Thursday, October 1, 2009

Herbs in Provence

While visiting Provence years ago, we stopped in to say hello to Kathy, proprietor of a lavender and herb shop in the little village where we were staying. She is a friend of my sister's, who at the time was a lavender grower here in the US. Kathy busied herself filling containers with various herb mixtures as we visited. Then, she bundled up the containers, two grocery sacks full, and said "for you and for your sister!". The most wonderful mixes of herbs. I had to explain it all to customs when we entered the U.S. but it was definitely worth it! Kathy's mixes were all herbs, no spices. Here are a few mixes I have gleaned over the years from cookery articles.

Fines herbs - Mixture of parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon. Most commonly used for flavoring omelettes and for grilled fish and chicken.

Epices composees - Mixture of spices and herbs used for flavoring. Thyme, bay leaves, basil, sage, a little coriander, and mace. Ingredients, perfectly dried, are pounded together and sieved. Add to this mixture a third of their weight in finely ground pepper.

Epices quatre or fines - White pepper, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, dried sage, marjoram, rosemary. Pound and sieve.

Herbes de Provence - Rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, basil, fennel, mint. Sometimes lavender.

An old world custom is to have your own secret herb blend on hand at all times. It is the "house" blend. I like this idea and will try to remember to gather herbs next summer when the leaves are at their most flavorful (just before bloom) and experiment with my own "house" blend.

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