The Perfect Pesto

The pine nut looks beautiful when toasted and scattered over salads, giving off a buttery & mildly resinous taste which is very appealing. Like the almond, these small, tear-shaped seeds are now cultivated around the world. Pine nuts are the seeds found in pine cones of the Pinaceae family of trees and are widely used in Mediterranean cooking, most notably in Italy. Italy began to cultivate pine forests during Roman times by order of the Pope. Pine nuts were used to make wine, preserved in honey and made into sausages. Evidence of their use was also found in the excavations of Pompei. Their use today continues to be as widespread and popular and there is never any difficulty in sourcing recipes. This is good news for people with high cholesterol or diabetes and also for children who need food packed with energy. One of my favourite things to make is pesto, usually homemade pesto is made according to personal taste. It’s not always wise to be too precise with the proportions of each ingredient – some people prefer more oil for a slacker result, others may like more garlic. Therefore, use this recipe as a platform for creating your own personalised pesto sauce!


Pesto Recipe

75g basil leaves (a large handful)

2 cloves garlic

50g pine nuts

150ml of the best olive oil you can afford

Put into a food processor bowl and grind on high for about one minute until smooth paste develops. You may like to leave a few lumps for a more rustic-style pesto.



Go Nuts for Orange & Almond Syrup Cake

Nuts have been used in cooking for thousands of years in most parts of the world. Vegetarians and vegans have long recognised their nutritional benefits in our diets since they provide protein, minerals and valuable fats. Nuts stabilise blood sugar levels which can be sustained over a long period of time and therefore give you more energy. Perhaps the tastiest and most valuable nut used in cooking is the almond. Not only is it a high source of protein, it is also rich in calcium, magnesium and zinc. The humble almond which was originally grown in Central and South West Asia, is now grown in North America, the Middle East and most of Europe.


Orange & Almond Syrup Cake

200g unsalted butter

grated zest of 1 orange

165g soft light brown sugar

3 eggs

80g fine semolina

125g ground almonds

225g self-raising flour

200ml plain, set yoghurt

juice of half an orange

For the Syrup:

200g granulated sugar

juice of 2 oranges

Pre-heat oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Grease and line a 24cm-round cake tin – loose-bottom tins are better for this. Using a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it becomes pale in colour, then add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of sieved flour. Now stir in the semolina, almonds, yoghurt, juice and flour and combine the ingredients well. Pour into the prepared tin, spread evenly and make a small hollow in the centre to encourage a flat top to the cake. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until browned and firm to the touch. Allow to stand for ten minutes before turning out of the tin and leaving to cool on a cooling rack. Now make the syrup by combining sugar and juice in a small saucepan, heating slowly until the sugar has melted then allowing to boil until it has become slightly reduced. Leave to cool off before pouring over the top of the cake – this should be done slowly so the cake can absorb the syrup.