Saturday, 18 January 2014

Basil Pesto

The basil in our backyard is growing well, flourishing at a rate faster than we can consume. I’ve tried incorporating the herb into several of our meals, cutting the top few inches of the stalks whenever I need them but there are still SO much! I love having fresh herbs at home – it makes such a difference to the taste of even basic dishes like spaghetti Bolognese, giving it just that extra oomph in flavour.

Thriving basil from our backyard

So what to do with all this basil? One of the easiest way to use a good chunk of them is to make basil pesto, and I’ve found just the perfect recipe from – it’s super easy and surprisingly for someone who doesn’t like basil pesto very much, Jono enjoys this version. Definitely adding it to my recipe collection!

Basil Pesto (recipe by Michelle Southan)

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 min

45g (
¼ cup) pine nuts
1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
2 small garlic cloves, halved
60g (¾ cup)
shredded parmesan
5 tbs olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread the pine nuts over a baking tray. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until toasted. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
2. Place the pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the oil in a thin steady stream until well combined.

To freeze half (for up to 4 months): Transfer half the pesto to a small airtight container and smooth the surface. Drizzle with olive oil to cover. Label, date and freeze. To thaw: Place in the fridge for 3-4 hours or until thawed. Stir to combine.

Ingredients for making basil pesto - basil leaves, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, toasted pine nuts and olive oil

Homemade basil pesto

You can use almond or cashew nuts in replacement of pine nuts - cheaper in cost but still tastes great. You can also replace the basil with other herbs such as flat-leaved parsley for a less traditional but still gourmet pesto. Use the pesto in pasta, as an accompaniment with meats, or my personal favourite, as a dip/spread with crackers or freshly baked bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Gelato Messina at Sydney Festival 2014 (8th January 2014)

The annual Sydney Festival is back for the month of January, this time bigger and better than before! With a fantastic line up of music, theatre, dance, circus and interactive installations by artists both international and homegrown totalling around a hundred events held all around Sydney, there's something for everyone. Jono and I bought ourselves a festival multipack for three events each in October last year when they were first available for sale (3-4 events saves you 10% off tickets; 5 or more saves you 15%) - we've got tickets to LIMBO, La Cucina dell'Arte and  Tom Thum: Beating The Habit with our first event LIMBO this Friday. Looking forward to it!

As part of the festival, Hyde Park North has been transformed into the Festival Village, home to some of the ticketed and free events, as well as several pop up food stalls and bars including Rekorderlig, Food Society and Gelato Messina for folks to quench their thirst and fill their bellies whilst enjoying the long summer evenings outdoors. "WHAT?!?!?!?!" was Ken's response when he discovered that Gelato Messina was offering a special selection of carnival treats during the festival period -  hot dogs, corn dogs, cotton candy and lollipops made from gelato to look like the real thing are just some of the treats from their extensive carnival menu. They even have quirky names like Yeah Dawgs and Samurai Fairy Balls to boot - sounds like a worthy trip to the Festival Village just to check them out! You don't have to go to an event to get in; admittance to the village is free. 

Ken and I headed to the Festival Village and met up with fellow food blogger Jade at the entrance around 6.45pm for an evening of sugar rush. As it was the unofficial first day of the festival with only two preview shows this evening, the village wasn't too busy - kids were seen bouncing happily on the life-size inflatable Stonehenge replica 'Sacrilege', adults enjoying the warm summer evening over a few drinks at the beer garden. Less crowd is good as that meant no queues for gelato hehe...The Il Carnivale Di Gelato Messina is located across the Spiegeltent right in the heart of the village, its whimsical cartoon walls enveloping a large food truck and kitchen where all the magic happens. The stall is HUGE - no way you could miss it! 

Gelato Messina at the Sydney Festival Village in Hyde Park

Gelato Messina - Sydney Festival menu

No queue at Il Carnivale Di Gelato Messina on launch day - score!

