Parsley

Parsley

By
Greg Malouf, Lucy Malouf
Contains
3 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740667678
Photographer
William Meppem

Parsley is such a familiar and universal ingredient that even the most timid cook is happy to fling it about with gay abandon. We debated whether to include it in this book as it is so commonplace – that is to say, its distinctive, vital flavour is included in just about every savoury recipe you can think of, in many different cuisines. But just because something is commonplace doesn’t mean it is not worth a mention!

Herbs have always been everyday ingredients for everyday folk – and not just in the kitchen either. As many as 5000 years ago the Sumerians and then the Egyptians were using them to concoct healing potions and remedies. Greek, Roman and Arab civilisations all contributed to the large body of herbal literature. Even today, a strong interest in herbalism and the healing power of plants persists. But on the whole, the medical and magical uses of herbs have dwindled and their main role is to brighten up our food with their pungent, lively flavours.

Of all the herbs, parsley is probably the favourite, loved the world over for its abundant, vivid green leaves and its vigorous, almost peppery flavour. In classical French cuisine parsley stalks are the backbone of the bouquet garni (with thyme and a bay leaf), which is used to flavour stocks, soups and casseroles. Finely chopped, its flavour is restrained enough to be used as a garnish for all kinds of savoury dishes, either on its own, or combined with equal quantities of finely chopped chervil, chives and tarragon to make fines herbes. Italian cooks sprinkle it over pasta and risotto dishes and combine it with lemon zest and garlic to make gremolata, the classic zesty garnish for rich, sticky osso buco and other hearty soups and stews. It tempers the stronger salty flavours of anchovy and capers in salsa verde, which accompanies poached chicken, fish and offal or boiled meats such as the favourite bollito misto.

Middle Eastern food is almost unthinkable without parsley. All sorts of dips and mezze dishes are garnished with roughly chopped parsley – never finely chopped, as in classical French cooking. The raw leaves are torn and tossed through countless refreshing salads – not just the ever-popular tabbouleh and fattouche. Parsley is often combined with lemon juice and garlic in dressings and marinades, which work particularly well with grilled poultry. It may also be combined with garlic and onion and other spices as a base for minced meat dishes such as kifta, or rice stuffings for vegetables.

Selecting and storing parsley

Large bundles of flat-leaf parsley look look a bit daunting next to those neat little posies of the curly sort, but the latter is barely known in the Middle East. Flat-leaf or Continental parsley has a much better flavour than the curly type. It is stronger and sweeter and perfectly suited to scattering around salads. Thankfully, these days it is widely available all year round.

Parsley is one herb which is totally unsatisfactory when dried. You really have to buy it fresh, but it keeps pretty well in the refrigerator. We store it in the refrigerator in a jug of water, with its head neatly tucked away in a plastic bag. If you remember to change the water every now and then, parsley lasts like this for up to a week. Alternatively, you can strip the leaves off, wash and dry them carefully, and keep them in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

Using parsley

There is often grit and sand sticking to parsley leaves and stalks, so it is a good idea to wash it at least twice before picking the leaves from the stalks. A salad spinner is useful for drying them.

Parsley can be added to, and will improve just about every dish imaginable, so don’t reserve it for use as a garnish. Middle Easterners buy herbs such as parsley in such dauntingly large quantities because they recognise the need to use lots and lots, not just a few dainty sprigs. Remember this particularly when it comes to making herb butters and sauces, which should be bright green and thick with the herb, not pale and speckled.

Recipes in this Chapter

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