Herbs are one of those comestible wonders – amazingly fragrant, aromatic and more words for smelling enticing, and very healthy – similarly with spices. The smell of a fresh bunch of mint makes me, honestly, not being flippant, glad to be alive. And basil? Wow. I can eat that in anything. We just chop it straight into salad – a simple and obvious idea I got from my mum, which had frankly never occurred to me. But actually I think if I had to choose it would be mint. Nothing can beat the smell of fresh mint.
Having read about how amazingly good for you parsley is, in particular in terms of its remarkable calcium content (gram for gram more than milk and fish), and the detoxifying powers of coriander, and the high vitamin C level of most fresh herbs, we now have a lot more herbs in our family meals. We always ate tons of coriander, being fans of Mexican food and eating a weekly batch of guacamole, but now I shove flat leaf parsley – much subtler and softer than the curly stuff – pretty much everywhere. This helps a lot with my attempts to make everything green in some measure. And we hear a lot about the benefits of eating raw veg, but actually I find that apart from salad, this is a) not always very appealing and b) tough to digest. But herbs you can just eat forkfuls of, and really, you probably should. There must be a reason why herbal is a catch-all term for healthy and natural.
So this is my new favourite thing. We’ve had it about 6 times in the last month. I am always delighted to find things which are delicious and present my body with nothing but benefits, and this is an excellent example. All the ingredients are full of nutrients your body will lap up. I think I may have overdone it though, so maybe don’t make enough to feed a regiment, as my auntie remarked when I made some on holiday. That said, it is so easy to incorporate into a meal and it lasts very well, so a decent batch can serve as an accompaniment to many meals. It is usually served as a sauce for fish, but we have had it with steak, and given it to Flora in pasta, and I have also used it as a salad dressing, and on rice.
Vehicles for raw garlic are also high on my list, and you can’t really taste the anchovies. I think you would struggle to find a nutrient not contained in these salty little fish. If you added some pine nuts and parmesan you'd basically have pesto, so it's a great sauce for kids, who seem universally to love pesto.
I think you can pretty much put in whatever herbs you prefer, but I suspect balance is key. I think it’s worth experimenting with different combinations and quantities until you find your personal sweet spot. I think this is mine, but I will continue tweaking.
large bunch of flat leaf parsley
large bunch of basil
large bunch of mint
small bunch of dill
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled (reminder not to buy garlic imported from China as it’s apparently dubiously pesticided)
8 cornichons, chopped
approx 8-10 anchovies preserved in olive oil. I use a whole one of those little tins.
1 tablespoon of baby capers
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon or lime
approx. 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash and dry the fresh herbs, then chop roughly.
2. Put everything in the blender except the oil. Only put in a couple of tablespoons of that. Pulse until the herbs are chopped, and then pour the oil in slowly through the tube, and blend to emulsify, until you obtain a mint-sauce looking appearance.
3. Season, and adjust the texture with the olive oil, tasting as you go.
4. Keep in the fridge and serve with fish or meat or anything you fancy. I think it’s probably fine, covered in the fridge, for 3-4 days no problem.