Charlie’s Chunky Red Pesto

Pesto is such a simple, understated but amazing addition to a meal, in my opinion.  Originating from Ligura, Italy, it became a culinary staple in the 1800s with each family tending to have their own variation; hence there are now so many different recipes around today.

I started making it myself from scratch during my final year of university, when one day I fancied trying something new in the kitchen, looked at the label of a pesto jar and thought “bet I could make this better and healthier myself…”

My recipe uses mostly cashew nuts rather than the traditional pine nuts because I’ve found it gives a smoother texture and fuller flavour.  I also often like to add in extra flavours such as oven-roasted peppers or caramelised red onion, the latter of which gives it a much sweeter flavour and goes well simply on its own with pasta and a bit of feta.

Anyway, here’s my recipe for homemade red pesto for you to try at home:

Ingredients:

1 jar of sundried tomatoes ~ 285g
30g basil
lemon juice
salt + pepper
2 ½ tsp tomato purée
2-3 cloves of garlic (to taste)
80g cashew nuts
30g pine nuts
55g parmesan
olive oil

Method:

I recommend using a food processor for this recipe, but if you don’t have one it can also be done in a large mixing bowl with a hand blender (it’s just a bit messier!):

  • Put the nuts into your food processor/chopper and whizz until finely chopped
    • Alternatively, you could crush them in a pestle & mortar or whack in a bag with a rolling pin biscuit style.
  • Add the sundried tomatoes and a glug of oil and mix until chopped into small chunks.
  • Add the garlic (crushed/finely chopped), parmesan, salt + pepper to taste and a few sprinkles of lemon juice. Then mix up again until combined.
  • Then tear up the basil roughly and throw into the mix, include the stalks where possible as these contain loads of flavour! Whizz it up once more, adding more oil if needed to bind it all together and create a smoother consistency.
  • Take a small spoonful and review your flavour balances, adding more seasoning (or parmesan/lemon juice/garlic) if needed to suit your own taste.

Once you’re happy with it, transfer to a glass jar or tupperware with airtight locking and enjoy!

Please note: it won’t be as smooth as the stuff you buy in jars, chunky and funky is this pesto’s style.  It will last a week or so in the fridge in an airtight container or it can be frozen on the day and saved for later.

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I personally love this recipe because it’s so versatile and so simple!  Traditionally it’s perfect with pasta, especially with stuffed tortellini, but you can also try it layered on-top of salmon and baked in foil, or as a really tasty pizza base and layer it up with veg and cheese.  Whatever you’re into, there are plenty of ways to bring this into your favourite dishes – get creative!

Here’s my go-to: pesto with wholewheat pasta, prawns and salmon (I bake the salmon in foil in the oven then flake into the pasta and mix altogether at the end).

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I hope you enjoy; let me know what you come up with if you give it a go!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Protein banana-oat muffins

I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a bit bored with the same flavour protein powder after a while and whilst I love all this ‘clean eating’ business, I still struggle to resist sweet treats like cakes when temptation strikes!  So I decided to try my hand at putting my protein into baking to mix things up a bit.  There are loads of different whey protein recipes online to choose from but after reading a few I decided to do my own version and kinda make it up as I went along… turned out pretty well!  So here goes: my protein banana oat muffins recipe – hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 bananas (the riper the better)file_000-11
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
~180g egg whites (~4 eggs)
2 scoops protein powder (mine is My Protein’s chocolate brownie flavour)
~60g sugar substitute (I used honey, but you can use coconut sugar/alternative)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
~180g oats
~20g chia seeds (optional)
3 scoops/~150g wholemeal self-raising flour

Method:

  • Put the oven on at 180ºC and spray Fry light once or twice into each muffin hole of your muffin tray, at a distance so as to cover the whole area and avoid sticking – in my opinion, this is much easier than using cupcake cases but just a personal preference
  • Chop/break up the bananas into chunks, then mash in a bowl with a fork until smooth
  • Pour the flour, protein powder, oats, sugar substitute, baking powder and bicarb of soda into a large mixing bowl, mix together and form a well in the middle
  • Add the banana, egg whites and Greek yoghurt into the well and mix until combined (this can be a bit of a workout in itself…)
  • Scoop the mixture into the muffin holes, they will be quite full but enough for 12 large muffins or 16 or so smaller ones
  • Bake at 180ºC for 17-20 mins, then cool for 5 mins in the tray and transfer to a cooling rack

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And that’s that folks!  Hopefully your muffins should come out looking like mine did as pictured above and smelling wonderful.  Plus, they’ll last a good few days in air-tight tupperware/the fridge so you can spread them out over the week rather than pig out all at once (which, with protein, I wouldn’t recommend).  These really are perfect as a quick breakfast on the go, post-workout snack, or coupled with ice cream or natural yoghurt as a fitness-friendly dessert!  ‘Let them eat cake’, as they say.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx