After a very tentative attempt at growing some of my own vegetables last year I decided that the following spring I would dig a little deeper and really have a proper try at it. Cut to this year and I am the proud cultivator of my very own amazing veg patch. Let me make one thing clear: I am an absolute rubbish gardener and know absolutely nothing about how, why or when particular vegetables grow. So when I say ‘amazing veg patch’ what I actually mean is that I planted some things in the ground and they didn’t die.
In fact, it seems that Mother Nature truly is the alpha matriarch and so save taking to my veg patch with a blow torch, there is almost nothing I could do to stop her helping my veg to burst through the soil, little leaves aimed skyward, and just grow, and grow, and grow. I love it. Why did no one tell me about this before? I was under the impression that you had to be at one with nature in order to persuade the garden flora to do what you wanted. But it seems that if you leave them be, weed occasionally and water a lot, then magical things can happen on a little vegetable plot.
So here I am with some very green rich pickings and a literal field of fresh herbs. There is so much you can do with leafy herbs: throw them in salads, stir them through buttered pasta or seasoned quinoa, use them to coat roasted meats or make pesto, add to soups at the last minute or simply tear up and throw over whatever it is you have just made. But I have to say that Salsa Verde is by far one of my favourite ways of using bunches of fresh, fragrant herbs.
The making of Salsa Verde is so simple and you can use whatever combination of herbs you like, though I would avoid the woodier variety and I nearly always begin with a large bunch of flat leaf parsley. I adore capers so tend to use a lot, you can use your own judgement but I recommend using the smaller variety for this, preferably the salted type rather than those stored in vinegar.
When something so simple is so pungent and powerful I think it should stand proud and uninterrupted so I have served it here with some simply roasted chicken breasts, a light marinade coating their skins. Salsa Verde is also delicious when served with lamb, beef, fish or roasted beetroot and peppers. You will find it can survive for a few days in the fridge but it is best eaten on the day of its making.
SUMMER CHICKEN WITH SALSA VERDE
4 chicken breasts (skin on)
2 tbsp butter replacement (Pure Sunflower Spread)
2 heaped tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt flakes
A good grinding of black pepper
1tbsp lemon juice
For the Salsa Verde
A large bunch of flat leaf parsley
A small bunch of coriander
A small bunch of chives
A small bunch of marjoram leaves
3 tbsp capers (drained or rinsed)
The juice and zest of ½ a lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200c (180c Fan). In a small bowl, cream together the butter replacement, sea salt, soft brown sugar and black pepper until combined. Take each chicken breast and make three diagonal cuts, about 1 cm deep, along its length. Rub the butter marinade into each breast, ensuring you get in to all the cuts and crevices, place on a plate and pour over the lemon juice, leave to marinade for 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, place the fresh herbs, oil, capers and lemon in to a food processor, season well and blitz very briefly so that you are left with a coarse herb salsa. Alternatively, chop all the ingredients roughly by hand until they are the desired texture. Cover the salsa and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place the chicken breasts in a small roasting tin and roast in the oven for 14 minutes or until crisp on top and the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the oven, rest for 5 minutes and then slice in to widths, serve with a large spoonful of salsa verde on the side.