Anyone who grows their own vegetables or fruit has experienced a glut of something at some time. The classic one is courgettes (there’ll be more on them in a few weeks when my glut arrives). The subject isn’t always predictable but the outcome is. You start in the spring with what seems like a very few seeds and by summer you’re a gibbering wreck, losing friends over your sudden neediness for them to take some more, with a freezer you can’t shut, and mysterious jars of brown stuff on every windowsill. Every year, as sure as day follows night.
Anyway, my glut at the moment is parsley. Not a bad one to have. The two options are pretty obvious: save it or cook it. Lots of ways to do the latter: parsley sauce is the obvious one, but it’s also essential in a decent quiche Lorraine. You can add it to all sorts of casseroles and soups, or make a delicious grain salad like tabbouleh – one of my favourite packed lunches and easy as.
This salad should be primarily about the herbs with a small amount of grain and about the same of other vegetables.
- 100g bulghur (cracked) wheat, covered with boiling water and left to stand for ten minutes
- 2 tomatoes, half a cucumber and 3 spring onions, all finely diced
- very big bunch of parsley*, few sprigs of mint, roughly chopped
- juice of 1 lemon
- A good glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, sumac (optional – or use the zest of the lemon)
Mix everything together and taste to adjust seasoning. Leave it to stand for at least an hour if you can, to let the bulghur wheat soak up the vegetable juices. That’s it.
*If you’re not growing your own herbs, I find Asian grocers sell decent bunches, not those pathetic little bags you get from the supermarket.
So far so easy. But the classic advice for saving any leafy herb is to freeze it in ice cube trays with a little water. Too much faff! And then you’ve got to find room in the freezer for all those damn ice cubes. So I’ve gone for two alternative, much easier methods. Pick the parsley first thing on a dry morning if you can, as that’s when the flavour will be best.
Wash and dry the parsley, line up the stalks, then fold in half and stuff as tightly as you can into the bottom of a small zip-top plastic bag. Roll up as tightly as you can and secure with string or rubber bands. Add a label so you don’t mistake it for spinach, and pop it in the freezer. When you want to use it, just take the roll out of the bag and shave as much as you want off the end.
The key is to try and dry as quickly as possible to preserve the colour. Wash the herbs, dry very well and spread out on trays. Put them somewhere warm and give them a bit of a shake and turn every day to get the air circulating.
A sunny windowsill is good because you won’t forget them, but an airing cupboard dries them more quickly. Once they’re mostly crunchy, rub them between the palms of your hands to get the leaves off the stems, and store in a clean dry jar. You can take the stems off before you start drying and freeze them for use in stocks, or save the dried stalks in a separate jar for the same purpose.
And next year, try not to sow so many seeds in the first place…