Bay leaves

Bay trees, with their glossy green leaves, can be quite prolific. I have one about 2 feet (60 cm) high, which gives me all the bay leaves I need. Fresh bay leaves, shown on the left here, however, can impart a slightly bitter flavour, so this is a herb which is far better used dried.

To dry them is easy: just hang a branch in an airy spot and the leaves will dry in a couple of weeks.They are used probably more than any other herb, to flavour stocks, sauces, casseroles and marinades.

One idea you might like to try is to place a bay leaf in about 2 inches (5 cm) of boiling water, add some salt, then sit a whole prepared cauliflower in the water to cook with the lid tightly closed.

When it’s tender (about 10 minutes), drain, melt some butter over the cauliflower and sprinkle on a little nutmeg.

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