes very easy if you buy a bottle of pesto from the market. Costs about Rs 150 – 200 (4 – 5 USD)