When we were growing up, my parents had a very funny ritual when giving presents. All gifts had their prices left on them. I think that this was to show how much they had spent on you and therefore you either had a guide on what to spend or in the case of a small child that couldn't buy a return present, you knew your value to them.
It wasn't just my parents and every one of their friends would give us gifts with price tags attached to them. Perhaps it's an extension of the Chinese red packet containing money. I recall one woman who threw a spanner into the harmonious if quirky world of present giving. She gave me a Kodak Brownie Camera which was $24.95 - price known because of course the sticker was on the box. Now back in those days $24.95 was like giving a small child a $100 gift and everyone was all beside themselves about how she had moved the goal posts in present giving.
Even to this day, when my parents give me a gift it has a price tag on it. My mum will also receive something and ask me how much it is worth. As for me, I am not so much about how much a gift is worth and always make sure that the price sticker is removed, but more about whether it is useful to me. Having survived moving house and giving and throwing away useless junk, I mostly get excited about things if they're useful.
Anyway, one thing that my parents did impart on me was not the price tag was a loathing of waste. And when Celia's darling husband Pete pulled out one of the prize baby fennel from their garden, I was buoyed at the kind gesture and realised that I must not waste a single bit of it. The fennel bulb went into a bake but the fennel fronds that resemble dill were plentiful, like Marge Simpson's hair.
I decided to see if I could make a pesto out of it, all I had to lose were nuts and cheese so I decided to make a small batch at first using half quantities before trying it and realising how delicious it is. The fennel fronds have a slight bite to it in the same way that rocket or arugula pesto does but it makes for a wonderful partner to cheese, garlic, pine nuts and oil. I paired it with a green pasta with peas because I'm a bit OCD that way and it was a sublime if overly green dinner.
P.S. The stalks that the fronds sit on are quite woody but you can use them to roast meat on or add them to a stock for flavour.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you try and buy presents of equal value to what you receive? And do you have any frugal tips?
Fennel Frond Pesto
- 2 cups firmly packed fennel fronds
- 75g/2.6ozs. reggiano cheese, grated
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablepoons pine nuts, toasted*
Step 1: Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until you get a paste.
To toast pine nuts, lay them in a single layer on a baking tray and bake in a 180C/350F oven for 5-7 minutes until golden brown.
Serving suggestion: cook 250g/0.5 pound of dried long or short pasta according to directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta. Heat pan on medium heat and add four tablespoons of the pesto constantly stirring until softened. Add 1/2 cup peas or some broad beans and the pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water and stir. Add more pasta water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and extra reggiano cheese.