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Spice market: herb mentality

Susan Jung

 

Rosemary is one of those ingredients that can easily overwhelm a dish. It's strong and fragrant, with a distinctive pine flavour that can be refreshing and pleasant if used judiciously, but bitter if overused. The needle-like leaves on tough stalks are popular in Mediterranean cuisines.

As a fresh herb, rosemary stores well: you can wrap the base of the stalks in a damp paper towel and keep it in the fridge, or even put the rosemary in a small vase with about 1cm of water and use as an unusual but fragrant alternative to flowers. It's a herb that dries well, too: tie the stalks together with string and hang them upside down until the leaves turn brittle, before storing in an airtight jar.

Rosemary goes well with many meats and is a classic flavouring for leg of lamb. Sprinkle salt over the meat, then rub with olive oil, minced garlic and rosemary leaves that have been pounded in a mortar to release the essential oils. Wrap the leg in cling-film and leave in the fridge for a day or two before cooking. You can either roast the lamb in the oven or grill over coals to which you have added a few stalks of rosemary. As the herb burns, it will release a fragrant smoke that perfumes the meat.

 

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