I was very much influenced by a wonderful guy in France called Marc Veyrat. | Marc Fosh

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Spring is the season of hope and imagination. For cooks the new season brings about a need to change. Our imagination is fired by a lighter touch with delicate herbs, young tender leaves, fresh peas, broad beans and sweet, succulent strawberries all coming into season.

As a young chef, I was very much influenced by a wonderful guy in France called Marc Veyrat, who uses a lot of alpine herbs and flowers in his cookery and I firmly believe a few fresh herbs can greatly enhance the taste, appearance and nutritional value of practically all the food we eat. With the arrival of spring, it’s a good time to take a look at your herb garden at home.

By growing just a small selection of herbs, even in pots or a window box, they will always be on hand when you need them and when you’re planning to plant your plants or seeds, it’s important to choose herbs that you personally enjoy cooking with. For our restaurant herb garden, we are planting a few more obscure, almost forgotten herbs such as burdock, lovage, woodruff, hyssop, borage, summer savoury and rue, alongside other favourites such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, mint and lemon balm to complement the sturdy Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, marjoram and oregano.
When to add fresh herbs to your cooking depends not only on the herb but also on the sort of flavour you’re trying to achieve.

The basic rule is herbs with tougher leaves generally have a stronger flavour and are usually added at the start of cooking - e.g. sage, rosemary, thyme, winter savoury. These herbs can also be added towards the end of cooking, but in this case they need to be very finely chopped and used sparingly. Whole sprigs can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, roasts and marinades, but they should be removed before serving. If the plants have soft, lush leaves, add them at the end of cooking, in order to retain their full flavour, colour and nutritional content - e.g. parsley, chervil, chives, basil, mint, coriander and dill.

One of the first things I was taught to make in the kitchen was a classic “bouquet garni”. This is a bundle of herbs that is added to casseroles, stocks, sauces and soups. It traditionally comprises parsley (or parsley stalks, which have lots of flavour), a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. These herbs may be bundled into a strip of leek or a piece of celery stalk, or tied with string, to keep them together during cooking and allow easy removal before serving.

Bouquet garni

  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 parsley stalks

Gather together the thyme, bay leaf and parsley stalks into a small bundle and secure tightly with kitchen string.

Italian Salsa Verde

Italian Salsa Verde

This sauce, which can vary by region in Italy, is kind of like chimichurri taken to the next level. Its base of parsley, oil, and garlic is familiar, but a hefty dose of capers injects a sharp bite, while lemon juice and mustard really brings it to life. Traditionally, this mixture was done by hand, creating a coarse and textured sauce. I do this by pulsing all of the ingredients in a food processor until they were well blended, but still chunky.

If you prefer a finer consistency, just keep pulsing until it’s nice and smooth, but no matter how you make it, you’re in for a great fresh and tangy sauce that’s ready to add new life into seafood, beef, chicken, or simply poured over roasted Mozzarella.

Serves 4

  • ½ small bunch basil
  • ½ small bunch parsley
  • 1 tbs capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbs sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 150ml olive oil
  • Seasoning

To make the salsa, blend the sherry vinegar, herbs, capers, garlic, mustard and olive oil in a food processor (add a little water if needed).

Herb crusted Pork Loin with saffron-apple compote

Cooking time: 1 hour
Prep time: 40 minutes
Serves 4-6

  • 750g loin of pork, trimmed
  • 60ml olive
  • a small rosemary sprig
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

For the fresh herb crust

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves
  • A small sprig of fresh thyme
  • A small sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

1 Place all of the ingredients for the crust into a food processor and pulse several times until it looks like a nice, green crust. Season with salt & pepper.

2 Heat oven to 200c. Season the pork loin well with salt and pepper.

3 Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and colour the pork on all sides. Transfer the pork to a flat tray with the garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven to cook for 20 minutes.

4 Remove from the oven and cover the top of the pork loin with the herb crust, pushing down with your fingers to create an even crust. Turn the oven down to 170C and cook for another 20 minutes until the pork is still slightly pink in the middle.

5 Remove from the oven, transfer the pork to a rack, and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Saffron- Apple compote

  • 4 red apples, peeled & chopped
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Good pinch saffron strands
  • 80g sugar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Seasoning

1 Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a gentle flame and add the chopped shallots, ginger and garlic.

2 Cook for 2-3 minutes to soften without colouring and add the saffron, apples, sugar and cider vinegar.

3 Cover with a lid and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.

4 Season to taste, mix well and remove from the heat.