Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Shiso, aka Japanese Basil

My friend Kyoko recently gave me some shiso plants for the garden. Shiso has an unusual taste like nothing else that I have tasted. The nearest I can get to describing it that to me it has a fresh green summery taste a bit like the smell of new mown grass with a hint of that smell you get when you brush against tomato leaves, with a whisper of lemon.

I have eaten this with salad and deep fried in tempura batter.
For a present, Kyoko made a bottle of clear magenta cordial for me from the red ( purple) shiso and she tells me it is used when pickling plums. The cordial is easy to make. Pick some red shiso leaves and soak overnight in some water with a little citric acid added. Not too much water, just enough to cover the leaves. Green shiso leaves can be mixed in with the red ones. In the morning drain the juice and boil it with some sugar. Don't use an aluminium pan as the acid can eat into the metal. When cool bottle and refrigerate the cordial. Add water and ice to taste.
Pepsi Japan even produced a Pepsi shiso.
It is used in cooking throughout Asia. The green shiso is wrapped around chicken pieces to be stir fried.

The purple shiso can double up as an ornamental plant, I have seen it in planting schemes at the Chelsea Flower Show. If the birds and snails don't eat them they can grow to 2 or 3 feet high.

The botanical name for shiso is Perilla frutescens and it belongs to the mint family along with basil, coleus and nettles. They all have square shaped stems.
It is used in Chinese medicine and is said to boost the immune system.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Pasta with courgettes, almond and lemon

I found a recipe for Zuccini pasta with almonds and lemon zest on one of my favourite food blogs, Chocolate and Zuccini. Click here for the recipe.

I followed the recipe fairly closely. I didn't have any harissa paste so I ground a mixture of coriander, cumin, caraway with some powdered chipotle. I used about 1/4 tsp of each with 1/2 a tsp coriander.

I used a couple of mini garlics fresh from the garden. They were self seeded from a previous year's crop. This and the dry weather may be why they are so small but there are plenty of them. I chopped some of the green leaf part and added that as well. Raw that tastes surprisingly strong. I also added some chopped flat leaved parsley at the end of the cooking time. That also came from the garden as a self seeded bonus.

This is a gorgeous combination of flavours and textures. I like the combination of the spices with the lemon and the contrast of textures from the crunch of the almond to the softness of the courgettes and pasta. It made 2 portions and I have a little left over to have cold with salad