Herb of the month : Bay

Feeling blue with all the wind and rain? Then its time to nourish your body and soul with some delicious warming winter stews and soups. Bay is the Herb of the month for February as its an essential ingredient in any soup, stew, stock and casserole. Also a crucial part of the ever useful Bouquet Garni. Long cooking draws out the aroma of this herb but generally you should only use one or two leaves as the flavour imparted by bay is strong.

Bay Leaves

Bay is an evergreen plant, originally native to Southern Europe but now found throughout the world.  The bay plant was used as far back as Greek and Roman times.  Widely used in their cultures and held in the highest of status and as a symbol of Victory.  The bay wreath was awarded to great athletes and poets as a mark of their excellence.  Also as much used in their cooking as it is today, as a fantastic means of adding flavour to a dish.

The leaves have hundreds of uses from flavouring meat stocks to burning on the barbeque.  They are also an important ingredient in any bechemel or cheese sauce.  Pop one into the milk while heating to impart a soft and subtle flavour.

Chicken Adobo

 

While we do of course always advocate fresh fresh fresh!  Bay leaves are the one herb that is often best used dried.  The exception to this is if you have your own bay tree in your garden to harvest from. Bay leaves do freeze well though so if you are able to buy fresh leaves in bulk put some in the freezer and they will keep for years!

Bay is used in the cuisine of many countries especially in Europe and also the Americas.  It is also used in some Thai dishes and is one of the main ingredients in delicious Pilipino Adobo dishes.  Try this yummy recipe for Chicken Adobo.  It was often cooked at home when I was a child by Tessie Lacson, one of the best cooks I have know! It was, and still is one of my favourite dishes especially when served up with bowl of steamed rice and some lovely fresh green peas!

 

Chicken Adobo

 8 chicken pieces (I use thighs)
½ cup soy sauce
2 tbs Sugar
½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tbs Olive oil
15 Garlic cloves (smashed and peeled)
½ tbs pepper corns
4 bay leaves
salt and pepper
parsley chopped 

Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl to make a marinade and put in the chicken pieces.  Leave for at least 2 hours. 

Transfer all the ingredients to a large pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the meat is tender (approx. 30 mins).  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan.  Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken pieces until crispy on all sides, then set aside.  Meanwhile boil the sauce until reduced by about half then re- add the browned chicken. Remove the bay leaves and sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve.

Keywords: Bay, Chicken Adobo, Soups and Stocks