Poor herbs. Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. Stuck on the side of a cheap plate of pub grub and insultingly referred to as ‘garnish’. Or chucked on a leg of lamb as an afterthought whilst in fact transforming it. They don’t even get a space in the allotment. Instead, I dot them around the flower beds in whatever gap I can find and leave them to fend off the onslaught of geraniums un-aided. Never the star of the show. Always the support act. Poor herbs.
Well not today. Nobody puts herbs in the corner on my watch. Despite the neglect, the herbs absolutely love this weather and are thriving to the point of glutting. There are handfuls of them. Too many for a mere garnish. So today they take centre stage as the main ingredients in two new dishes:
The proportions for the basic oatcake are taken from The River Cottage Handbook – Bread, to which I’ve added a few extras.
- 140g fine or medium oatmeal (don’t even attempt it with coarse oatmeal, it will be infuriatingly crumbly)
- 140g porridge oats
- pinch of salt
- 75ml sunflower oil
- 2-3 tbsp just-boiled water
- Handful finely chopped herbs
Makes approximately 15.
I’ve made two flavours of herby oatcakes here. The first mix of chopped herbs is a classic Mediterranean combination – 2 parts thyme, 2 parts oregano, 1 part rosemary. These flavours go brilliantly with a good chunk of Pecorino cheese on top. The second is a fresher, more English mix of soft leaf herbs – equal amounts of parsley, chive and chervil. I like these biscuits with a slice of ham or a soft goats cheese.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, including your chosen herb mix. Add the oil and the hot water and bring together to form a dough. Daniel Stevens recommends leaving the mix for 10 minutes so the water can soften the oats.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, cut into circles and bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees.
Lemon balm and Lemon Thyme Sorbet:
A twist on the usual lemon sorbet, this has a delicate floral aroma but is still suitably citrusy to cut through and cleanse the palette. The addition of gin helps keep the mix soft once frozen and adds to the general grown-up-ness of this sorbet.
- 200ml sugar syrup
- 75ml water
- 100ml gin
- 500ml fizzy water
- zest 1 lemon
- juice 1/2 lemon
- Handful lemon balm leaves
- Handful lemon thyme leaves plus extra for sprinkles
Heat the sugar syrup, water, lemon balm and thyme in a pan until just boiling. Remove from the heat and pour into a cool bowl together with the gin, lemon zest and lemon juice. Leave to steep for at least an hour so the flavours can infuse.
Next, add the fizzy water and fish out the herbs. You can leave the odd thyme leaf in there, but the lemon balm leaves go a bit mushy if left in whilst freezing.
Pour the mix into an ice cream maker and churn until ready. Transfer to the freezer for a final set then serve sprinkled with thyme flowers.