Cobnut Pesto – Seasonal Recipe from New Covent Garden Market:
There’s a chill in the air in the morning now, the nights are drawing in and trees turning gold. Autumn is upon us, even if we do have the occasional Indian Summer. There’s something of a glut of fresh fruit and vegetables too at the moment and those of my friends who are lucky enough to have large gardens or allotments are busy making chutneys and pickles, freezing, baking and preserving fruit and gifting to those of us who live too centrally to have space to grow much in the garden other than herbs. This year I was lucky enough to be sent a beautiful box of seasonal fruit, vegetables and cobnuts from New Covent Garden, one of London’s most famous markets and the place where most of the City’s restaurants will buy their fresh fruit and vegetables. In fact New Covent Garden Market supplies 40% of the fresh fruit and vegetables eaten outside of the home in London – they supply restaurants at the Dorchester, Chez Bruce and the Ledbury.
My crate of seasonal September produce presented me with quite a challenge. I eat out far too much and the danger for me with fresh produce is that it can spoil very quickly. I was sent a mystery box too, so I had no idea till it turned up what would be there.
But, I have something of an advantage in that I was brought up in the country and my family relied heavily on the produce from our own kitchen garden. So, I’m well used to finding ways to use a wide range of goodies.
There was a pot of damsons – sharp little fruit that I remember best from my Grandma’s damson jam. Not quite enough to make my own jam, I washed them and then made a compote with the same volume of sugar, which I’ve frozen to use as a sauce for ice cream.
Winter Squash always look beautiful to me. And, they keep very well. So, they’ve been stored in a cool cellar laid out on the crate that the rest of the goodies were sent in. I’ll be cooking with them in November and December – making winter roast vegetables, soups and risotto. Delicious.
A large punnet of Reine-Claude plums was almost too good to do anything with other than eat. So, some of them just went into a fruit bowl for snacks. The others are currently basking in copious quantities of gin – I’m making greengage gin for the winter, a spiced drink that should be perfect after about 2 months. The fruit will still be delicious – I’ll probably serve them with a little cream for a beautifully boozy dessert.
The prickly pears were eaten quickly, just peeled and sliced. And the rainbow chard went into a stir-fry that evening.
It was the cobnuts which I found most immediately challenging. On my fact-sheet, it said ‘use in pesto or stir into creamy rice pudding’. Quite diverse options! I’m not a great fan of rice pudding so went for the first option and made my own pesto, adapting things a little from the classic basil pesto to try and let the taste of the cobnuts shine through. The recipe was fabulous and made enough for four servings. If you’d like to try for yourself, here’s what I did.
- 1 handful Fresh Basil leaves
- 1 handful Fresh Parsley leaves
- 50 g Grana Padano Cheese Grated Finely
- 25 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1 pinch Salt
- 100 g Shelled Cobnuts
Lightly roast the cobnuts for about 10 minutes at 180C till they are turning golden
Put the parsley and basil, salt and garlic into a mortar and pound till the leaves start to break down.
Add the toasted cobnuts and continue to pound until you have a sticky paste
Gradually trickle in the olive oil, till the mixture is about the thickness of double cream
Stir through the grated cheese and add more olive oil till you have a sauce that drops easily from the spoon.
Store in the fridge till ready to use, for no more than 2-3 days. If you want to keep the pesto for longer, it will freeze without any problems
For opening hours and more about New Covent Garden Market check their website.
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Disclosure: I was sent a mystery crate of fruit and vegetables and challenged to create a recipe with something from the content. I was not paid for this post.