Susan Jane Murray: Heroic herb
Italians love the taste, says Susan Jane Murray, and eating parsley is a great way to maintain 'la dolce vita'
Parsley has the ability to seduce any Italian. Knitted into the fabric of Italian cuisine, this unassuming little herb enjoys uproarious acclaim. It's the Berlusconi of the herb world -- at every dinner party, everyone's had a taste, and, bizarrely, no one grows tired of it. Although, unlike Berlusconi, this sprightly herb is good for the body.
In Ireland, we like to tickle mashed potatoes with parsley or chop it up to kiss a Guinness stew before serving. Parsley tea traditionally relieves water retention and helps detoxification by promoting our water works. That's Latin for urination. Parsley promises to purify the blood and to purge our body of last night's gargle. Is this why we see so much of it on Irish dinner plates?
Parsley is my top herb for four reasons. Firstly, it helps rapidly alkalise our system. We like our bodies to be serene and alkaline rather than hostile and acidic. Secondly, parsley is rich in calcium, the kind our body finds easy to break down and absorb. Given a choice, your arteries will prefer parsley to hard cheese as a calcium source. Thirdly, parsley is an easy way to include iron in a baby's diet. Don't forget to add a touch of grapefruit or red pepper to enhance its absorption with vitamin C. And finally, parsley is a member of a select group of cancer-fighting greens.
Yikes! Herbs really are expensive to buy in supermarkets, aren't they? That's why I grow my own. Homegrown herbs are immeasurably cheaper, tastier, and require minimal attention. They breed quicker than bunnies, which means you can make this recipe all spring long without denting your wallet.
This North African chermoula has been Irishified with a touch of healthy seaweed. Arame only needs a little soaking before it's ready to rock 'n' roll. Don't be afraid of using this sea vegetable. Clearspring do 50g of wild arame for €4.50. Seems expensive? Remember, arame swells to four times its volume, keeps on your shelf for up to three years, and is only required in small quantities. Considering that arame enriches our diet with an alkaline source of calcium and the much-coveted energy-enhancing B12, it's a small price to pay for good health. The twice Nobel prize winner Dr Linus Pauling reminds us that the medicine of the future is in optimum nutrition.
You will need:
Good pinch of arame seaweed
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup coriander, chopped
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Soak the arame seaweed in water for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Crush the garlic and black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar. Using a fork, briskly mix together the chopped flat-leaf parsley, the coriander, the ground cumin, the cayenne pepper, the lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. Drain the arame, discarding the liquid. Finely chop it, and stir through the chermoula. Moroccans love it on hard-boiled eggs, white fish or tumbled with chickpeas.
To book a place at Susan Jane's 'Sinful but Saintly' cookery demo on April 30, call Donnybrook Fair on (01) 668-3556, or see www.susanjanemurray.com