With 15 different treats to choose from, it sure was a daunting task to narrow down a select few to sample. While Jade and Ken continued to mull over which ones they should get, I got in line and bought us a Yeeeah Dawgs (a twisted hot dog) and Messinawiener (aka Pluto Pup) for $9 each. A bit steep in price though to be expected since these were festival-only creations. The signage above the purchase counters seem to suggest that one has to queue in the right line for the type of treat you want but you can actually join any line - purchase your carnival treat at any counter from one of the friendly staff donned in black-and-white striped tops. Some treats take a while as they are made on order but service was fairly prompt overall. 

With a carnival treat in each hand, I weaved through the curious bystanders who were trying to get a glimpse of my goodies and take photos on their mobiles (er, excuse me, but you are in my way...) only to find Ken and Jade were still standing in front of the large menu board debating their choice. "OK, how about the one with the duck fat caramel? Sounds wrong, but I'll be keen to try," I suggested. That tipped the votes and so it was decided - Jade went to pick up a So Wrong, It's Right while Ken and I went to look for a table. 

We found ourselves a free table not far from the gelato truck and with disposable spoons each (you can pick these up from the order counter), we dug into our shared treats. The Yeeeah Dawgs looked quite convincing though the milk chocolate 'hot dog' was a bit on the pale side which reminded me of a frozen uncooked hot dog. Hmm, though it was a feast for the eyes, all three of us agreed it wasn't as delectable as it looked - the mix of flavours just didn't quite work. 

Yeeeah Dawgs ($9) - milk chocolate hot dog served in a warm bun with passionfruit 'mustard', raspberry 'ketchup', buttercream 'mayo' and toasted coconut shaving 'onions'

So Wrong, It's Right was a combination that sounded wrong on so many levels - duck fat caramel, potato chips and bacon marshmallows on a cheesecake flavoured gelato??? The thought of them eaten together was gross but interestingly it was alright though didn't wow us. I guess I was expecting a more savoury/meaty flavour from the duck fat caramel and bacon marshmallows (just for some fun) - if there were any, it was so subtle that we couldn't even taste it. 

So Wrong, It's Right ($9) - caramel cheesecake gelato, duck fat caramel, crushed potato chips and bacon marshmallow

My favourite of the lot was the Messinawiener, a stick of maple syrup gelato coated in crispy pancake batter. I highly recommend if you are enjoying it on the stick that you eat this one fast, otherwise make sure you pick up a disposable spoon with you before you leave the gelato truck - the heat from the deep fried batter melts the gelato making it quite a challenge to savour the treat on stick!

Messinawiener ($9) - maple syrup gelato coated in pancake batter and deep fried, drenched in plum sauce

Jade was keen for round two to try out the Carni Candies and needed a few more mouths to help eat. I'm bursting at the seams from dinner and round one of dessert but will try my best...Back at the gelato truck, Jade and Ken picked up a Gelatoffee Apple and The Shake Shack (milkshake) for $7 each. The Shake Shack comes in several flavours - malt, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, salted caramel and popcorn. The malt milkshake pretty much tasted like cold whipped malted milk which was not very exciting. It didn't help that it came in a plain white paper cup making it look equally uninteresting - I wasn't enticed to even bother taking a photograph of the drink :/

Ken and I couldn't help but burst into fits of laughter watching Jade trying to get her first bite on the Gelatoffee Apple. The frozen treat was rock hard and we could all hear 'thunk, thunk' noises as she struggled to bite through the red shell :P The Gelatoffee Apple was a welcomed change to the creamy gelato treats we've had so far - the green apple sorbet was wonderfully refreshing and now my new favourite carnival treat (sorry Messinawiener)!

Gelatoffee Apple ($7) - green apple sorbet with a caramel milk chocolate glazed candy apple red finish

It was a fun experience sampling the various carnival treats tonight even though it was a hit and miss for some. Keen to try a couple more on my upcoming visits to the village ;)

Gelato Messina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato