lIt’s not a plot spoiler to say I like spices. Very large bunches make me happy and hungry, and I can’t imagine cooking without them. I like them fresh, as a nice, tasty finishing touch, I like them cooked and wilted in both sweet and savory preparations, and I like them bleached and buttered in dressings. In fact, I even kind of dream of writing a book about herbs, but then I remember that Mark Diacono and Caz Hildebrand were both ahead of me, with Herb: a cook’s companion and Herbarium, respectively. Using herbs from plot to fork is a gift we all have within reach.
Steamed sea bream with spicy fenugreek butter and coconut salsa (top photo)
cooking fish en papillote is such an easy way to steam it perfectly: all the flavors are locked in, plus it’s fun to present the dish in its package. The butter is a handy way to use up old herbs in your fridge. You can make more than you need, so wrap the excess well and freeze for up to three months – it’s great for garlic bread or on a roast chicken.
Preparation 12 minutes
Cook 1 hour 25 minutes
For the herb butter
1 large garlic bulbleft whole, plus 2 cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
20 g parsleycoarsely chopped
20 g coriandercoarsely chopped
1 tbsp mint leavescoarsely chopped
½ tsp fenugreek seedsfinely ground in a mortar or spice grinder
½ tsp hot chili flakes
1½ tsp lime zest
120 g unsalted butter at room temperaturecut into 1 cm cubes
For the coconut salsa
25 g coconut flakes (aka coconut chips)
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp lime juice
For the packages
250 grams cherry tomatoes
1 large stick of lemongrasstrimmed and finely chopped
20 g gingerpeeled and finely grated
200 ml full coconut milk
8 stems Tenderstem broccoli (120 g), thicker stems halved lengthwise
4 sea bream fillets (or other delicate white fish), skin on
1 red peppercut into thin rounds
2 tbsp parsley leaves
1 tbsp coriander leaves
1 tbsp mint leaves
1 tsp lime juice
Heat oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Cut off the top of the garlic bulb and discard to reveal the cloves. Place the garlic, cut side up, on a small piece of aluminum foil, pour over the oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the garlic bulb and roast for 20 minutes, until soft. Remove and let cool, then squeeze pulp from papery skin; throw away the sheets.
Reduce oven to 180C (160C Fan)/350F/Gas 4. To make the butter, place parsley, coriander, mint, roasted garlic meat and raw crushed garlic in a food processor with 1/4 teaspoon salt and blitz until finely chopped. Add the fenugreek, chilli flakes, lime zest and butter, blend for a minute until smooth, then scrape into a bowl.
For the salsa, combine the coconut, sugar and lime juice in a bowl and spread evenly on a small baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for six minutes, stirring once halfway through, until slightly caramelized, then remove and let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 220C (200C)/425F/gas 7. While heating, place large skillet over high heat and, when hot, sear tomatoes, turning occasionally, for five minutes, bring then transfer to a plate.
Cut out four 30 cm squares of baking paper. Combine the lemongrass, grated ginger and coconut milk in a small bowl, crumple the squares of baking paper into bowl molds and divide the lemongrass mixture between them. Divide the charred tomatoes and broccoli among the parcels and top with a fish fillet, skin side down. Sprinkle each portion with one-eighth teaspoon of salt and well-ground pepper and spread 20g of herb butter over each fillet with a spoon. Bring the edges of the package over the fish and seal tightly by tucking the edges together.
Place the parcels on a large baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the fresh chilli, remaining spices, lime juice and toasted coconut mixture in a small bowl. Divide the parcels between four shallow bowls, cut each open at the top with scissors, spoon the salsa on top and serve warm.
Coconut and tahini green goddess with sunflower seed dukkah
This is a great way to use up excess herbs, so replace them with whatever you have on hand. The sunflower seed dukkah is so addictive you’ll want to sprinkle it on everything. If desired, double the amount and store the excess in an airtight container, where it will keep for up to two weeks.
