Friday, 16 September 2011

Sage and Walnut Pesto before the Storm

So there I was telling you about how the next few weeks are going to be so astonishingly busy until about October and as it turns out I’ve actually had time to write and send a blog.

The calm before the storm,
I say ‘send’, lets not get carried away. This could be a little like how I swell with pride for writing postcards when I’m on holiday and then fail pathetically to manage the well known ‘hefty’ task of sending the things in the post. A hand delivered postcard is rubbish. Shame on me.

We’re here in Monaco amongst many other classic yachts, I’ve done my huge supermarket shop for the week and cooked dinner, prepped tomorrow’s sandwiches and chatted with great friends. There are disturbing rumours of very little wind this week and the temperature is back up there. I’m sure you’re all pretty bored of my talking about the temperature so I’ll move right along.

(31 degrees in the galley)

I made this pesto on our little trip here from St Tropez. The journey started out well. Thankfully at about the time I was cooking lunch. An hour or so later and I suspect I would have felt differently about the whole thing as the swell grew to a couple of meters.

The sage was from my Captain’s garden. Jim’s little sage plant had also grown to a few meters over the summer so he generously donated some to a very good cause. Lunch. And this pesto recipe is a bit of a favourite amongst the crew. It makes a nice change from the well known basil version. It’s very, very healthy being full of walnuts and fresh garlic, lemon juice etc. I could go as far as to say it’s practically like eating one of those overly- healthy green smoothies in a tasty form with some pasta. Okay, I lie. It tastes a lot better than that.

I think sage is up there on my favourite herb list. It’s so…..manly? Robust, savoury, grown-up…  I should do this for a living. Anyway, try it. You’ll love it.

For Sage pesto you will need;

A good bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked off the stalks
3 cloves of garlic
40g shelled walnuts
400g pinenuts
30g Parmesan cheese
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
½ tsp sugar
300ml Olive oil


  • The flavour of walnuts is much improved by a little toasting in a hot pan, as is pinenuts. So begin by dry frying the walnuts and pinenuts in a hot frying pan. Keep them moving around over a high heat and fry for about 4-5 minutes keeping an eye on the pinenuts.

  • To take the surprising element out of the raw cloves of garlic, I added these whole in their skins to the nuts in the hot frying pan. It acts as a little ‘sweetener’ to the cloves to give them a little cook first.

  • Tip the toasted nuts into a mixing bowl. Peel and slice the garlic and add to the nuts. Then rip the leaves of sage off of any stalks and add to the nut and garlic mixture.

  • Pour in the oil and lemon juice and season with the sugar and salt and pepper. Blend well but not so it’s too smooth. Keep a little texture.

  • Now add the lemon zest, parmesan and any more oil if it’s a bit thick. Check the seasoning and mix well.
  • Hey Pesto! 

If your mixing this with pasta then make sure you reserve at least a large ladleful of the pasta water to mix in with the pasta and pesto. It helps to make a great sauce. A tablespoon of crème fraiche is no bother either. As you wish.

It’s a great recipe in that it is easy, tangy and zesty, nutty and punchy. A bowl of penne, a rocket or watercress salad, something good and peppery with some nutty brown bread and a cold glass of something a little bit pink perhaps. Love it.

We’re race training tomorrow with our recently arrived regatta crew and the racing starts on Thursday. It’s all pretty exciting really. That and we have the one and only Sir Robin Knox Johnston racing with us this week! What an honour. I hope he likes my sandwiches.

I’ll keep you as up to date as I can with the gossip from Monaco. Take care and speak very soon.

Thanks for reading!