Monday, 27 February 2012

Wild herb rub (a lyrical review)

An ancient legend tells the story of the young Polovtsian khan: he left his Motherland to help the Caucausian Prince to fight the enemies and stayed behind, being seduced by the beautiful women and wine. His brother kept sending messengers to him, asking to come back home, but the young khan ignored the messengers. Finally a messenger arrived who didn't utter a word but gave a bunch of the dry yemshan herb to the khan. The smell of the dry herb brought back memories of the happy childhood, of his parents, freedom, horses and the wild grassland plains. The khan burst into tears and decided to go back home.
Yemshan (or yamshan) herb is a kind of wormwood or absinth, it has a very strong bitter smell, which is very evocative of the steppe.
Why am I telling you this? I had my own "yemshan herb" moment recently, when I opened a jar of the wild herb rub from Forage. The wonderful smells of chamomile , red clover and wild thyme brought back memories of my childhood. My Mum used to pick wild herbs and dry them, she makes her own herbal teas, and all through my childhood I rinsed my hair with the herbal mixture.

Wild Herb Rub is a fab mix of dried herbs.
Quote: "A wonderful wild flavouring packed with herbs that grow in British pastureland, made with wild thyme, english sage, fennel, marjoram and camomile mixed with with hints of meadowsweet, clover flowers and sheeps sorrel.
Our wild herb rub is inspired by an amazing pasture outside our kitchen window, when it rains the smell of camomile is intoxicating. We are convinced that meat tastes best flavoured with what it has eaten, and this is our theory behind why the rub is so good with british meat. (It's also pretty gorgeous with veg too!) Ditch the herb d'provence and take up with the herbs of our homeland"

I thought it would work well with the straightforward beef stew (without dumplings, as my guys don't like them much). This dish is perfect on a cold day.
For 4-5 servings you will need
about 400g beef, cut in chunks
2 medium carrots
1 parsnip
2 medium potatoes
1 red onion
1 sweet potato
1 can of carrot soup
vegetable oil
2 tbsp of Wild herb rub
plain flour for coating the beef
a handful of raisins or sultanas
about 7-8 dried apricots

Using a clean board, coat the beef with the plain flour and wild herb rub. Heat the oil in the deep frying pan and add the beef, cook it until well browned on all sides. Remove the beef and put it in the big saucepan.
Chop the onion and fry until translucent. Add to the pan with the beef. Chop the carrots and fry a bit as well (you might skip this stage, but the fried carrots give a sweeter flavour to the stew).
Add the chopped parnsips, sultanas and apricots to the pan, pour water. Beef and vegetables should be always covered by the water, so keep checking the level and add more if necessary.
Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on very low for a couple of hours. Add the potatoes, sweet potato and a can of carrot soup about 20 minutes before the end of cooking.
If you are feeling truly decadent, you can also add a can of the game soup. Your stew will be truly worthy of the king's table.
Experiment with the amount of the wild herb rub, you might want to increase the amount of herbs from 2 tbsp to 3 or even more. The herbs add a special note to this dish and enhance the flavours.

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