I'm introducing this as a new feature on the blog - a regular weekend gallery for photos. I always have a camera of sorts to hand, whether indoors or out and can't resist pressing the shutter button! So, to start with, today's offering is...
This is the basil that sits on my kitchen windowsill. With the sun streaming through the window onto its leaves this morning, it inspired my Saturday shopping list towards salads and pasta dishes. I happened to have a cup of tea in hand while I skimmed through the Waitrose Kitchen magazine for ideas (I love cooking but get bored eating the same tried and tested recipes) and, serendipitously, there was a small column about keeping potted basil at its best:
- Keep in a well-lit, protected area away from cold draughts.
- Water when the leaves start to wilt and the compost is dry - it only needs a little water, especially in winter.
- Stress the plant by not giving it too much warmth and light - it will fight harder to survive and this strengthens the flavour.
- When using the leaves, tear them off with your hands as using scissors or a knife may blacken the stem and bruise the leaves.
- To encourage bushy growth, occasionally cut back the stems to just above a pair of new side shoots.
Apparently too much water will dilute basil's flavour so it's best to try not to water it for a day before using - something I was previously unaware of.
By doing all of the above, I've managed to keep one basil plant (supermarket bought at the beginning of 2010) going right through the winter months! (Admittedly, it has just about had it now and, once they've flowered, the leaves turn bitter.)
I've most recently used basil in a make-it-up-as-you-go-along pasta dish which turned out surprisingly well and was a big hit with my teenager. If you want to give it a go, I've typed up the recipe here.