We’ve had a lull in our chilli supply for the past couple of months. Sad news for this heat-loving household. We’d even run out of the many little bags I’d frozen earlier in the year. The joy returned a couple of weeks ago when the little birdseye chillis we love re-appeared at the markets. I picked up a bag of green chillis and used one chilli in this fiery sesame sambal. We both nearly scalded our tastebuds off! Our chilli plant has also started fruiting furiously. I’m so glad I resisted the urge to pull it out after it was vanquished by leaf-munching insects over winter. We also recently happened upon a little un-signed public herb garden while out walking along Southbank, which had… purple chillis! I had to pick a couple to satisfy my curiosity. What is a public herb garden for, if not for use by the public?!
So, what to do with a glut of chillis? While I’m working up to a harissa and David Thompson’s Thai green curry, I’ve been using chillis in things I usually wouldn’t. Like this pesto. Which was a little bit random, but insanely good. I was given a bunch of wilted coriander (cilantro) from an organic stallholder at the markets and immediately thought ‘pesto’. With chilli (of course), cashew and lime. We ate this spooned over roasted eggplant + baby capsicums with couscous and feta. We’ve also spread it on sandwiches and eaten it as a dip. I reckon it would also work piled onto vegie burgers, or drizzled through a soba noodle salad… so many ways to skin a cat!
I made this with a mortar and pestle – some say it intensifies and blends flavours. I don’t own a food processor and prefer where-ever possible to do things by hand. Luddite or lo-fi? Perhaps, but way more fun. And it feels a bit more artistic. And, well, why plug into power if you don’t need to? Whatever the method, give it a go – it’s a punchy little number.
The quantity of olive oil given below will result in a more solid pesto which is great as a dip or spread – use more oil if you want to use this as a dressing. If you can’t get kaffir lime leaves, try doubling or even trebling the amount of lime zest and juice. This had quite a headstrong garlicky fragrance – use less if this doesn’t appeal. You might want to wear glasses when you’re smashing the chilli, lest you cop an eyeful.
1 bunch coriander/cilantro
1 green birdseye chilli
4 small cloves garlic
1 spring onion – white part
2 tbspn dry roasted cashews
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp raw sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
good pinch sea-salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Roughly chop coriander and chilli and set aside. Finely slice kaffir lime leaves, place in mortar and grind with pestle. Place garlic cloves, onion, chilli and salt in mortar and roughly smash. Add coriander, smashing and grinding til it becomes a paste. Make sure to mix everything together as you go.
Push the paste to one side. Add the toasted cashews and smash until fine. Mix it all up again. Add sugar, lime zest and juice, mixing so the citrus helps dissolve the sugar. Add olive oil a little at a time – you’ll want to use the pestle more as a mixing tool from now on. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Stores in a jar in the fridge for several weeks – make sure the pesto is topped with olive oil. Best served at room temperature.