Cooking with Parsley
Parsley is a commonly used herb in the UK as both an ingredient in cooking (such as in a parsley sauce) and also as a garnish for a number of different dishes. Parsley has a delicious fresh flavour and makes a great accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes, ranging from fish to potato and egg-based recipes.
Parsley is probably the most popular and widely used culinary herb in the world. Parsley originates in the Mediterranean but will grow happily in most climates and is available to buy throughout the year. Parsley will absorb odour and is useful if you want to freshen your breath after eating garlic. Chewing a small sprig of fresh parsley is said to reduce the garlic flavour of your breath.
Using Parsley in CookingThere are two main types of parsley: flat-leaf (which resembles coriander) and curled. Both types bear the same flavour, however you may choose to use one variety over another depending on what you are cooking (flat leaf is easier to wash and chop, for example, but curly-leafed parsley stays looking fresh for longer and is easier to mince).
Parsley is too often used as a garnish in the UK and its fresh, crisp flavour is often overlooked. It has many culinary uses over the world, however; in France the curled variety is often deep-fried and served as an accompaniment to meats. It is also a common ingredient in the classic herb mixtures: bouquet garni and sachet d'épice (both of which are added to soup, stocks and stews to improve their flavour and are removed just before serving). The French also use a mixture of herbs called fines herbs’ in cooking, which is a combination in equal parts of parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon.
Parsley is also used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking, for example as a ingredient or accompaniment to tabouleh, falafel and chickpea dishes (including chickpea fritters which have a green outer shell that is coloured using parsley. In the UK, parsley may be used to make a delicious parsley sauce to be used as an accompaniment to fish dishes, cold ham, and broad beans among others. It can also be added to soups and potato dishes (such as a potato salad).
Harvesting ParsleyTo harvest flat-leaf parsley, simply cut the stems with scissors, taking care not to remove all of the leaves (this will hamper the plant’s growth). Curled parsley leaf heads may be snipped off with scissors or secateurs. Wash the leaves thoroughly before eating, especially if you grow curled parsley (dirt can easily become trapped in the leaves). As with all herbs, try to use the parsley a very short time after harvesting; this will ensure its flavour, colour and nutrient levels remain at their highest.
Parley is a versatile herb that is often overlooked in British cooking and used simply a garnish. However it has a delicious, fresh flavour and may be used as an ingredient in sauces and soups, herb mixtures and even deep-fried and served as an accompaniment to meat. Parsley will grow happily in the UK and should be used fresh, within a couple of hours of harvesting.