How to make the best of Basil

The best ways to treat tender basil leaves and make the most of them

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Basil an herb with many facets

There are as many as 150 known species of basil of which sweet basil is the most commonly grown. Some people liken it to our Indian tulsi. Though it can be called a close relative, there is difference. Basil leaves are larger, thicker and more fragrant and I would certainly not suggest that one could be substituted by the other. I find basil as a truly multifaceted herb. It is indeed one of my favourite herbs and besides using it to spice up Thai or Italian dishes; I have used it in typical Indian curries and that too with good results. When it comes to handling this delicate herb, here is what you need to know.

Treat them gently

Basil is often mistaken for our Indian tulsi. Though it is different yet it is a close relative of tulsi. Basil leaves are larger, thicker and more fragrant than tulsi. And ideally you must not substitute one for the other.

Basil leaves are delicate and even when you buy them fresh, they are a little shrivelled. They can be easily revived by soaking them in a bowl of cold water for a while. And yes, the best way to use them is to hand tear the leaves because if you use a knife to cut them, the delicate leaves will turn black. Basil, as we know, is an integral part of pesto sauce. You can even sprinkle them on salads, pizzas and pastas to give them an additional fresh flavour.

Puree to preserve

If you want to preserve basil, the ideal way to do so is to puree them and freeze in airtight containers with a thick layer of olive oil on top. This way the puree keeps fresh longer and lovely green colour as well as the flavour is retained. And whenever you want to flavour any soup or pasta, you just add a few dollops of the puree.

Similarly you can make pesto sauce and preserve to use as and when you want to. To make the sauce puree basil leaves with pinenuts, garlic and olive oil. You can use the sauce with chicken, or pasta or even as a dip. Try using it as a simple spread... you will definitely love it!

Dry and use

You can even dry basil leaves and preserve but it, but it definitely loses flavour to a certain extent. But it lasts much longer when dried. For this, spread the basil leaved on a tray, cover with a single sheet of newspaper and dry outdoors but not in direct sunlight. This way the green colour will be retained.

Basil is a treat for your taste buds and great addition to your culinary tool box. Now it’s time to take a look at some simple recipes that are enhanced by the addition of this wonderful herb.

Click on the links below for delicious recipes with basil.

Prawns with Chilli Garlic Basil,  Watermelon Cooler with Basil Seeds,  Vegetables with Basil,  Chilli Basil Fish,  Basil Patrani Macchi,  Tamatar aur Basil Shorba,  Green Peas And Basil Soup,  Tomato and Basil Paneer