Saturday, 19 November 2011

Lemon Verbena

The french are partial to tisanes before bedtime. As most times, I forget to drink until I'm sitting down in the evening, following a good dinner. Its then that I remember my thirst and can then knock down a litre or two of herbal tea and end up peeing all night.
My favourites have to be lemon-balm in the spring and lemon verbena in the summer and autumn and I then have my dried verbena to get me through the winter months. 
Mailhos had a marvellous giant verbena bush in the courtyard when I first arrived and since then I have taken cutting each year and planted them out in the summer. They need warm southern walls, good, loose soil, rainy summers and mild winters, all which my home can provide.

Most time I've succeeded in getting something growing from the cuttings but it can be a difficult plant to take off. If the winters are too hard, they can die of cold so its worth putting one in a pot inside just in case (although the leaves stay small)....! 
Wonderful to drink when you have a blocked nose, cannot sleep or suffer from a little indigestion although drinking too much and every day can, too often, cause stomach irritation.
No frost yet but I have to cut back the verbena bushes before the cold arrives and rip my hands apart stripping the fresh leaf from the branch - a job never made easier by nosy chickens.

Its then dried on the cooler side of the Aga overnight and stocked in a linen bag.

The fresh leaves are clean and lemony scented - perhaps more citronella than fruity and make a sublime sorbet when the weather is warmer than today, brightens up a chicken or white fish or infuses a vinegar or jelly. Once dried the aroma can be even stronger but better as a calming tea than used in cooking.

Verbena Chicken

6 people

One large local organic chicken cut into 8 pieces
A large bouquet of fresh verbena
A large bunch of small, fresh young carrots - scrubbed and trimmed
One Lime cut into 4 quarters
Sea salt and pepper
Olive Oil 

Put the chicken pieces in  a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Cook over a gentle heat. When warm add the verbena, the lime quarters and the whole carrots. Season with salt and cook over a moderate heat for one hour without the water boiling. Lay out a chicken piece (or two) with a few  carrots in six different, flat soup-plates. Pour over a little of the verbena water with some of the leaves and sprinkle with some fine sea salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful blog, I've just found you via Fiona Beckett. I can't find a follow button, but will bookmark your blog,so I can read it over a few days.