Monday, 8 February 2010

Freezing herbs: don't do it

I don't usually like to write about disasters - unless it's in the context of being useful. For example, I don't think you need to know that the other week I made a fillet of pork with figs and marsala, and that it was bland, pointless and bad, unless I was also going to write about a recipe for pork fillet that was delicious and handy.

But I undertook, for the sake of this blog, an experiment with freezing herbs at the beginning of last week and I thought I would share the massively disappointing results with you. It all started when Giles mentioned casually to me the other week that his mother used to make a lot of gravalax and kept bags of dill in the freezer to make it with - and a small light went on over my head.

The ebb and flow of herbs through my kitchen occupies me greatly. From my garden I can harvest Savoury, which is sort of like thyme but not quite, and Sage, which I have to scrub in hot water to get rid of the strong smell of cat wee (there are approximately 2.5 cats per house in our street and collectively their favourite place to crap and piss, and murder song birds, seems to be our garden). From Sainsbury's up the road I can get parsley and sometimes coriander - but they only come in those pots, which I don't want because you get one handful out of them and then they sit next to the sink slowly dying, despite my best efforts.

For anything more exciting - mint, dill, scented thyme - I must go to Waitrose.

And herbs are vital because they make boring things interesting. Cous cous with tomato and cucumber: boring. Cous cous with tomato, cucumber, parsley and mint: interesting. But as I stand, hungry, in larder doorway, knowing that what is going to really liven up my lunch is a packet of fresh mint, I am not going to actually get in the car to go and fetch some. So the idea of freezing herbs seemed just marvellous - I would have an array of magic leaves at my fingertips to snazz up a bowl of grains.

I was cackling with joy as I drove to Waitrose on my mission to buy a range of herbs to freeze. I thought I would grow famous as the woman to bring a frozen herb revolution to the UK. I could write a cookbook "Cooking with frozen herbs".

But, alas, there's a reason why people don't freeze herbs and that's because when you take them out of the freezer they collapse and die in a brown, stinking heap. Well - mint and coriander do anyway. I've still got bags of dill, sage and thyme in the freezer, which I now don't dare release from their frozen idyll. I really, really thought it was going to work because when I looked at the frozen herbs in the packet they looked fab - caught at their most fresh and perky, but the freezing process seem to do unspeakable things to them, once you release them from the sub-zero clutch.

So that's that. Don't you feel depressed now? Because I do. That's why I try not to write about disasters.

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