posts · store cupboard

Farmers Market Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto in a Jar

Bahrain had its First Farmers Market last week and naturally it was the first thing on my to-do list that day! Glad I did not leave it so late in the morning to visit, the farmers market was already very busy when I arrived and there was an excited buzz in the air!

Living on an Island we rely heavily on imports and local produce is very limited, although some supermarkets in Bahrain do carry a small amount! Supporting our farmers who are willing to offer us more fresh market produce is a must and I would imagine it is no easy task growing some vegetables and fruits in Bahrain’s harsh climate… although we do have beautiful weather at the moment!

Bahrain's Farmers Market

Picking up some beautiful bunches of fresh basil (purple and green), some cherry tomatoes, lettuce, small purple aubergine and cauliflower… I headed home feeling I had won a gold medal! I think I got overly excited and bought way too much basil so I decided to make up a jar of  “Farmers Market Pesto”! Making your own fresh pesto is so easy and so worth the effort, tasting so much better than anything coming from a supermarket jar!

Amy from Appetite for Discovery (thanks for letting me know about the farmers market) was also at the farmers market buying some fresh beetroot and if you love beetroot, head over to her blog for a delicious Beetroot, Walnut and Goats Cheese Salad!

Cherry tomatoes, basil, lettuce, small aubergine, cauliflower.  Balinese Prawn Curry with small aubergine and cherry tomatoes.

As well as making fresh Pesto I made sure none of my fresh farmers market produce was going to waste… making a very simple cherry tomato and fresh basil salad, with a pomegranate and olive oil dressing… eaten with fresh crusty bread! Added some of the small aubergine and cherry tomatoes into a Balinese Prawn Curry for a quick meal! Made a citrus salad with the cauliflower and used the lettuce in a salad with avocado and fresh pomegranate!

Purple and Green Basil. Basil Pesto in a Jar.

To keep fresh herbs longer store them in a glass or small vase with some water and place a plastic bag loosely over the top. Secure the bottom of the bag with a rubber band and keep in the fridge, changing the water at least once! Your herbs will stay fresh and crisp for at least four days and sometimes a little longer!

Using purple basil makes the pesto a darker shade of green but if you prefer a more vibrant green, choose green basil! Fresh pesto can be used with lots of different dishes; mix freshly made pesto with some pasta, use as a spread in toasted sandwiches, mix with vegetable salads, use in dressings, serve with grilled fish, chicken and lamb… a really handy and delicious store cupboard item to have! The recipe below made almost 3/4 cup of pesto!


Farmers Market Basil Pesto


  • purple and green basil (I used 2 purple bunches and one green)
  • 1 handful of pine nuts (I prefer not to roast them)
  • about 3 to 4 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How to make: Snip all the basil leaves from their stalks using scissors (discard bruised and damaged leaves) and gently wash the leaves in cold water. Using a salad spinner to remove the excess water from the leaves is really helpful, or you can pat them dry with some kitchen paper towel.

Place the basil into a blender/processor with the pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon juice. Blend together using the pulse button, stopping to clean down the inside of the bowl with a spatula. With the motor running drizzle in some olive oil until the pesto has achieved a nice thick creamy paste. To taste, season with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place pesto into a suitable jar with a lid (clean and sterilize) and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the pesto.  Store in the fridge and use within 4 days! Pesto can also be frozen (in a suitable container) for a couple of months in the freezer!

Dont forget to visit Bahrain’s Farmers Market which will be held each Saturday from 8am to 12am in Budaiya!

food + drink · salads

crunchy dates, spinach and pine nut salad with orange vinaigrette

Depending on personal taste dates are sometimes eaten and enjoyed at various stages of ripeness and just like my other half, many people like eating dates that are firm and have not matured to full ripeness! These dates referred to as bis-err (phonetically spelt), are crisp, a little fibrous and have a slight puckering mouthfeel when first chewed… but then release this mild honey-sugarcane like sweetness with a slight nuttiness, which is really quite pleasant!  Sold at markets, each variety of date has its own colour and taste.

My preferences are fresh and dried dates, however, I have grown to like the taste of firm dates (bis-err) which are very different from the sugary sweet and almost gooey fresh dates, also in the photograph above. As you can see not all dates ripen at the same time.

With a bag-full of baby spinach in the fridge and these crunchy dates reminding me of apples, I decided to make a quick salad with an orange vinaigrette dressing for a quick bite to eat. Serving this salad with a nice piece of grilled fish would have made a more filling meal… but I was trying to make up for all those sweet ripe dates that I have overly consumed lately!

When making a leafy salad one piece of kitchen equipment that I would not be without is my salad spinner. Why go down the Mr Bean route, stuffing wet lettuce leaves in a sock and swinging them around, spraying water all over the place!

Using endless pieces of paper kitchen roll to dry each salad leaf seems such a waste and takes time,  a quick couple of spins in a salad spinner and your done! Great for storing  washed salad leaves in when entertaining… ready for those last minutes needed to assemble and dress a salad quickly, especially when using delicate leaves like baby spinach!

Crunchy Dates, Spinach and Pine Nut Salad with Orange Vinaigrette 


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 4 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 12 firm dates, cut in half, stone removed and sliced thinly or you can use soft dried dates instead

For the vinaigrette

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons apple vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • fine sea salt, to taste

How to make: First make the dressing and set aside. In a large salad bowl add the pine nuts, baby spinach and dates. Just before serving pour over the orange vinaigrette and gently toss all ingredients together. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

How to make vinaigrette: Add the orange zest, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider and honey into a bowl. Slowly pour in the oil while whisking continuously until well emulsified. Season with salt. Set aside for about 10 minutes for the flavours to mingle before using. The salad dressing can be made several hours in advance, covered and stored in the fridge.