Making pesto the old school way with a mortar and pestle is the perfect way to bring you into the moment; mindful cooking at its best. One could argue that
the result is better when essential oils are released slower than using a food processor, but beyond this pedantic point, let me just tell you that a handmade pesto will leaving you booming with pride, and is all the more wonderful as a gift when you have pestled the ingredients by hand.
Today, I’d like to show you 4 new creative pesto variations. There are a couple of fantastic different natural oils available in South Africa many people haven’t even heard of, let alone know what to do with them in the kitchen. What a waste when natural cold-pressed oils are excellent for not only enhancing your pesto with another flavour dimension but also to add loads of precious nutrients and supply you with healthy mercury-free fatty acids! I opt for Credé when I shop for natural cold-pressed and organic oils for two reasons – firstly they are local and secondly known for exceptional quality and purity, which is key for important groceries such as oils, which we use constantly. The cold-pressed oils I’ve used today are pumpkin seed oil, organic sesame oil, hemp seed oil and macadamia nut oil and I turned them into 4 perfectly balanced superfood pestos.
How to make your own Superfood Pesto
To make any type of pesto, you need 6 basics: garlic, salt, nuts, herbs, cheese and of course oil. If you consider these 6 fundamentals, the possibilities for creative variations are limitless. Cold-pressed natural Credé oils can be incorporated in a clever way to match your flavours and turn your pesto into a delicious health supplement.
Choose your ingredients mindfully
Please be mindful when sourcing the rest of the ingredients for your pestos as your product decisions have a powerful impact. Opt for local and ethical suppliers whenever you can. In this way you can make sure you work with fresh and healthy ingredients and you support your local community.
Unfortunately, there’s cruelty in most diary, which is why it is a real reason to be aware of. Source your diary mindfully from South African suppliers who apply ethical farming practises such as Karoo Goat’s Milk Products, Dalewood Fromage Cheese Estate or Camphill. Learn more about conventional dairy farming here and why it makes a difference to source from ethical suppliers only. Vegans can simply replace cheese with nutritional yeast.
Herbs, which you have planted yourself or organic herbs are the best options, because they are not contaminated with chemical insecticides. Since we receive our weekly box of organically farmed vegetables and herbs from Harvest of Hope, we always have an abundance of fresh produce for a bargain at home.
Let’s get cracking!
One of my absolute favourite natural oils is Pumpkin Seed Oil for its versatility. Pumpkin Seed Oil is not only great in salads, it adds an extra kick as a drizzle over soups, can be used as a beauty oil and gives your pesto irresistible earthy nuttiness.
It is just ideal for an earthy beetroot and pumpkin seed pesto with lemon zest for freshness and ethically sourced goat’s cheese. Yum! I promise you, you won’t get enough of it. I used up the whole jar in a week and spread this ruby deliciousness over anything from omelettes to baked potatoes. Our ratio on natural oils for this pesto is half organic olive oil and half pumpkin seed oil but you could even use a bit more of the later. Using a mortar and pestle allows you to move closer to your ideal flavor combination step by step. Use a small amount of coconut oil, grape seed or another oil with a high smoking point for roasting as pumpkin seed oil would use some of its valuable nutrients when heated such as Vitamin E, A, Zinc and essential fatty acids.
Earthy Beetroot and Pumpkin Seed Pesto with Goat Cheese and Mint
- 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed with 1/2t of sea salt and 1T of Credé Pumpkin Seed Oil
- a handful of pumpkin seeds
- 2 beets, peeled and cut in small cubes
- 2T of odorless and flavourless Credé Coconut Oil for roasting
- a handful of grated goat’s milk pecorino
- 2 handful of fresh herbs (1/3 mint, 1/3 basil, 1/3 parsley), finely chopped (potentially more basil)
- juice of 1 organic lemon and half of its zest or a bit more if you like more acidity
- 1,5t Za’tar spice
- a few tablespoons of Credé Natural Oils, 1/2 Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil and 1/2 Pumpkin Seed Oil
- 1/2t sea salt
Sh! Did you know? Pumpkin Seed Oil helps to maintain a healthy prostate and supports healthy functioning of the digestive tract. It might not be as famous as Coconut Oil, yet it is also becoming increasingly popular as a beauty oil for it’s anti-aging superpowers. It’s my favorite oil for dressings, preserving and cold dips and sauces.
Asian-Style Coriander, Basil and Sesame Pesto with raw Peanuts and Chili
- 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed with 1/2t of sea salt and 1T of Credé Organic Sesame Oil
- a handful of unsalted raw peanuts roasted in 1t Credé Organic sesame oil
- a small handful of roasted raw sesame seeds
- juice of 1 lime and its zest grated finely
- 1T MSG-free Soy Sauce
- 1 small red chili, finely chopped
- 1/2t TNT raw unheated Cape Honey
- 4T pecorino, grated
- a few tablespoons of Credé Natural Oils, 3/4 Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil and 1/4 Organic Sesame Oil
The most well-known pestos are basil, olive and sundried tomato pesto, all packed with mediterranean flavours. How about a crunchy Asian pesto for a change?
