Dill at ease

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am


Several years ago, when I was eating at the renowned Cha Ca La Vong, in Hanoi, Vietnam, I was surprised to see dill being used as one of the aromatic herbs served with the restaurant's famous cha ca - turmeric-coated fish fillet cooked with oil on a tabletop grill. I had always associated dill with Scandinavian dishes and didn't expect to find it being used in Vietnam.

Not everyone appreciates the distinct taste of dill - I know people who absolutely loathe it. It can be disgusting if overused, but that's true of most things.

Fresh dill looks similar to fennel fronds, although the flavours are different - the latter has more of a licorice taste. Dried dill isn't worth buying - it has very little flavour. When buying fresh dill, the thin, delicate leaves and stems should be an even green, without any yellow. The dill plant is also used for its seeds, which are dried and used whole or ground as a spice.

For a refreshing condiment, mix thick Greek yoghurt with a little minced garlic and a lot of fresh, chopped dill. Mix in diced cucumber and a little salt, then serve with minced lamb patties that have been grilled before being stuffed into pita bread.

Dill is delicious with many types of fish. It's a classic flavouring for gravlax - raw salmon that's cured with salt, herbs (including fresh dill) and spices before being thinly sliced and served on brown bread with mustard sauce and garnished with more dill.