Spring herbs

Photos: Simon Lambert
Photos: Simon Lambert

Spring really excites my taste buds. It makes me think of new fresh dishes to create.

However, it's also a tricky time as this is a time of growth and, to be honest, not a lot of variety is around, so digging deep and making the most of the soft herbs, which are flourishing, can make a simple meal into a truly explosive tasting experience.

Herbs which are flourishing at the moment and should be used in abundance are: coriander, mint, parsley, tarragon, chervil, marjoram, bronze fennel and chives.


Quick spring herb sauce

This sauce is fresh, vibrant and full of uplifting aromas. It can be used drizzled over a salad, roasted veges, or try dunking fresh asparagus in it. It also will work wonders with fish, steak and pork.

Makes 250ml

1 packed cup of parsley leaves
1 packed cup rocket leaves
¼ cup mint leaves
¼ cup chervil, tarragon or marjoram leaves
small bunch chives, roughly chopped
2 tsp capers
⅓ cup olive oil
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
pinch sugar (optional)

Place all the leaves in either a mortar or food processor, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Grind with pestle or blend to a coarse paste.

Add the capers and blend into the herbs.

Slowly drizzle in the oil while stirring or blending.

Transfer into a small serving bowl and serve alongside your favourite dish.


Spring herb salad

I am wanting lighter meals now that the days are getting lighter and I especially seem to be yearning for a tasty salad. However lettuces can still be pricey and hard to come by. So by combining soft spring herbs and a fresh zesty dressing you can make a salad worthy of any meal-time.

Serves 4-6

60g rocket leaves
40g parsley leaves, stalks removed
20g mint leaves, picked
40g coriander leaves, picked
15g dill, picked
10 chives, cut into 1cm lengths
½ tsp celery seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds (optional)

45ml extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place the olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk together, set aside.

To make the salad
Pick through all the herbs, removing any tough stalks and placing them in a large bowl. Add the rocket leaves and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Just before serving, pour over the dressing and gently toss together.

Serve immediately.


Herb risotto

Making a risotto can be quite therapeutic as you gently stir and watch the rice transform into a creamy delight.

By adding a selection of fragrant spring herbs and a touch of lemon, you celebrate with a bowl of spring flavours and tastes.

Serves 4-5

2 Tbsp olive oil
100g butter
1 onion, finely diced
½ leek, finely sliced
1 stick celery, finely diced
450g risotto rice
250ml dry white wine
1 litre hot vegetable stock
100g freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
handful parsley, mint, chives, marjoram, dill, rocket leaves roughly chopped
salt and cracked pepper

Heat the oil and half the butter in a large heavy-based pan. Fry the onions, leeks and celery gently for 8 minutes, without colouring.

Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the rice is lightly toasted.

Turn the heat up slightly. Add the wine and a light squeeze of lemon juice. Reduce the heat and simmer until absorbed, then add the stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly.

After 20-25 minutes, when the rice is almost cooked. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. The rice should be cooked, but with some bite.

Add the rest of the butter and the cheese. Season. Stir well, turn off the heat, cover and leave for 5 minutes.

Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and a little more lemon juice.

Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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