Cobnut and rocket pesto

I like the sound of Kentish cobnuts. Kentish, so local. Cobnuts, so something slightly different. Have a short season, and a little bit hard to come by, so makes me feel lucky to get some.  But I had no idea what they actually were.  Yes, I know, the name kind of gives it away that they’re nuts, but the cob part threw me off the nutty scent, and I think I thought they were some kind of tender bud….obviously, I bought them anyway, in the spirit of experimentation.  And it turns out Kentish is a variety, not where they’re grown.  See, names aren’t everything.

Having procured a brown paper bagful, I promptly forgot about them, and they languished in the veg box for a week or two. I’m on a bit of a no-meat kick at the moment, and on a rummage through the veg box last night, saw they were looking a bit forlorn so their turn to be turned into something wonderful.

And something wonderful they were.   Bashed up with some rocket, parmesan and rape seed oil, and tossed in with spaghetti along with a few equally in-need-of-eating tomatoes and we had a supper fit for gourmands.

Now, having read a bit about cobnuts, I now know what I bought were green cobnuts, which are like milky, fresh hazelnuts (indeed, are hazelnuts of a kind) with no hint of bitterness, and a touch of sweetness.  As the season progresses, they turn golden, and sweeter, which I’m looking forward to.  I’d like to try baking with them, I think tehy’d be great with apples and pears, and in crumble toppings, as well as tossed through green beans, or even in a stuffing for chicken or lamb breast maybe.

Cobnut and rocket pesto
Serves 2
Prep time: 20 minutes

The rocket was from my garden so the amount was determined by how much was ready for picking.  Had there been more, I’d added more to boost the peppery punch. Actual pepper did the job just fine though.  I think pesto is a fine sauce, but when you make it at home, balance things the way you like them, so more garlic? Fine. Olive oil rather than rapeseed? Less cheese, or even no cheese? All good.  That’s the joy of making it yourself.  This is simply what I made.

300g cobnuts when weighed in their shells
Handful of grated parmesan, about 30g weighed
Handful of rocket, torn up a bit
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Rapeseed oil, probably 80ml, but not measured, just poured in from the bottle

Shell the cobnuts and collect the nuts in a large pestle and mortar (or into a blender or food processor, as you please. If so, henceforth for every “pound” read “pulse”). Bash the living hell out of them, particularly therapeutic if, like me, you’re in a bit of a grump at that point.  I felt lots better after smashing them to bits.

Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and bash some more.

Roughly tear the rocket into the crushed mixture, and pulverise again until the leaves disintegrate and you have the beginnings of a paste going.  Add a slug of oil at this point, just a little bit to get things moving into a sauce, and then add the parmesan, pounding all the time.  Then add more oil to your own taste, some people like their pesto drier, some more oily. Taste and season if it needs it.

I’m sure this would keep well in the fridge in a clean jar with some more oil poured over the top, but this basically made enough for two bowls of pasta, with a couple of tablespoons kept in reserve for the cheese, ham and pesto toastie I had for lunch today.

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