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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 July 2015
FOOD 20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JULY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Herbal delight An aromatic guide to delicious pastry-making ZOE THOMAIDOU As kids we have all had a look at our yiayia's cupboard, soon enough to realise that no Greek household is complete without the aromatic combination of herbs. Herbs have been part of the Greek culture for thousands of years, given that the Mediterranean conditions of warm temperatures, dry soil and plenty of sun create the ideal environment for their development. Going for a hike in the countryside or following a trail on a mountain cliff is enough to convince you that you can find half of your cupboard's ingredients out in the wild where they naturally grow. In ancient times, the most notable uses of herbs were in medicine, originating from the empirical experience of observing which plants the animals ate when they were feeling sick, and following their example. Medical issues such as colds, swelling, burns and headaches were all treated using Mediterranean herb plants. They were often the main component of aromatherapy oils and aphrodisiacs. The history of herbs also overlaps with culinary history, as it soon became evident that the use of herbs and spices with antimicrobial and antioxidant substances helped prevention of diseases and stimulated the immune system. Ever since then, herbs have become essentials of traditional Greek cooking for adding aroma, taste and colour to food. Fresh or dried, flaked or whole, as leaves and stems, as seeds - frankly in any variation you prefer - herbs can bring out the natural flavour of food or result in a nutritious beverage. But why stick to conventional savoury recipes, when you can make herbs your ‘secret ingredient’ in sweet treats and bake something different? We've gathered together a handful of sweet delicacies with herbs for you to browse and pick your favourites. * Sources: pure2raw.com, marthastewart. com, bbc uk, organicfacts.net, Courtyard Kitchen by Natalie Boog, epicurious.com, splendidtable.org Luiza (lemon verbena) fruit gelee Make room for a luiza plant in your garden if you are fond of lemony scented herbs. Commonly known as lemon verbena, luiza is generally used to make herbal tea. It can serve as a mild sedative with an effect similar to chamomile, as a diuretic or even as a home remedy against colds. Ingredients: 8 leafy lemon verbena sprigs, plus 4 medium leaves, divided 2 cups dry rosé wine 1 cup sugar, divided 3 cups mixed summer fruit (berries, nectarines, peaches) 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin (two 8-10g envelopes) 1/3 cup water Method: 1. Rub verbena sprigs in your hands to bruise leaves and stems, then combine sprigs with wine and 3/4 cup sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, for 1 hour. 2. While verbena mixture steeps, finely grind verbena leaves with remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor or an electric coffee/spice grinder. Gently toss fruit with verbena sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl. Let stand while verbena syrup finishes steeping. 3. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let soften 1 minute. Meanwhile, reheat verbena syrup until hot, then stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in macerated fruit with juices and remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Chill in an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until cool and thickened (the texture of raw egg whites) but not set, 8 to 10 minutes. 4. Very lightly oil baking pan (not necessary if pan is nonstick or if using individual glasses). 5. Pour gelée into baking pan and chill in refrigerator until set, at least three hours. 6. To unmold, dip pan in a larger pan of hot water 5 to 10 seconds to loosen. Invert onto a serving plate (do not unmold if using individual glasses). Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
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