[for "Living Within", May 2017]
I have been working recently with a diverse group of women cooks hailing from many corners of the globe. There is much to note in the difference of the cuisines of their various cultures, but in among the marvelling at ingredients never encountered before, there are a few that recur and are common to all - certain fresh herbs among them. So as the herbs in my garden are using the current Spring blend of the sun and showers to their advantage and growing lushly verdant, it seems an appropriate moment to freshen up the plate and the palate with something drawn from relatively close to home. A version of a French sauce vièrge (literally a “virgin sauce”), inspired by a Brittany chef, and keeping the green ascendant.
Take equal quantities (a tablespoon or two) of the fresh leaves (washed and dried) of some: mint; tarragon, and coriander. Use a large, sharp cook’s knife to chop these leaves together (if the cutting is clean the flavours will stay fresh and the sauce will look at its best). Finely chop some spring onions (the end result should give you slightly more of these than each individual quantity of the herbs), then mix all these ingredients together in a bowl with some salt and pepper (to taste), some good olive oil (enough to create a thick sauce), and a squeeze of some citrus juice - this can be lemon, lime, or anything else that will provide a little sweet/acid balance - choose your citrus according to how sharp or sweet you want the flavour, and use it like a seasoning; lemon will give you the strongest acid hit, lime is more gentle, but you may be able to find other varieties to play with. Use enough to enhance all the flavours, but not so much that any or all risk being overpowered. It is especially important when the recipe is simple and involves a mix of fresh and delicately aromatic ingredients to taste as you go along and be discriminating.
Allow all to sit together for a while so that the flavours can mingle properly - taste and adjust until the balance seems right. Serve at room temperature to accompany almost anything savoury - use to help dress a salad, or some boiled new potatoes, or to accompany some grilled or fried fish, or something from the barbecue or out of a roasting oven. Enjoy - with sunshine wherever possible.