Fine Herbes AboundOne of the joys of April is the appearance of green and growing gardens after the chill of winter. In her quintessential guide to English cooking, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse offers a round of up all the dainties one might expect to harvest this month. She does not offer hopes that one has a garden or tips for growing the garden of fine herbes -- these are already assumed-- she merely states what might be found in the garden. Estates and even cottages relied on their gardens for fresh produce throughout the year and the lack of a garden was one annoyance of city living. Fresh herbs were particularly prized both for mealtime and medicinal purposes. In her cookbook, Hannah calls for fine herbes in various combinations, like the "bundle of sweet herbs" used in her White Fricasey recipe. The sweet herbs here might have been the traditional "Herbes de Provence" (savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and, for the American, Lavender) or "Fines Herbs" (fresh parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil) however, the method of preparation, "a bundle", most sounds like a "bouquet garni".
The bouquet garni (French for "garnished bouquet") is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption. There is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most recipes include thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may also include parsley, basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon. Vegetables such as carrot, celery (leaves or leaf stalks), celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes included in the bouquet.Making your own "bouquet garni" could not be easier-- simply take small bunches of each type of herb- here we have parsley, bay, celery leaves, and rosemary, wrapped in leek leaves and tied with kitchen string. Simply add this to your simmering pot and remove before serving-- authentic, fresh flavor in a jiffy.
Laura Boyle is the author of Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends. Enjoyed this article about fine herbes in April? Check out our cook books for more inspiration.