​Ingredient Glossary: Basil

​Ingredient Glossary: Basil

Posted by Emily on 1st Dec 2019

Basil, though commonly linked with Mediterranean cuisine, has made significant inroads into Asian culinary traditions. This aromatic herb is cherished for its captivating, sweet scent and robust flavour.

Mediterranean Varieties

  • Sweet Basil - Boasts large green leaves, lending a sweet aroma to dishes.
  • Greek Basil - A peppery variant, it comes with smaller leaves, adding a subtle spicy undertone.
  • Purple Basil - Recognisable by its dark leaves, it offers a gentler flavour than its green counterparts.

Asian Varieties

  • Lemon Basil - As the name suggests, this variety infuses dishes with a hint of citrus, thanks to its smaller leaves.
  • Thai Basil - It has a more potent kick compared to sweet basil.
  • Holy Basil - Known for its spicy and robust nature, it's unique as it imparts the best flavour when cooked, unlike most basil, that's typically used raw.

Availability

Though you can find basil throughout the year, it thrives best during the sun-drenched months of July and August. Opt for an eco-friendly approach by purchasing a potted basil plant from local nurseries or supermarkets. It thrives on sunny windowsills, adding a touch of greenery to your space.

How to Grow Basil?

Selection and Preparation

While basil is available in various forms like freeze-dried, preserved in sunflower oil, or dried, nothing beats the flavour punch of fresh basil. Whether you opt for the cut or potted type, freshness is paramount. For usage, pluck the leaves gently off their stalks and either use them whole or tear them for a rustic touch on your dishes.

Storage Tips

Freshly cut basil benefits from being wrapped in damp kitchen paper and then stored in a perforated bag in the fridge, staying fresh for a few days. Potted basil, however, requires a sunny but sheltered spot, like a windowsill. Regular watering is crucial, but avoid over-watering to preserve the herb's intense flavour. As you harvest leaves, new ones will sprout, extending the plant's life for several months.

Cooking Ideas

  • Craft a classic pesto by grinding it with garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, and olive oil using a mortar, pestle, or food processor.
  • Enrich tomato-based pasta sauces.
  • Assemble a traditional Caprese salad with slices of mozzarella, tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Whip up a basil-infused butter by mixing chopped basil into softened butter – perfect for melting over steaks, roast chicken, or giving boiled new potatoes a flavour boost.
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