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So much parsley

"I can't think of any other food so often placed upon a plate with so little concern as to whether it actually gets eaten." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

My green thumb gardening friend dropped off some parsley to me yesterday. (And some silverbeet and fennel - but I can handle that.) She gave me such a lot, as shown here. In panic I just stuck it in a vase with some water whilst I thought about it. You see this year I also have plenty of my own. Not nearly as vigorous as hers, but plenty for me to deal with on a daily basis.

Now I love parsley and would never be without it but honestly what am I to do? I am determined to not just put it in the compost. Today nothing is happening here, I'm fasting and the weather is pretty averagely miserable, so I have just finished browsing my cookbooks and the net to look for ideas, have been reminded of some, saw some that gave me ideas and also found some new ideas. So here is what I found.

Let me get the ones you all know about out of the way first. I'm ashamed to say I had forgotten about some of them so perhaps you have too.

Tabbouleh - now how could I have forgotten that? It's so obvious because it uses a heck of a lot of parsley. In lots of ways it's top of the list for using up a glut of parsley. The link I have given is to a recipe from Anissa Helou, although the photo is just a general one from The Guardian. It's more of a summer thing though and also best made for lots of people, so I'll just set that one aside for now I think.

Whilst still on salads I should mention that there are heaps of salad recipes that use parsley either as one of many components or as the star. Bill Granger's roasted red pepper and parsley salad is a prime example - shown here with his paprika skewers. The salad was just lovely and very simple once you have roasted the peppers. But there are lots of other salads you can devise, indeed you can just have a parsley salad on its own - treat parsley as a salad green in its own right or just throw it into any other salad. When lettuce is horrendously expensive as it was a couple weeks ago, then boost your lettuce with large amounts of parsley. The flat-leaf kind is best for this. The curly type is prickly - indeed I rarely use the curly parsley these days, although I did see that it was good deep fried into sort of crisps.

Pesto - I had actually remembered this one and was thinking of making some, although I do have some 'real' basil pesto in the fridge already, so I may not. Anyway it's sort of obvious - and there's a sign of the times right there. 'Obvious'. When did parsley pesto become obvious? Even basil pesto was not obvious until when? The 80s? Nowadays you will find recipes for pestos made from just about anything green, although I have yet to see one for cabbage or Brussels sprouts - any day now perhaps. The parsley versions seem to usually be made with walnuts or almonds, with lemon sometimes as well. Donna Hay added asparagus to her Char-grilled asparagus and parsley pesto pasta. And I do have some asparagus that needs using so maybe I'll try that. Use parsley pesto the way you would use any other kind of pesto - pasta, dips, toppings for fish and chicken ... So yes, pesto is a good idea.

Chimichurri, uchucuta, salsa verde, - green sauces for want of a better word. And I am sure there are more. Chimichurri is from Argentina (photo below from Bon Appétit) and there are heaps of recipes everywhere. Uchucuta sauce is a Peruvian version of chimichurri with the addition of corn, which accounts for the yellower colour - the recipe shown below comes from Martin Morales. There are also heaps of recipes for salsa verde which is Italian - the photo below is from Jamie. Rachel Roddy has a lovely recipe for it's use as a pasta sauce - Vermicelli alla Sophia Loren. Whilst still in Italy I also found a recipe for something called Boniet on the all recipes website, which looked like a sort of salsa verde but includes tomato paste; and also on Chowhound a recipe for Julia della Croce's angel hair with parsley sauce which was just pasta tossed with eggs, cream and lots of parsley - a sort of vegetarian carbonara. I couldn't find a picture but I think I might try that one day though.

English Parsley sauce is another standard, but perhaps from a time gone by. The picture is Delia's and you can watch her make it from that link. Parsley sauce is just a variation of a plain old white béchamel sauce. The taste is mild I suppose, some would say bland, others would say soothing and creamy and a perfect match for steamed fish, chicken, boiled beef and ham. I do like it, but I guess I have to be in the mood. Delicate - that's another good word to use for it - even sublime? Another thing for people to mock English cuisine for, but which is misguided. Underrated, but somehow, just lovely. And I suppose on a par with parsley dumplings.

Persillade and gremolata - now these are almost sauces - really nothing at all - persillade is just parsley and garlic chopped together and sprinkled over things, gremolata is the Italian version which adds lemon. Warning - you have to like raw garlic. Of persillade Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says:

"Very finely chopped parsley combined with very finely chopped raw garlic is known in French cuisine as persillade. Used raw, it makes a fine finish to roasted veg or grilled fish. Alternatively, add some persillade to a sauce, a soup or some roasting chicken pieces a few minutes before the end of cooking, for a slightly more mellow infusion of flavour."

Soup and stock - I always put some parsley into any stock that I make but I hadn't thought of using it a major component of a vegetable stock, so I could try that today. The one shown below doesn't have a huge amount of parsley but I could adjust that and it does use parmesan rinds and roasted garlic, which is interesting. The recipe is from Epicurious. As for soup I had thought of parsley soup, but thought that David would probably find it bland. And then I saw a recipe from Emma Knowles, which was a kind of vichyssoise called Leek and parsley soup but with a major parsley component so I may well try that. Elsewhere I saw it combined with celery, with peas, with asparagus, and also with lettuce.

Which leaves me with three different and new uses for parsley as a star ingredient. First there is Brik - a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe based on a Tunisian snack, which is adapted and explained on the Kitchen Flavours website. The original version is in his book Jerusalem. It involves parsley - lots, spring onions and an egg, all wrapped in brik pastry - he recommends spring roll wrappers as a substitute - which are then fried and served hot. It sounded mildly tricky but it might be really nice. The Kitchen Flavours lady takes you through the process including the mistakes she made.

Then there are tempura. I found two different recipes for these - another, even lighter, snack/appetiser thing. Just parsley in batter and fried. Try Parsley and paprika tempura from Josep Carbonell, or Herb tempura from Saveur.

Finally in the wonderful River Cottage A-Z book I found a recipe for Potato and parsley bake from Pam Corbin, which I cannot find online. Fundamentally you boil some potatoes with parsley stalks (1kg potatoes/ 50-75g parsley), drain keeping 200ml of the liquid. Throw away the stalks, slice the potatoes and arrange in single layer in a baking tray with a sliced onion. Blend the liquid with the rest of the parsley & 2 garlic cloves, then add 300ml double cream. Pour over potatoes and bake. Sounds great. Next time I'm doing potatoes I'm going to try this.

And I shouldn't forget our Christmas turkey stuffing which is a mix of celery, parsley, onion and lemon and which is truly delicious. You can use it with chicken too. Thank you Jane Grigson.

We do tend to ignore parsley as a vegetable but we shouldn't. Not only does it have a beautiful flavour but it is also rich in Vitamins C, A and K, iron and potassium and lots of flavonoids. As one writer said "Start putting it in everything". But be generous:

"you need a proper fistful to make it work, and you want proper little flecks of leaf, not grey-green dust" Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

And why anyone would dry it I have no idea. You can always get fresh.

Now I'm going to go and make some vegetable stock and some pesto. I can't make anything I can actually eat. I'm fasting.

"It's high time we all forgot this leaf's heritage as food tinsel and started appreciating it for the magical vegetable it is." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


The grandchildren deserve medals. Their aioli efforts were wonderful. I was so impressed. Boys on the left (2 pictures), girls on the right. Their chips were better than mine too - I burnt mine. We made it, together with some tomato ketchup to go with home made hamburgers. My granddaughter made the rolls too in the last picture. They're stars.



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