My chicken with red peppers & marigold peppers was inspired both by Sophie Grigson and a visit to herb guru Jekka McVicar’s herb farm. I loved the open day at Jekka’s fabulous Herbetum and came away with some enticing new herbs to plant and enthusiastic plans for cooking with the herbs already to hand outside my kitchen. I reached for a copy of Sophie Grigson’s herbs, which I bought a few years ago from a second-hand bookshop and adapted her recipe for ‘Chicken Red Pepper and Marigold Fajitas’ to use up some of the leftover cooked cockerel I had in the freezer from Easter lunch: Chicken with Marigold Petals & Red Peppers 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon dried oregano 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into strips 1 onion sliced 2 garlic cloves sliced 1 chilli, sliced A handful of cooked, leftover chicken A teaspoon of chopped fresh lovage juice of 1/2 lime petals of 3 marigold flowers A handful of chopped fresh parsley Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds in a frying pan until they give off a heady aroma. Grind them in a pestle and mortar with the oregano. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan over a moderate heat and cook the peppers, lovage, onion, garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle over the spices, season with salt and pepper, stir, cover and reduce heat to low then leave to sweat for 10 minutes or until tender. Raise the heat and add the chicken, stir fry until heated through then stir in the lime juice and serve strewn with parsley and marigold petals. This would be fabulous with fajitas as Sophie suggests, or with rice. I’d been baking focaccia with rosemary (Ruby’s fingers are still perfect for those indents where all the lovely olive oil, rosemary and sea salt gather) that morning – we had a weekend away around the Jekka McVicar herb farm visit and much as I enjoy the treat of a couple of meals out, I’m always crazily keen to cook when we return home. So we happily scoffed a tasty mismatch of food at lunchtime. Skipping away from my kitchen for a minute and back to that wonderful herb farm, it was brilliant to see such an amazing selection of unusual herbs. The brilliant thing about Jekka’s Herbetum is that you can also see well established versions of the herbs that are on sale growing in lovely raised beds, with great labels that suggest ways to use them, often culinary. For instance I couldn’t resist buying a ‘Jekka’ thyme after seeing this lovely profusion of flowers and being very taken with the suggestion of using the thyme flowers in salads. And when we felt how soft this low-growing thyme ‘Minimalist’ was, both Ruby and I Ioved the idea of planting it somewhere where we could walk over it. I hadn’t seen mace growing before and couldn’t resist buying some to cook with at home. So many lovely herbs to choose from: Ruby decided she wanted to buy a herb too and found it as hard to choose as her Mum: My enthusiasm for planting seems to have rubbed off too. In a dubious way. For Ruby, it’s not herbs in pots; my daughter decided she’d love to grow dandelions in her hair: I’ll spare you the pics of the shower cap propagation method she used later. Back home, the rampant herbs that I spy from my kitchen window are tempting me to experiment more in the kitchen: I’m hoping the bergamot seeds I bought will germinate as I enjoyed a wonderfully fragrant tea made simply with dried bergamot flowers at Jekka’s herb farm and am hoping to replicate it at home. While I wait for bergamot to grow, I’ve been enjoying some lovely tea samples kindly sent by Teavivre. Sipping some freshly brewed Ripened Tangerine tea while watering my seedlings or savouring the organic fragrant black tea has made me realise how much of a rut I’ve got into with my mid morning coffee. Will definitely be varying it now, especially as I’m finding a morning cup of green or black tea very refreshing in the lovely sunshine we’re having. These teas are much more interesting than reaching for a tea-bag:
I do like what Teavivre told me about their visits to the Tea Plantations in China too: “Our regular trips allow us to not just find the best teas, but also visit our supplier’s farms to personally verify their growing and production methods.” They tell me that they use organically farmed tea wherever possible. Will write more about my herby experiments soon, wondering about making tea-bread while I have these interesting teas too. In the meantime I’m off to have a peep at some other kitchens around the world in Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s fab In My Kitchen. Although I seem to have meandered away from my kitchen in this post, growing and planting are so intertwined with what I cook, so would love to join in. And as this is a very herby post, would love to join in this month’s herbs on Saturday which Karen of Lavender and Lovage hosts. If you like growing and cooking with herbs too, it’s a great place for recipe ideas.