On Markets and Jungle Pesto.
Sunday Markets have a beautiful soul that is hard to explain in words, but so easy to capture with your eyes closed and an alert nose. From the numerous markets there are dotted around Paris on the weekend, my favourite is the one found on Place Monge in the 5eme. It’s one of the most authentic and varied markets there are, though by far not the biggest one, its layout makes it feel contained and cosy, a maze of flowers, charcuterie, vegetables and all sorts of other cooked foods. Luckily I live a mere hundred metres away from the place and the vendors are so sweet and patient with me and the little French I have managed to learn over the past two years.
I want you all to get into the frame of mind of a food crazed shopper on a sunny Sunday Morning down at the market. Pupils dilated, salivation in full swing and a rare case of cash in pockets; its payday weekend and I know I am going to binge on everything food my eyes fall onto.
The market is in full blown food frenzy, but that that doesn’t faze you, you hone in on your kill and you find THE stall, the man who happens to have everything you need and want, all the vegetables glistening with last dawn’s dew. Then you start buying everything in sight like an idiot, and in a few minutes time you end up with a bag full of herbs, roots and fruits, some of which you don’t even like eating, you just bought them because you like the colour or because the smirk on the farmers face suddenly turned into something resembling a smile, feeding the do-gooder residing deep inside your ego, which happens to have a soft spot for smiling French Farmers.
All the cash is gone and the determination to cook a badass meal with your fresh ingredients starts dwindling. Suddenly you start feeling tired from all the shopping, and as a result you start eyeing the Lebanese stall, full of beautifully cooked flatbreads, meats, dips and salads. Yes, I’m considering buying ready chopped tabula when all the ingredients to make one are already in my shopping bag, lazy bastard.
Also the stall sporting charcuterie today of all days has the notorious fromage de tete, a mosaic of pinks and greens dotted in juniper berries and pistachios that is so hard to resist, so I buy some of that, a roast chicken, some sausages, a piece of roasted pork belly and well, obviously, a baguette. (After a quick dash to a dangerously close by ATM where I dip into next week’s budget without giving it a second thought…)
Which brings us right on to the Jungle Pesto.
Jungle Pesto is the pragmatic solution for over indulgence in the herb shopping department, it is ideal because there is no fixed recipe, only a set of rules that one needs to follow. Also, if you have a good enough palate, even these rules can be bent and changed to personal taste, and basically adopt whatever you find lying around in the kitchen. The rules for a great Jungle Pesto are…
Any garlic or onion need to be fried or roasted prior to being added in the pesto, also if you are adding rosemary see that this is cooked, raw rosemary tastes sour, cooked rosemary is great.
Add some sort of citrus to the mix, I like adding preserved lemons and orange juice and zest- it gives an uplifting taste and cuts through the otherwise grassy taste one gets when eating chlorophyll rich foods.
Add nuts or seeds- they add texture and give a nice bite, seeds are cheaper to acquire, and quite as nutritious. Flaxseeds are nice but I prefer sunflower or pumpkin seeds, always roast nuts or seeds prior to adding in a raw mix such as a pesto.
Last rule is to eat all the pesto, and not make new pesto before the old one is finished. Try to be a respectful human being even if you have to start exercising this with pesto.
Don’t be rude.
Don’t be wasteful.
Smile at your food.
Always cook enough so that you can share.
Never, ever, throw away food. Ever.
My Jungle Pesto-
2 bunches of parsley
2 bunches of coriander
1 bunch of rosemary
1bunch of sage
1bunch of mint
About three red onions
1 head of garlic
200ml olive oil
Zest and juice of one orange
Preserved lemon rinds- about 50grams.
In a roasting tray, chop the onions, garlic, lemon rinds and mix with Rosemary and Sage, both of these herbs benefit from heat. They are very bitter when eaten raw, but transform into a fragrant and sweet mess when cooked. Embalm the lot in olive oil, season well with salt and pepper. Roast till coloured, almost charred.
Whilst the onions are roasting, place the remaining herbs and nuts in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped.
Take out the onions from the oven and let cool completely before placing them in the food processor, and then add them to the herb mix. It is very important that they are cool when adding them to the herbs to prevent further cooking with the heat of the onions leading to the discoloration of the herb mix.
Jungle pesto should be green.
Zest an orange and add the juice to the mix, add also the olive oil until you reach a pesto of your favoured consistency.
Place the pesto in a sterilised jar, and store in the fridge.
The beauty of this pesto is that it allows you to preserve herbs which would have been left to rot in the fridge, and the end result is so much better tasting then the sum of its parts. It’s great added to pasta dishes or on homemade pizza, I have even added it to mashed potatoes.
Try your own jungle pesto, with any herbs you have lying around, and don’t hold back from offering your feedback and suggestions in the comments below.