Susan Jane Murray: Rosemary, baby
Prepare to be seduced, says Susan Jane Murray, by the fresh pine aroma of this herb, blended with roasted garlic
In the Middle Ages, wily women would douse themselves in eau de rosemary to seduce, or rather intoxicate, their prey. The primal scent from a man's hands of freshly picked rosemary can send my hormones into fiery orbit.
That, and the sight of a carelessly tucked tea-towel under his belt while he labours over a pestle and mortar. Try inhaling its fresh pine aroma without thinking saucy thoughts. Difficult, isn't it?
This unassuming herb grows all over Ireland. It has been used for centuries to soothe the senses. Caffeic and rosmarinic acids give it its legendary antiviral, anti-inflammatory antibacterial and antioxidant status as the Luke Skywalker of herbs. It's rich in vitamin E, which has been dubbed the fertility vitamin by Patrick Holford. No wonder it multiplies in spring.
Garlic and Rosemary Puree
Roasted, creamy and potently tasty, this recipe is a loyal friend to (Larry the) lamb or any Easter feast. Nature's most effective antibiotic, raw garlic has been used for all sorts of ailments for thousands of years. That pungent reek masks several important compounds: allicin kills roving bacteria in our blood, saponin soaks up cholesterol, and courmaric wages war against viral and fungal infections. Good health can and should be delivered by tasty food, and not by supplemental bullets or pharmaceutical pills. Add lots of this amazing puree to your dinner plate.
You will need:
1 stalk of fresh rosemary, the tough centre stalk removed
2 cups peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of good, unrefined salt
A few turns of the black pepper mill
Finely chop the fresh rosemary. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Trim the roots off the garlic cloves, and discard them. Toss the cloves in a bowl with two tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Season with the unrefined salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Stack 10 sheets of tinfoil on a work surface and place a sheet of parchment paper on top. This prevents the garlic colouring or burning and turning bitter. Put the garlic mixture in the middle of the paper and fold the parchment and the foil over it like a tent, scrunching the edges. Make sure the foil tent is sealed well. Place the package in the centre of the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Turn down the heat to 160 C, 325 F, Gas 3, on a conventional oven and leave to roast for another 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely. If you open the package too early, you'll lose all that fabulous juice and burn yourself with steam.
After 30 minutes, open the cooled package and transfer the garlic to your trusty food processor, along with any accumulated juice and the chopped rosemary. Add the remaining olive oil and process the lot into a delectably smooth puree. Scrape into a clean glass jar, cover tightly, and use within three weeks. It's an excellent substitute for mayonnaise or butter in sandwiches. Anyone worried about evacuating the office at lunchtime with a honking breath, fret not. Garlic becomes quite tame and sweet when it's roasted in this way.
Susan is giving a cookery class on healthy-but-decadent desserts at Donnybrook Fair, D4, April 30, see www.susanjanemurray.com