When mentioning pesto, most people obviously think of the delicious Italian paste of basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheese (usually pecorino or grana parmesan). The traditional Italian pesto is a confronting blend of strong flavours each vying for supremacy. It is most assuredly savoury.
A few years back, a good friend of mine who also happens to be a great chef toyed with the idea of creating a sweet dessert pesto, based on the Italian classic. She has been kind enough to let me use her results
I often don't have time for funky twists on a culinary theme, as most of them are kitschy and gimmicky. This pesto is a little different; it is fantastically delicious in its own right, providing a sweet herby flavour to accompany all sorts of desserts. Try drizzling a little over fresh fruit tarts, or use a dollop to partner a citrus-based cake. You could also try topping miniature chocolate brownies with a little mint pesto to create the ultimate after dinner mint.
The original version was used alongside raspberry soufflés with some poached strawberries.
1 bunch mint, spearmint or garden mint
1/4 cup blanched, unsalted almonds
30 ml (1 nip) liqueur, try Grand Marnier or Cointreau
60 ml (1/4 cup) sugar syrup
1 Tbs praline, finely crushed (optional)
Pick the leaves from the bunch of mint. Wash well and drain thoroughly. Place the mint leaves and the almonds into the bowl of a food processor and pulse quickly until the mixture is roughly chopped, not pureed.
With the motor of the food processor running, add the liqueur and sugar syrup in a thin stream. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir through the praline if using. It is not essential, but adds a nice sweet crunch to the finished product. Store covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.