I’m delighted to introduce Ted’s first appearance in the blog! He went to the farmers market today and found the first asparagus of the year – cause for celebration indeed. He teamed it with the most lovely homemade lovage pesto – his own delicious invention – and made us the most gloriously green spring lunch. I begged him to write up the recipe and he did. Here you go.
What to do with lovage, the world and Joe want to know. It’s a vigorous herb which produces lots of big green fronds that look suspiciously like flat-leaf parsley. Unlike parsley, however, lovage is not mildly-flavoured. Its taste is not unpleasant – like a very strong celery leaf – but I’ve always struggled to know what to do with it as it always seemed like it would overpower most other flavours. So I’ve been left with a herb that grows unchecked and unharvested until it kicks out its flower spike in mid-summer and finally dies back.
Then, while gardening one weekend and looking again at the rapidly expanding lovage, I had a brainwave – what about making all those leaves into pesto? It turns out that other people have had the same idea and there are several recipes already on the web. See here and here.
My recipe takes the basic elements of these two (lovage leaves, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic, nuts) but with my own twist (by which I mean that the ingredients below were the ones in our larder and when I chucked them together they tasted pretty good.)
I’ve made enough for two jars here. You will need:
- Lovage (a colander full of washed leaves)
- 100g Parmesan
- 100g unsalted pistachio kernels (or salted if you can’t find and just adjust the seasoning)
- Juice of one and half lemons
- A couple of cloves of garlic
- A hefty glug of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the lovage fronds so that you just have the tender leaves. The inventive cooks above both point out that the woody stems are hollow and can be used as straws for a Bloody Mary. [Editor’s note: !!!]
Wash the leaves to remove any bugs/dirt.
Put the leaves, nuts, Parmesan (chopped into chunks), olive oil and lemon juice into a food processor and blend until you have a good, thick, green paste.
And there you go – very simple. It works really well in pasta with fresh, green vegetables. Sweet ones such as peas, pea shoots and asparagus complement the bitterness of the lovage. You can keep it in a jar in the fridge for a week or two and you probably won’t die from eating it.
Asparagus and lovage pesto
Cooking and prep time 15 mins. (15 real minutes not 15 Jamie Oliver minutes.)
- Spaghetti (enough for two)
- A bunch of asparagus
- 2 tbsp lovage pesto
- Parmesan, lovage leaves and lemon zest (for garnish)
Boil the spaghetti.
While the pasta is cooking, chop a bunch of asparagus into chunks.
Grate a bit of Parmesan and peel some lemon zest for a garnish. Put the garnish to one side. You can keep back a few lovage leaves for this purpose as well.
When the pasta is ready, drain and leave in the colander while you return the pasta pan to the hob.
Put in some olive oil and then sauté the asparagus chunks. A couple of minutes is all they will need.
Turn off the heat and add a couple of spoonfuls of lovage pesto to the veg. Then add in the pasta and mix until it is well covered with both the pesto and asparagus chunks.
Put the pasta into bowls and garnish with your lemon zest, Parmesan and lovage leaves.