Quick Recipes and Easy

Don’t Use Parsley Sparsely

He has need now of nothing but a small parsley, as the Greeks used to say about someone who had just died. The expression comes from the Greek habit of bedecking new tombs with parsley, because it retains its greenness and freshness longer than other herbs.
Like an unwanted guest, parsley is one of the first signs of spring to arrive in the garden and one of the last to leave. But, unlike the guest, parsley makes its presence very welcome. Few herbs can compete with it for versatility and nutrition. Parsley is an brilliant source of vitamins A, C and E and iron.

Throughout most of Canada parsley is classified as an annual, but in coastal BC it is grown as a biennial, surviving the mild winters. Second year plants there seem to have finer leaves and a grassier flavour.
Few insects or diseases will bother parsley, but unlike most herbs it needs well-fertilized soil and generous watering. If your bed isn’t producing enough, side dress with a high nitrogen fertilizer every four weeks or so.
Parsley is the ideal breath freshener and will even counteract garlic. Herbalists recommend parsley for the treatment of osteoporosis as the herb raises estrogen levels (it is supposedly a libido booster for women!) and is a excellent source of fluorine, a bone strengthener. As a diuretic, parsley is also advocated for the treatment and prevention of kidney stones and bladder infections. The European herbal commission, Commission E, suggests making a tea from the parsley root and drinking two to three cups a day. Steep the herb for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain. Topically, parsley is reputed to be effective in the treatment of bruises. Repeated applications of crushed leaves will usually clear up the telltale black-and-blue marks within a day or so.
Parsley seeds have a much stronger diuretic action than the leaves and they may be substituted for celery seeds in the treatment of gout, rheumatism and arthritis. Both plants act by encouraging the flushing out of waste products from the inflamed joints. Parsley is safe at normal levels of consumption, but the seeds can be toxic if consumed to excess. Do not take the seeds if suffering from kidney disease or during pregnancy.

The word parsley comes from the Greek, petros, meaning rock. This may refer to the herb’s ability to cure kidney and bladder stones or it may simply refer to parsley’s natural growing habitat in the Mediterranean. Although the Greeks used parsley medicinally and Homer recorded that warriors fed it to their horses, the Romans were first to use the herb as a food. They consumed parsley in fantastic quantity and made garlands for banquet guests to discourage intoxication and to counter strong odours.
Here is a recipe for a parsley sauce, reputedly a favourite of King Henry Vlll’s, for pouring on his roast rabbit. It comes from The Treasurie of Hidden Secrets and Commodious Conceits by John Partridge (1586):
Take a handfull of washed Parsley, mince it small, boyle it with butter and verjuice upon a chafing dish, season it with sugar and a small pepper grosse beaten; when it is ready place in a fewe crumbs of white bread amongst the other: let it boyle againe till it be thicke, then laye it in a platter, like the breadth of three fingers, laye of each side one rosted conny [rabbit] and so serve them.
Here’s one that’s simpler to follow:
Parsley Sauce

· 2 Tbsp. of butter
· ¼ cup of unbleached white flour
· 2½ cups of milk (non-dairy such as nut milk is OK)
· 1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
· Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan. Remove from the heat, add the flour and stir in with a wooden spoon until you have a roux. Slowly add the milk, stirring continuously; add the salt and pepper to taste. Return to the heat and continue to stir until the sauce simmers and thickens. Add the finely chopped parsley and stir in. This is a pouring sauce. For a coating sauce use twice as much butter and flour.
One of the fantastic dishes to use parsley as a main ingredient is the Middle Eastern salad, Tabbouleh. Here’s my favourite version:
Tabbouleh Salad

· 2 large bunches of fresh parsley (never use dried!) chopped fine

· 1 cup of fresh mint leaves (or, if you must, 1 Tbsp. of dried)
· 1 bunch of green onions chopped fine
· 5 tomatoes, diced very small

· Juice of 6 lemons
· ½ cup of bulgur wheat, medium or fine
· ¼ cup of olive oil
· 3 cloves of garlic, minced
· 1 dash of hot red pepper flakes or sauce

· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1 dash of Sumac (optional, but desirable and available in most Middle Eastern grocery stores)

Place the bulgur in a glass container and pour over it half the lemon juice. Add sufficient water to completely cover. Allow it to soak until all the liquid is absorbed. Place the tomatoes, herbs and onions into a large mixing bowl, then add the bulgur. Add the rest of the lemon juice, olive oil, hot pepper flakes or sauce, sumac, salt and pepper. Mix well.
My favorite recipe using copious amounts of parsley is the following for roast lamb cooked on a bed of potatoes. Its origin is a Belgian recipe called carbonnade, a beef dish cooked in beer. The French modified the dish using lamb and it is one of those slow-cooked meat dishes dating from the time that household ovens were rare. Villagers sent the dish to be cooked at the local bakery. As soon as the bread was out of the ovens and while they were still very hot the meat dish was place in to cook for three or four hours. By the time the oven was cool, the meat was so tender it could be eaten with a spoon. The French like to lard their lamb with slices of bacon and sometimes other herbs such as rosemary, thyme or marjoram were added to the dish. Another option also is to add other vegetables such as onions, artichoke hearts or fennel to the potatoes. The slow cooking method means that the lamb and potatoes will absorb all the flavors of the herbs and the potatoes will absorb all the stout. Here’s the basic recipe that can be modified to personal taste:

Roast Lamb with Potatoes, Parsley and Garlic

· 1 medium-large leg of lamb
· 10-12 potatoes, cut into quarter-inch slices
· 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
· 12 cloves of garlic, minced
· 2-3 handfuls of fresh parsley (do not use dried!), chopped

Make a bed of the potatoes, garlic, parsley and stock in a large, lidded roasting pan. Set the lamb in the potatoes and roast at a medium-low heat – 300-325F – for three to fours hours. For a browned roast, simply remove the lid and increase the heat to 350-375F for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing.

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