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Herbs and Recipes for British Cooking

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 3 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Herbs British Parsley. Sage Rosemary

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” This old folk song mentions some of the traditional herbs long associated with British, and especially English, cooking. Robust and flavoursome, and hardier in nature than their Mediterranean counterparts, they can hold their own against strongly-flavoured foods. Rather than complementing, say, a joint of pork – although they do that job admirably – they provide a separate and distinct taste that works alongside others, creating a medley of sensations on the tongue.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, a sprig of parsley became the standard plate decoration in restaurants and hotels. It provided the finishing touch to the over-cooked steak and frozen peas. Thankfully that practice is decreasing and parsley is being rediscovered with the revival of interest in traditional British cookery, and dishes like boiled ham with parsley sauce have returned to the menu.

Boiled ham and parsley sauce

  • A ham, at least 3 lb
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, halved but not peeled
  • 4 carrots, washed and chopped
  • Small handful black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Bunch parsley, finely chopped, keeping a few stalks aside
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 oz plain flour
  • ¾ pint ham stock (from the cooking liquid)
  • ¼ pint milk
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
Place the ham in a large pan, cover with water and leave to soak for a few hours. This helps remove excess saltiness.

Discard the soaking water, rinse the ham and cover again with cold water. Add the celery, onions, carrots and peppercorns. Tie the bay leaves with a few stalks from the parsley and add to the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer gently. Remove any scum that forms on the top. Cook for about 20 – 25 minutes per pound of ham.

When the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and peel off the skin. Keep warm while you make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir well. Cook very gently for about 1 minute. Gradually add the ham stock, stirring constantly. Add the milk and stir until smooth and thick. Add seasoning if required but check first. Stir in the parsley.

Slice the meat generously and serve with parsley sauce and Jersey new potatoes. You may like to serve up the carrots and onions cooked with the ham.

Sage, apple and onion stuffing

Use for pork
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 oz butter
  • 4 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 sharp apple, peeled, cored and diced small
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
Put the onions in a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until soft. Drain and mix with the other ingredients.

Rosemary Roast

  • 1 leg of lamb
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • sprigs of rosemary
Pour the oil over the lamb in a roasting tin. Sprinkle with pepper. Make about 8 small incisions deep into the flesh and insert a sprig of rosemary into each. Roast the lamb as you would normally.

Parsley and thyme stuffing

For chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 egg yolk
Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. Stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Strip the leaves from the thyme stalks into the pan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and finally stir in the egg yolk and mix well. Leave in the fridge to cool before using to stuff the neck end of a chicken.

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