There’s nothing quite like the distinctive peppery taste of nasturtium leaves.
It’s a fantastically generous plant; as well as growing like a wild weed and self-seeding readily, the flowers are edible, the seed pods are edible, and the leaves are edible. It’s the leaves I’ll be using today, and if you’ve never tried eating them, they’re a bit like watercress, pungent and peppery, and they make a fantastic pesto. My favourite in fact!
I feel I should insert a small disclaimer here regarding my ingredients, before Italian nonnas everywhere descend on me denouncing my somewhat loose interpretation of traditional pesto ingredients. I am fully aware that the customary choices are a hard Italian cheese (think pecorino or parmesan) and the nut should, really, be a pine nut. I’ve gone a little off piste on these as you’ll see below, but, having no nonna to guide me, well… I just went with what my taste buds said!
Makes around 4 jars.
- 100g nasturtium leaves
- 120g pistachios
- 160g strong cheddar cheese
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 185g olive oil
- zest and juice of 2 lemons
- salt to taste
- Wash the nasturtium leaves and dry them as well as you can.
- Toast the pistachios in a dry saucepan on a low heat until they are lightly browned and you can smell the delicious toasty flavour. Be careful, they can go from fine to burned very fast!
- Place all the ingredients into a bowl and blend. I usually use a stick blender as I don’t have a food processor, so I find it’s easiest to blitz the leaves with the oil and lemon juice to start with, before adding the other ingredients.
- Season to taste and then place the pesto into sterilised jars.
- Pour a bit of olive oil into the top of each jar to create an olive oil seal.
That’s it! I find the toasty, earthy flavour of the pistachios and the sharp, creamy texture of the cheddar contrast well with the peppery nasturtium and the zingy lemon, but feel free to substitute any nut or cheese of your liking. If you’d like to add a bit more pepper to your pesto, include a few of the seed pods when you blitz it!
I usually make a huge batch of this (at least double the above) at the beginning of autumn and pop it in the freezer where it will comfortably last me through to the next season. Perfect for enjoying with a bowl of homemade gnocchi and a crisp glass of wine.
Let me know what you think of my pesto recipe if you make it! And if, like me, you choose to use the cheddar and the pistachios, don’t worry – I won’t tell nonna.