Preparation 20 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
For the dressing
140 ml full coconut milk
75 ml olive oil
10g mint leaves
35 g chivesfinely sliced
20g parsley leaves
1 garlic clovepeeled and crushed
2 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
½ tsp maple syrup
flakes of salt
for the dukkah
50 g sunflower seeds
1½ tsp urfa chili flakes
1½ tsp aleppo chili flakes
⅛ tsp ground turmeric
⅛ tsp kashmiri chili powderor bell pepper
¼ tsp caster sugar
For the salad
1 small white chicoryleaves separated (60g)
1 small red chicoryleaves separated (60g)
1 baby gem lettuceleaves separated
1 small Lebanese cucumbercut into 6cm sticks (or ½ regular cucumber, watery seeds removed, flesh cut into 6cm sticks)
100 g rainbow (or regular) radishLeave leaves on, cut in half lengthwise
Place coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat gently for two to three minutes, until steaming (this prevents splitting when blended). Remove from heat, stir in a tablespoon of water and let cool.
Once the coconut milk has cooled, put it in a blender with 60 ml olive oil, the herbs and garlic, and puree for two to three minutes, until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the tahini, lime juice, maple syrup and 3/4 teaspoon salt flakes.
For the dukkah: partially break the sunflower seeds in a mortar, turning them two or three times with the pestle, then place them in a small bowl. Place all remaining dukkah ingredients in mortar, crush coarsely, place in sunflower seed bowl and mix.
To assemble, artfully arrange the leaves, cucumber, and radish on a platter. Drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with a quarter teaspoon of salt flakes and a handful of dukkah. Serve the green goddess dressing and remaining dukkah in bowls alongside for dipping.
Pineapple herb sorbet with candied fennel seeds
The secret to keeping this sorbet vibrant, spicy green is to half freeze the pineapple first and churn it while it’s nice and cold. The candied fennel seeds are optional and will make more than you need here; save any extras to snack on or sprinkle on desserts. You need an ice cream maker for this.
Preparation 10 minutes
To freeze 3 hours 30 min+
Cook 30 minutes
1 large ripe pineapple (or 2 smaller ones)
15 g basil leaves
15 g mint leaves
5 g parsley leaves
150 g glucose syrup
50 g caster sugar
3 limes – 1 juice, for 1 tbsp, the rest cut into 6 wedges, each to serve
3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oilto serve
For the candied fennel seeds (optional)
30 g caster sugar
20 g fennel seed
Top and tail the pineapple, then cut and discard the skin and eyes. Cut around the core (use a pineapple corer if you have one) and discard, cutting the flesh into 3cm pieces. Weigh out 600g (snack of whatever you have above that), spread on a small freezer-safe dish and freeze for one and a half to two hours (by this time the chunks won’t be completely frozen through).
Get your ice cream maker ready. Place the spices, glucose, sugar, two tablespoons water, lime juice and frozen pineapple in a blender and puree, stopping occasionally to stir, if necessary, until very smooth and without chunks. This will take about five minutes in total (or less if you have a very powerful blender).
When the ice cream maker is ready, pour in the cold pineapple mixture, whirl it to the consistency of soft serve ice cream, then place in an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours.
Meanwhile, make the candied fennel, if using. Place 25 ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve, then bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for exactly two minutes – the syrup should bubble very vigorously and make large bubbles, but not color at all. After two minutes, turn the heat down to medium-high, add the fennel seeds and stir for 90 seconds to three minutes until they dry out, turn white and become coated with a white, gritty mixture. Don’t take the mixture past this point or the sugar will darken and caramelize, which you don’t want. Remove the pan from the heat, stir to separate the seeds as much as possible, then transfer to a small bowl or plate and allow to cool.
Before serving, divide the sorbet between six bowls, squeeze out a lime wedge, drizzle each serving with one and a half teaspoons of good quality olive oil and sprinkle with fennel seeds.