Herbal summer food

Herbal summer food

FAST food can be convenient but it often contains flavour additives and preservatives. The health benefit of eating food grown and harvested from the backyard is unmatched and using fresh herbs add piquancy and instant buzz to summer alfresco eating.

Cottage cheese & rosemary

Great for vegetarians to have as their Christmas main. I first made this for the teenager-turned-vegetarian. The meat eaters loved it too so now we make two loaves to cope with the full range of appetites. It is just as great hot or cold so can be prepared ahead of the planned meal.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup chopped onions 
  • 2T butter/oil
  • 2T chopped rosemary 
  • 1 egg
  • 500gm cottage cheese
  • ½ cup chopped almonds/peanuts
  • 1 cup rolled oats or crushed Weetbix 
  • 1?2 t salt

Method

Saute the onion in the oil until it is soft and clear. Remove the pan from heat and add rosemary. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Mix all the other ingredients. Add the rosemary and onion mix. The loaf takes one hour at 180°C in a greased tin.

Pesto souffle toast

Pesto is easy to make to use as a dip or dressing. Basil is the traditional fresh green herb but other herbs can be used – try parsley, rocket, wild herb weeds (see Weekend Gardener 376). The following recipe is good finger food or serve it as a side dish for summer barbecues. Combining with beaten eggs this is a different way to use pesto.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup pesto
  • 2T grated cheese
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar 
  • 1 baguette thinly sliced

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C. In a bowl beat together pesto, cheese and egg yolks. Beat egg white and cream of tartar in separate bowl until stiff. Gently combine both mixes. Spread onto bread slices. Bake on trays in hot oven 5 to 10 minutes until set.

Festive lentil & nut roast

This recipe makes another loaf that is ideal for those on a gluten, dairy or meat free diet. Once again, this versatile recipe can be used hot or cold. Many of these recipes can be taken on picnics and served cold.

Ingredients

  • 2?3 cup red lentils 
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large onion 
  • 1 courgette
  • 1T oil
  • 2t chopped fresh herbs – sage, marjoram, thyme etc
  • ½ cup tomato puree or mashed tinned tomatoes
  • ½ cup water

Method

Soak lentils for two hours, rinse and drain well. Blend the nuts until fine. Grate the carrot and courgette and combine with finely chopped onion.  Sauté  these three vegetables in oil for 5  minutes. Mix everything together. Pour into a loaf tin and cook at 180°degrees for an hour. Cover with foil for the last 20 minutes to stop burning.

Asparagus frittata

Summer is fresh asparagus time. I often sneak out to the garden and pluck a fresh asparagus spear as a yummy snack. Adding flour to this recipe gives a crisp outer crust to the dish. Serve hot or cold.

Ingredients

  • 600g asparagus spears
  • 6 eggs well beaten 
  • 250gm soft cream cheese 
  • 2T plain flour
  • 2T grated parmesan cheese 
  • 2t chopped chives
  • 2t chopped basil
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg

Method

Line a 20cm dish with baking paper. Preheat oven to 170°C. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and trim asparagus to fit dish. Layer spears in the dish. Combine remaining ingredients in blender. Pour this over asparagus and bake for 40 to 50 minutes until set. Allow to cool, slice into squares and serve with salmon and fresh dill.

Blending Herbs

Many recipes state which herb to use. Others refer to a quantity of mixed herbs. Experiment and try different combinations. Herbs have been used for thousands of years so the traditional combinations are often best, such as:

Salad

sweet marjoram, salad burnet, parsley, basil, nasturtium, chervil, chives, dill

Dressings

chervil, parsley, fennel, dill, rocket, garlic

BBQ meat

garlic, thyme, marjoram, myrtle

Omelettes

chervil, parsley, chives, basil, tarragon, cress

Scones

thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage

Cheese dishes

marjoram, savoury, thyme, sage, chives

Roast dishes

thyme, rosemary, marjoram, savoury, garlic

Stuffing

thyme, sage,  savoury, marjoram, rosemary