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Hazelnut-Basil Pesto

Every time I find something new in the market I go a teensy bit nuts. When I mean nuts, I mean seriously bananas. 

For example, my latest fascination are hazelnuts and I'm doing a lot with what I've got. So far, I made some lovely biscotti, made yummy chocolate cup, thrown it in my smoothies in the mornings. And now am contemplating doing a deep dark chocolate cake with ground hazelnut.

But before I could go completely overboard with my dessert fixation, I bought a huge bunch of basil that smelt so fresh that I had to do something with them. I've been wanting to make pesto for a while, because this basil is slightly different from what I get back in India, I've used almost a cup less. 

It's basil alright, it's just lot sharper, and definitely more aromatic and if you see how the leaves are, you'll understand what I mean. One leaf does the work of three I feel. Which is why the pesto you see in the jar is a lot lighter than what you're used to. But don't get me wrong, it packs a punch.

The hazelnuts add a certain mellowness that you don't get with say almonds or cashews, and a lovely mouthfeel that you get with pinenuts but almost a buttery after taste which is really quite amazing.

Also the Parmesan I used was salted, so I didn't need to add any extra, but please adjust according to taste.

Oh and wait a minute, you see this jar? I got this from the most amazing Vintage Shop in Isloo. I'd been trawling on Facebook when I stumbled on them and can I just say it's run by the sweetest couple ever!

The husband and I rang their doorbell really late one night since we were in the neighbourhood and were surprised to find the loot they had. Gorgeous wall plates, old old old transistor radios, gramophones, LP, teapots... oh I was in vintage heaven. 

This jar was lying on the top most shelf, among other things like playing cards etc, and there was no way I could reach it. But the sweet man, that he was, he handed it over to me and I was in love. I loved the air-tight double cap and the shape of the jar and I could think of a million things I wanted to put in it. 

You like it, he asked me, looking at my lovelorn expression. I nodded in agreement. It's yours, he said. I was like dude you can't give it to me for free. He was like no, this is a present for you. 

This is how my experience has been so far in Pakistan. I'm so overwhelmed at people's generosity that I don't know how to reciprocate the joy I feel. Thank you Vintage Shop, for making me feel at home. You're going to see a lot more of the jar (and other stuff) soon.

Hazelnut-Basil Pesto

1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted and skinned
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp water
2 cups fresh basil ( for those back home, please use 3 cups)
Salt to taste


1. Toast your hazelnuts on slow flame for about 5 to 7 minutes till the nutty smell engulfs you. Turn off the heat and transfer onto a plate. Let it cool. Use your hand to crumble out the skin
2. Wash and dry your basil leaves. Grate your cheese. Peel your garlic. Squeeze out the lemon juice.
3. In a food processor or a small blender add the hazelnuts and give it a quick whir. You only want to break it down and not mush it up.
3. Add the remaining ingredients barring the olive oil. Whiz it a couple of time, till you can see it all coming together.
4. Slowly add the olive oil leaving aside the two tablespoons to top later. Whir till it all comes together. I like to see bits of nuts in my basil so I don't really puree it.
5. Transfer into an air-tight jar and top with remaining olive oil
6. The hazelnut pesto should last your for two weeks in the refrigerator.


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  1. You really are he best, which is why you are getting the best! I love the idea of Isloo...and seriously would love to be in your shoes like now! Would love to be with basil, in the Vintage Shop, with the generous folk... everything! Beautifully written Ruchira!