The first of the blackberries and it's beginning to feel like autumn. I created this recipe for an article I wrote for the Herb Society. Tarragon usually survives in my garden until the first winter frosts and it lends a warming aniseed flavour if used generously in a Coq au Vin. It is excellent in egg dishes and with vegetables such as Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms and marrow. Its warm flavour makes it a perfect contrast to pulses and it is delicious with flageolet beans and nearly always better in cooked dishes than served raw. It is an essential ingredient of fines herbes and béarnaise sauce. However with its liquorice like flavour, fresh tarragon marries particularly well (and interestingly) in fresh cream desserts and served with blackberries or poached plums has to be the ultimate autumn dessert.
Tarragon Cream (makes 6)
600 ml double cream
150 ml milk
4 large sprigs tarragon
3 sheets leaf gelatine
140g caster sugar
Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water
Put the cream, milk, sugar and tarragon in a heavy based saucepan and bring slowly to the boil.
Or place together in a jug and microwave.
Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatine, squeezing out any excess water out first.
Stir well and then strain through a sieve into a jug.
Divide the mixture between six ramekins or glasses.
Place in the fridge until set.
(Can be turned out like a jelly if preferred)
Hardly ever seen until this year but now it's trendy and on every menu. It grows like a weed in my garden. My favourite way to use it is to rub my salad bowl with a big handful of the stuff and it will impart a lovely savoury Bovril like flavour. When used raw in dishes it can be very overpowering. The first young stalks of spring are the best for a delicious delicate flavour.
If you go to your local park and pick elderflowers it isn't foraging. If you go to your back garden and pick up some windfall apples, it isn't foraging. If you have a basil plant on your balcony, that isn't foraging either. Foraging for edible wild plants and all the new names for what we used to call weeds is OVER - time to stop.
We had a big family celebration party at the weekend and ended up with a fridge full of leftovers, including a load of butter and selection of fresh herbs. So we made herb butter. This is how ... Snap off any thick stalks, wash and dry the herbs in a salad spinner to remove excess water. Break large pieces of room temperature butter into smaller pieces and drop evenly into the blender. Whizz for a few minutes and if needed gently poke the butter down into the herbs with a plastic spoon. You will need to do this if the butter is too cold and hard. The butter should mix evenly with the herbs. Spoon the mixture onto grease proof paper and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends of the paper to seal. If you want to store the herb butter in smaller quantities cut into discs once the butter has hardened in the fridge. Repack in grease proof paper and store in a plastic tub in the deep freeze until required. Remember to label the packages.Parsley gives a wonderful green tint to the mixture. The butter can be smeared on meat before barbequeing, or on grilled fish and steak. Mint is slightly less verdant than parsley but the butter is delicious added to omlettes or mixed into peas. Dill butter goes wonderfully well with salmon - and is also a great accompaniment to gently scrambled eggs. Add zest of lemon to your dill butter for extra flavour. If you don't have any pesto add basil butter to pasta dishes. Your favourite herb butter can be used to add flavour to jacket potatoes or spread onto warm bread.
- parsley and butter goes into the mixer
- spread the butter on paper and roll
- slice the chilled butter into discs
I was hunting for microcress, pea shoots and edible flowers and found the most amazing selection grown right here in East Anglia.
Allan Miller at Nurtured in Norfolk in Dereham invited me to take a tour of his glasshouses and I was hit by a sea of green, mini micro leaves of every variety, some which I had never even heard of.
Allan and his wife Sue gave up their jobs as chefs and started growing microcress in a greenhouse in their back garden. Now they supply the likes of Ollie Dabbous and other Michelin acclaimed chefs.
Today I picked my whole crop of basil and turned it into pesto sauce ready to smother onto hot pasta. Pesto is very quick and easy to make, either in a mini food processor or by hand, with a pestle and mortar. You will need:
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts ( or try walnuts for a change)
- 3 medium sized garlic cloves crushed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crush the basil leaves, salt, pepper and garlic together adding the nuts and oil a little at a time. Keep working until you have a rough paste. Add the grated cheese and the last of the oil. Mix well and store in the fridge in a covered jar.
I keep a layer of oil on top of the sauce, to maintain the colour and texture.
Paul Foster is making his name with restaurant critics and is due to appear on The Great British Menu on TV next month. He's Head Chef at Tuddenham Mill. Lunch today was very good indeed with the menu featuring some interesting herbs, some of which I believe are foraged locally. Pictured is my main course of potato terrine, artichoke, mushrooms and watercress. I am pretty sure the plate has chickweed on. What does everyone think?
A set lunch is £20 for two courses and £25 for three courses, with both an amuse bouche and very generous plate of home baked breads. A bit of a treat for a Monday!