You may have seen Jekka featured this week in stories about RHS Chelsea Flower Show where her show garden ‘A Modern Apothecary’ was awarded, a well deserved silver-gilt medal.
As well as growing herbs, Jekka is of course an expert on their culinary values too.
Here’s what she has to say about May’s herb of the month, Basil.
Basil is one of the wonders of the herb world. It is a classic in the kitchen, where it literally does transform a meal into a feast it is also has astounding medicinal properties. Thousands of years ago the ancient Egyptians used Basil to clear poisons from the body! Today a tea made from the leaves is a lovely calmative it also stimulates the digestion and is a beneficial antioxidant. I love using Basil, not only with Italian food but also in puddings.
Sweet Basil and Lemon Sorbet
(Recipe from Jekka’s Herb Cook Booked published by Ebury)
The combination of any of the following basil leaves, lettuce, Greek or sweet with the sharpness of lemon is brilliant. This is a simple summer pudding which always finds favor with family and friends.
150g castor sugar
2 lemons, zest
150ml lemon juice
1 large bunch of basil leaves of your choice.
Place the water and sugar in a pan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 4 minutes with the lemon zest. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for a while. Remove the leaves of the basil from the stems, discard the stems. Either using a pestle and mortar pound the leaves to make a puree or liquidise. Add the lemon juice and basil puree to the lemon zest syrup, stir well then allow to cool for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. If you wish to be posh, strain the infusion through a sieve, if, like me, you love the leaves simply pour the infusion into a plastic tub or earthenware dish and place in the freezer. Generally, sorbet takes 2 hours to set. So that the sorbet is not rock hard, remove from the freezer after 30 minutes beat the sorbet with a fork, return to the freezer, repeat 3 more times. You will find that this will make the sorbet crystallise rather than set has a rock of ice. Serve decorated with some fresh leaves.