In my kitchen basil reigns supreme – appropriately enough – since its name is derived from the Greek word basileus for king!

It is used extensively in Italian and Provençal cooking, has a warm pungent scent and – to me – a taste of the sun. It is lack of sun that makes it difficult to grow here if we have a cold summer, yet I’ve always managed to grow some in a pot on my kitchen windowsill. Provided the white flowers are pinched off all the time, it goes on producing leaves right through until the end of October or even longer with care.

The fresh leaves are quite delicious, chopped and sprinkled over a tomato salad, or added to sauces and soups just before serving.

Anything that has tomato in it will be improved with the addition of basil – the two have a great affinity.

Dried basil has nowhere near the character and flavour of the fresh leaves – but dried basil is better than no basil at all, and it’s fine in soups and sauces through the winter.

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