My basil plant is starting to look a little leggy and unhappy. Chuffed as I am that I have managed to keep it alive for several months (probably due to the fact that I bought it from a garden centre not a supermarket) it is now time to accept that in the next few weeks I need to start using up the leaves, or storing them in some way because they won’t survive the winter. I’m not too sad about this. As I said on Friday basil is one of those things I want to eat by the handful all summer but once the leaves start to turn, thyme, rosemary and bay take over. But even though the shops are full of school uniforms and the August weather is rubbish, I want to hang on to the light and the flavours of heat for a few more weeks. The obvious thing would be to make some pesto but I’m more interested in doing something I’ve never tried before: basil oil.
Opinions vary on how to do it: heat up the oil with the leaves in it, or blanch the leaves and puree them with oil in a blender. There are more in the former school than the latter so I’ve gone for that, adapting a recipe by Jill Dupleix. You will need to sterilise whatever you put it into if you don’t want to get ill/watch your hard work go mouldy and there are plenty of examples of how to on the net. Delicious drizzled over fish, as a base for salad dressings, for a quick pasta sauce or just on toast for a snack.
For 250ml or so you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
extra-virgin olive oil, 250ml
fresh basil, a good handful of large leaves (about 20 is good)
1. Rinse the basil leaves and dry them off with some kitchen paper.
2. Put the oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat and warm gently.
3. Bruise the basil leaves a little in a pestle and mortar or with a rolling pin then add to the oil.
4. Keep the oil just simmering at a very low temperature for about half an hour. The basil will go crisp which is fine but don’t let it burn or colour.
5. After half an hour, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool completely.
6. Once cold, strain into the sterilised bottle or jar (I used a small funnel from IKEA for this stage and it caught all the crispy leaves beautifully) and seal.