Pesto and pea potato salad

When I was doing restaurant shifts last summer, one of the things that most enthralled me most was the making of salad dressings. They’d use industrial stick blenders, which resembled jackhammers, and pour oil over brood’s-worth of egg yolks until everything emulsified into a thick, glossy dressing.

The salad dressings had a consistency more like loose mayonnaise than a vinaigrette. So to coat the leaves, you would really get your hands involved. No flapping about with salad servers. These dressings weren’t about giving the leaves a subtle oily sheen, but really adding a lot of flavour.

With this potato recipe, the pesto might seem like a lot in comparison to the peas and potatoes. But it’s a transformative dressing, so there’s no need to be apologetic about things.  Put the lid on the pan which the potatoes were cooked in, and rattle everything about so that it’s thick and sticky with green pesto, and enjoy while still warm. I served this with some harissa-coated mackerel, beetroot and carrot coleslaw and aioli last week, and it was pretty darned tasty, though I say so myself!

Recipe: Pesto and Pea Potato Salad
Serves 6-8 people

800g Jersey Royals or salad potatoes
180g frozen peas, ideally brought to room temperature
25g basil leaves
55g Parmesan, finely grated
55g pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
150ml olive or rapeseed oil
1/2 lemon

1. Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes. A minute before they’re done, add the peas to the pan to blanch.
If they’ve thawed at room temperature, then the frozen solid peas won’t cause the water temperature to plummet too much.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, then put the basil leaves, Parmesan, pine nuts and garlic into a blender, with a tablespoon of oil to loosen. Blitz into a paste. Slowly drizzle in the rest of the oil and continue to blend to a lovely, fresh pesto.

3. Drain the potatoes and peas. Return them to the saucepan.

4. Scoop all the pesto into the pan. Put the lid on, and rattle around until all the warm potatoes are well-coated in the pesto. Season with a squeeze of lemon.

Serving tips: Cooked chorizo, feta, sundried tomatoes and watercress all make a tasty addition.

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