Tag Archives: herbs

Raw green herby sauce and Organic September

bowl of cooked new potatoes with green vinaigrette dressing

This deliciously green sauce or vinaigrette is versatile in many ways. You can use a variety of fresh herbs or salad leaves such as baby spinach/rocket/chives/dill/ mint, and also combine them. Further versatility comes because the green sauce will zazz up many a dish.

Here it is (see pic) poured over new potatoes. Just cooked, the warm potatoes soak up the fresh, green zinginess.

My idea behind this sauce is to put the greens/herbs centre-stage. They do not merely flavour a vinaigrette but positively overwhelm it. By using the greens raw, you get freshness and taste, and as well as many nutrients as possible because they are not lost by cooking. The raw garlic cloves add further immunity-boosting power, and sparky taste.

I use my trusty blender wand to whizz it all up. About £20,  this is an excellent investment, takes up little room in the kitchen and is fab for smoothies. 

Raw green herby sauce or vinaigrette

Trusty hand blender in blender pot full of greens, with gartlic, lomon juice, balsamic and olive oil standing by

The amounts below are approximate. Natural yogurt is also superb whizzed into this dressing. Or add a spoonful or two of tahini. The greens will produce their own moisture as you whizz it all up, but if you want more liquid, add olive oil – not water , which will make it too watery. 

About 50g of fresh herbs/greens 

1/2 raw peeled cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (I use 3/4 cloves) 

Olive oil  3/4 tablespoons to start

Natural yogurt / 1-2 dessertspoons of tahini (optional) 

Balsamic/ lemon juice (half -1 lemon squeezed)

Add the leaves and roughly-chopped garlic to a measuring jug (something with tall sides that will contain the liquid while you whizz).  Add in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and start blending. Add natural yogurt or tahini if desired or more olive oil until sauce is creamy and pourable. Add vinegar or lemon juice, and salt to taste.

The sauce is a glorious green colour.

If possible, use organic, or unsprayed, ingredients.

Why organic?

Growing with nature increases a crop’s nutrient content, and thus its taste. Let your taste buds be the judge of this statement, but your brain may be interested to know that an international team led by Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants (nutrients) than ones grown the chemical farming way.

There are two reasons for this. One is related to how the soil is fertilised, the second is how plant fights disease. 

1) Using factory-made chemical fertiliser draws more water into the plant. The crop may grow quickly but is also more sappy than crops grown with natural fertiliser. Food grown the natural way has more density. (Chemical fertiliser is banned in organic farming, which instead uses biological methods, such as composting and crop rotation, to create healthy soil).

2) Plants naturally produce valuable antioxidants to keep disease and pests at bay (which we in turn benefit from when we eat the plant). When plants are sprayed with pesticides, they produce fewer antioxidants because the chemical spray is doing the work for them. (Killing pests with pesticides is a crude way of protecting a plant because it involves lots of nasty chemicals and kills beneficial insects too, such as bees. The organic way is more creative, using a host of natural and biological methods to keep pests away.).

The way we farm affects the food we eat. You get more carrot for your carrot. In fact, the Newcastle team suggests that switching to organic fruit and vegetables may have the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommended “five a day”. Just switching a few of your fave items to organic will add nutritional joy to your life. 

So, why not organic your September?

 

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Hard boiled eggs in raw herby vinaigrette sauce

Thank you, my dear acting colleague, Nichola Taylor, from the Barded Ladies, for asking for the recipe.  

Food for free in Bristol

Dave Hamilton holding greater plantain

There is wild food for free in the city but you have to know what to look for. About 45 of us walked around Bristol’s inner-city St. Werburgh’s with Andy and Dave Hamilton, local eco-authors of The self-sufficientish bible. The “ish” is for people like me who don’t live on a farm.

Someone joked she thought the Food for Free talk would be about shoplifting. “Or stealing produce from someone’s allotment” bantered another.

Random weeds were revealed as herbs with stories, such as the greater plantain, held by Dave (above) and used by suffering soldiers in their shoes for trench foot.

Someone said he used its medicinal juice to help his hay fever. Must try this.

Dave said he has used the plantain’s leaves like spinach in saag aloo. Must try this too. (But crikey, would I be able to identify it from photo above? Supposing I picked a Poisonous Plant by mistake?)

Dave Hamilton and chamomile

Phew, on safer ground – this looks like a daisy. But it is not. It’s chamomile, famous for soothing jangled nerves. I use it in tea bags so it was like spotting an off-duty celebrity.

A propos, the talk was organised by Mark Boyle, founder of freeconomy. When he turned back from walking to India, it was international news. My media-self was impressed.

Mark Boyle

Mark (above) organised this Bristol walk as part of a reskilling programme, so we can learn forgotten traditional crafts, like baking bread or knowing what wild plants to pick without poisoning ourselves.

Watch out for a future Mark (and Claire) project in the autumn – Local Food Week when you pledge to eat local and see how easy – or hard – it is. They will add details in the comments section…

Horsetail

I picked some horsetail (above) and used it to clean the frying pan. A natural scourer, it broke up a bit but seemed to work – could be useful when camping.

Borage growing in inner-city Bristol

Borage, also pictured on our inner-city walk, is another free food to try. You cook it like spinach or use its tiny blue flowers in a salad. Or a Pimms.

Known as borage for courage, it is an anti-depressant (so don’t use if you are on anti-depressants). Fifteen of its leaves make you cheerful. Sounds like my kind of free food.

Thank you Andy, Dave and Mark for an amazing walk-the-talk walk.

And everyone else, such as Eric with fat hen (below) who walked to France with Mark.

Eric with fat hen