A good fresh basil pesto has to be my favourite Italian mix so far.
I was wowed by it when I first had a pesto pasta, four years back, at the original Da Vinci in the Papa Poncho lane at Bandra’s Pali Naka.
Then disgusted by soupy pestos served at other Mumbai restaurants I started Finely Chopped.
I finally found inner peace when I saw the recipe of pesto in one of Jamie Oliver’s books and realised how easy it is to prepare. In the book Oliver points out that pesto, like any other base, can be used in various forms.
Since then I have made pesto in a food processor and then, in the more self fulfilling way, with a mortar and pestle. Apart from bacon pesto spaghettis & smoked salmon pesto pennes I’ve sauted fish in pesto, made bread seasoned with pesto, made chicken dips with pesto. The possibilities, as Oliver said, are endless.
With the freshness of basil, the zest of garlic, the salty edge of parmesan calmed down by demure extra virgin olive oil…a fresh basil pesto remains one of the most perfect taste experiences in me.
The other day I had to get some quick cooking done and so I thought of grilling pomfret in pesto. I was looking for a dish which would be novel, look good and impress the taste palates of a few seasoned and experienced food aficionados that I was meeting for a shoot.
The dish delivered perfectly.
The ladies were impressed and the fish snuggled in happily amongst a table full of brilliant and beautiful food.
Keep watching this space for more on that lovely evening.
Here’s the recipe:
Pomfret roasted in pesto
I. Pesto (this will yield more than you need. You can store the rest in a fridge)
Ingredients: 2 coffee mugs full of fresh basil leaves, 2/3 garlic cloves, 1/2 a coffee mug of pine nuts (these are expensive. You can use less or use walnuts), 1/2 a coffee mug of grated parmesan (I committed sacrilege that afternoon by using some Australian cheddar that I had at home. Didn’t make that much of a difference). 1 coffee mug of extra virgin olive oil (you could use less frankly)
Prepare (the easy way): Grind the basil in a food processor. Add the pine nuts. Grind. Add the garlic. Grind. Add the cheese. Grind. Add the olive oil. Stir or whip. The rule is ‘dry to wet’
II. Fish – whole pomfret marinated
“Score’ the fish. That is, slash the surface with a knife. This will ensure that the taste and flavours of the spices or herbs spread all through when the fish cooks.
Sprinkle some salt (not too much as the pesto has a salty cheese in it) and pepper and squeeze some lime over the fish and mix in the salt and pepper.
Slowly layer on the pesto on the fish. Make sure to push the pesto in to the ridges where the fish was scored and the hollow part from where the entrails have been cleaned out.
Let it rest for a bit. I didn’t have time so just waited while I preheated the oven.
Put the fish in for 15 min at 200 C with the heat coming from both top and bottom.
That’s it. Add some fresh pesto the side and serve ideally with some crusty French bread.