These insights and the recipe below are taken from ‘Jekka’s Herb Book’ by Jekka McVicar. Basil is steeped in folklore and history, being found throughout the world in different forms. The ancient Egyptians used it to clear poisons from the body. A folk story from Ancient Greece tells that if you wanted to grow intensely strong basil, you should shout & swear as you sow the seed! In India, the seed dates back 1,000 years and is sacred, used medicinally as a detoxifier. In some regions a ‘tulsi’ plant (sweet basil) will be found in every Indian home.
Coming from the mint family, when used in cooking it aids digestion and is a beneficial antioxidant. It goes well with all kinds of Mediterranean cooking. A word of warning though – the flavour can be diminished by over cooking, so it is best to add to warm dishes at the end of cooking when the heat will release the aroma and flavour.
500g potatoes (floury / mashing pots best)
6tbsp basil, finely chopped.
2 cups all purpose flour (white)
Salt & Pepper
Boil the pots for 10-15mins until tender, then drain and mash well. Try to get as smooth as possible as lumps will be noticeable in the gnocci. Sprinkle on the flour, basil and salt and pepper to season and mix well. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, bring together to make a firm dough. Roll into sausages 1cm thick and slice into pieces 2.5cm long. Bring a pan of water to the boil then turn down to simmer. Add the gnocci and cook for 1-2mins. They will rise to the surface when they are done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Serve with a simple tomato sauce, or just drizzled with olive oil (or melted butter)…