I want some green freshness, so it’s first time out foraging this year. All sorts of good things are attributed to lemon balm, uplifting and calming. I use for it’s lemony, green, freshness. Pick a leaf and crush it in your hand, breath in deeply for an intense lemony experience. Most people think of it as a pesky weed in their gardens, I love the way it scrambles through the border and rose bushes, adding to the lush garden tapestry. When it threatens to swamp other plants, cut back hard to get a flush of new growth. Use handfuls of young leaves to make a delicious pesto, a frugal gourmet treat that comes in at about £2 for the recipe below.
The ‘pesto’ is a flexible sauce, while you make it, be guided by how you want to use it, for a summer salad stir into cold chicken, into pasta for a quick supper, a thick sauce to have with grilled fish. Tasting is the only way to get the balance right, depending on your mood, add more cheese or herbs, use different nuts or oil, add more oil for a looser sauce, sharpen up with lemon juice.
Best eaten fresh, fresh, fresh. Can be stored for a couple of days in the fridge in a jar, to keep it’s greenness pour over extra oil to cover surface.
Lemon Balm Pesto
- Serves 6
- 40g young lemon balm leaves
- 20g parsley
- 1 tbsp lemon thyme leaves
- 175ml sunflower oil
- 40g strong hard cheddar grated
- 100g toasted hazelnuts
- grated zest and juice from ½ lemon
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Grind nuts in food processor. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except lemon juice.
- Process to form a thick sauce. Add more oil if it needs thinning.
- Taste and if it needs sharpening keep tasting as you gradually add lemon juice.