Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…..herbs, beautiful natural ingredients that I use in cooking on a daily basis. My approach to food has elements of ‘Let food be thy medicine’ and ‘ You are what you eat’. Read any medicinal description on herbs and it’s easy to understand why these healthgiving beauties are so beneficial when used in cooking.
Herbs and aromatic plants have always fascinated me and I doubt there’s a day passes without them being included in whatever’s being cooked for dinner. Whether it’s a few sprigs in a casserole, stuffed inside a chicken or fish, sprinkled on a finished dish, in salads or drinks; there is always a place for them in my everyday cooking.
Always willing to learn more, I was delighted to recently attend a ‘Herb Masterclass’ hosted by former Scottish Chef of the Year, Neil Forbes of Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh along with Anna Lammotte, herb ambassador from Scotland’s leading herb specialist, Scotherbs.
The two hosts made a great team, Anna explained in great detail about different herbs and their culinary uses, while Neil demonstrated the versatility of herbs in cooking. Neil, who is well known for his commitment to Scottish food is also a member of Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance, supports this by championing small scale producers. He cooked several dishes, all using good quality, local and sustainable food. These included, a rissoto , chicken with tarragon and fish all delicately flavoured with a variety of herbs.
Anna, who is also a trained cook spoke about the popularity of edible flowers, such as lavender, borage, pansy and nasturtium, that are all commonly used to add flavour to food. At their base in Dundee, Scotherbs are experimenting with growing the Japanese herb Wasabi and basil has been grown hydroponically, which just means that the plant is grown and maintained in water rather than in the usual pot of compost.
Of course, no food demonstration would be complete without audience participation and there were several delicious appetisers for tasting, including frittata with fennel, a delicious parsley flavoured ham hough terrine along with oatcake with crowdie cheese, beetroot and oregano. Anna had brought along a wide selection of herbs and these were all tasted and inhaled throughout the session.
Like all classes at Cafe St Honore, it ended with a fantastic meal cooked by the Cafe St Honore team and gave us all a chance to catch up to exchange food news over a leisurely aromatic lunch. The main of herb dumplings with sage butter noisette, Clyde Valley tomatoes and Cafe St Honore’s own bacon was light and really flavoursome, but the star was the Lemon Verbena posset, a real ‘to die for dessert’. If there had been a bowl to lick then I would have been right there at the front of the queue. It was light, creamy, and the flavour of the lemon verbena and raspberries worked really well.
The day for me was extremely worthwhile; there’s always something new to learn and it’s always good to hear from experts like Anna and Neil who are both obviously passionate about the work they do.
Thanks to Lee MacGregor at Mitchell MacGregor Pr for permission to reproduce photographs.