For a long time I disliked sage, thinking it had a musty, overwhelming flavour. This can be true, especially of the dried herb (and even more if it is ground to a fine powder, instead of crumbled into small pieces), but fresh sage adds a unique flavour especially when used in moderation. Sage is a herb with long, oval leaves that look as if they are covered in a fine down. The flavour is strong and aromatic, with minty undertones. Its bitter characteristics are much stronger when dried so use it sparingly. When buying the fresh herb, look for unwilted leaves with an even, soft green colour. With dried sage, the colour should also be fairly bright - don't buy it if it looks faded. Sage was thought to have medicinal properties, aiding digestion and enhancing memory. It is used a lot in Mediterranean cuisine, especially in Italy. The dried herb is a popular flavour in Italian sausages, often mixed with fennel and dried chilli flakes for the spicy versions. Sage goes well with pork, veal and cheese. It is delicious with other herbs, garlic and bread crumbs and then spread on a piece of pork and rolled, tied and roasted, or stuffed into the cavities of chickens or other small birds. It is good too in the simple dish saltimbocca, which is traditionally made with veal but is now frequently made with turkey breast. Cut slices of veal or turkey and pound them thin. Cover each piece with a thin slice of prosciutto, then add one or two leaves of fresh sage (depending on size). Press firmly, then use toothpicks to secure the prosciutto and sage on the veal (or turkey). Season with freshly ground black pepper. Quickly pan-fry the 'sandwiches' in melted butter - do not overcook because it toughens the meat. Remove the meat from the pan. Add some white wine to the pan and deglaze it by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Simmer quickly to reduce the wine, season to taste with salt and pepper, then swirl in a lump of cold, unsalted butter. As soon as the butter melts into the sauce, pour it over the veal. I have also eaten a luxurious foie gras saltimbocca, in which thin slices of the duck liver were layered with the prosciutto and sage leaves and quickly pan-fried. It was even better than the traditional veal saltimbocca. Fresh sage makes a wonderful, simple sauce. Heat unsalted butter and as soon as it becomes foamy and starts to brown, add fresh, whole sage leaves. Serve over pasta (preferably fresh), ricotta ravioli or spinach and ricotta gnocchi, then sprinkle with grated parmesan.