Sunday, June 27, 2010

Herbidaceous

I'm a bit over-run with marjoram and lemon balm at the moment, which is no bad thing. I literally can't sit in the garden without having to sit on a bunch of one or the other, which is rather lovely.


A friend asked what I'd use lemon balm for in the kitchen. Most lemon balm recipes involve fish but my friend is a vegetarian and I'm no fish cook. I use it a lot in tisanes (a load of crushed leaves and a teaspoon of honey) but usually I just snap a few leaves off to chew absent-mindedly. I thought I'd have a go at putting together a sauce for pasta using it.

It works well with a white sauce with a little (very little) bit of wild mushroom, the flavour infuses the sauce but you have to look for it to realise that it's there. Not a hard sell, I know! All you have to do is make a simple white sauce (or cheat and use a half-tin of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom), warm it through until it's more-or-less ready then add a handful of finely-shredded lemon balm. Stir it through, give it half a minute on a very low, or even no, light and then stir in the pasta.

I didn't manage to come up with a sauce that didn't involve cream, which is a bit of a shame I feel. The truth of the matter is that even if you leave it to the very last minute to add it to an oil-based sauce some of the flavour's still cooked out. Which still left me with a pleasant little herb sauce:
  • Some extra-virgin olive oil
  • Some garlic (probably a couple of cloves) not especially finely-chopped, it'll be flavouring the sauce but also providing the texture
  • A couple of button mushrooms if you really must
  • Two large handfuls of marjoram, tear off the leaves and chop the stems up finely
  • A large handful of mint (a small handful if you're like me and have been lucky enough to have some black mint growing in the garden), tear the leaves up and chop the stems very finely
  • A handful of shelled walnuts
  • Pasta of your choice
Warm the olive oil (be careful not to heat it too fast or it might burn). Chuck in the garlic and cook it gently. Cook the pasta, throwing a handful of walnuts into the water a couple of minutes before the end (to blanch them). When the pasta's nearly cooked it's time to put the herbs in with the garlic. Fold the herbs into the oil until it's wilted. Then fold in the pasta and walnuts. Stir it all together to make sure that everything's had a touch of everything else then serve and eat.

It's a bit nice, honest.

Still not got a lemon balm recipe sorted, though.

Add-on:

I should have mentioned that you can, if you want, spice this up a bit by adding a bit of pickled Jalapeno pepper. It has to be pickled because if you're adding chili to this you also need the bite of the vinegar. Or you can change the vibe, in a nice way, by adding some finely-chopped dill pickle. Some salted capers doesn't hurt, either.

7 comments:

Pat said...

You are a genuine cook - I can tell. Salutations!

Kevin Musgrove said...

Ta Pat!

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

And he cooks too, girls! I have just put out a tub of basil, chives and mint on the kitchen balcony. More for aesthetic effect than for culinary purposes but l'un n'empeche pas l'autre as we say here. Will put a photo up for you. Have you identified my blue flowers by the way? I think they're both varieties of campanula but would appreciate an expert opinion.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Somebody beat me to it Daphne!

worm said...

cooking with lemon balm is brave!!! It's such a strong flavour!!

Kevin Musgrove said...

worm: sadly, it's quite fugitive when you cook with it.

Mind you, I've been living off chilis and wild garlic for the past few weeks.

Ellis Nadler said...

With all this sunny weather, my coca leaves are coming along nicely