The fried rice at The Kitchen in Woodstock made me fall in love with sesame oil again. Sesame oil can bring any bland dish to life and give your pesto a beautiful Asian touch. It is a winner in combination with fresh coriander, chili for heat and a teaspoon of MSG-free soy sauce, optionally a hint of ginger if you like. Because it can become overpowering if used, I use a different ratio of oil than before, 3/4 organic olive oil and 1/4 organic sesame oil. A handful of roasted and crushed sesame seeds and raw unsalted peanuts add extra crunch.
It’s fair to call organic sesame oil the queen of oils, because it is not only packed with Vitamin E but also aminos and several minerals such as copper, magnesium and Zinc. It is also known to be a immune system booster and in combination with chili, which is high in Vitamin C, offers the ideal protection for this coming winter.
Because it has a high smoking point, I love coating my vegetables with sesame oil before I roast them. Besides many Asian dishes such as sesame noodles and stir fries it it lovely as a drizzle over soups or desserts. It might not be as popular as many other natural oils, which makes it totally underrated in my eyes and I think people should really start experimenting with it more.
Nutty Hemp, Olive and Rocket Walnut Pesto
- 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed with 1/2t of sea salt and 1T of Credé Hemp Seed Oil
- a handful of fresh herbs, 1/2 basil and 1/2 rocket
- a handful of walnuts
- a handful of grated pecorino
- a small handful of pitted Kalmata Olives
- 2t Superfoods Shelled Hemp Seeds
- juice of half a lemon
- a few tablespoons of Credé Natural Oils, 3/4 Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil and 1/4 Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp Seed Oil doesn’t only have interesting health benefits you should know about, it also adds a distinct nutty flavour to salads and is great for baking. It is becoming increasingly popular as a mercury-free fatty acid supplement for pregnant women and its high DHA content offers excellent support for the babies brain development. It is also a strong immune booster and can be used as a soothing beauty oil, which is highly moisturising and helps with skin irritations due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Just bear in mind that it will start to smoke fairly quickly under low temperatures, hence it should be used either for dressings or as a finishing oil to replace other fats such as butter for side dishes. Some may feel that hemp seed oil can have an overpowering aroma, therefore I dilute it down with organic olive oil for my pesto and apply a ration of 3/4 olive oil and 1/4 hemp seed oil. I love this pesto recipe so much because it achieves the perfect balance between acidity, bitterness from the olives, nuttyness from crushed hemp seeds and walnuts and sweetness which comes from the basil. Again, the lovely thing about using mortar and pestle is that you can taste along the way and add more fresh green herbs or lemon juice or even zest if you feel it is needed.
A Harvard study in 2007 established the fact that Hemp Seed oil is an effective alternative cancer treatment. More and more people are looking into this amazing realisation, which is one of the reasons why cooking and baking with hemp seed oil has become such a trend these days. I love this pesto spread over a good fillet of beef but your taste buds will give you more ideas – I promise!
Kale and Basil Macadamia Nut Pesto
- 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed with 1/2t of sea salt and 1T of Credé Macadamia Nut Oil
- a handful of crushed macadamia nuts roasted in 1t of Credé Macadamia Nut Oil
- a handful of grated pecorino
- 2 handful of kale leaves, finely chopped
- 2 handful of basil, finely chopped
- a few tablespoons of Credé Natural Oils, 1/2 Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil and 1/2 Macadamia Nut Oil
The Kale and Macadamia nut pesto is probably the most delicate and fine pesto of the four. It is rich and creamy and its flavours are so subtle and gentle, it can be used for pretty much anything that you like to take to another level. I like it with pasta, on a sandwich but also to herb up shellfish. Kale and macadamia is a match made in heaven and surely impresses when entertaining as the mild and creamy nutty flavour bears a wow factor and make your guests ask for more.
What I love about Macadamia nut oil the most is that its flavour is really pleasant, which makes it especially attractive for salads and desserts. Because of its high smoking point its an all-rounder though and a great alternative to olive oil or coconut oil. What few know is that macadamia nut oil is extremely good for the heart and even able to challenge olive oil because it is not only packed with beneficial fatty acids, its oleic acid content is even higher. This makes it ideal for getting your cholesterol levels up to scratch and balancing them out. Macadamia nut oil is especially known for boosting energy levels and its high content of antioxidants, of which some are particularly linked to good eye health.