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Notes from the Apothecary: Mint

By Mabh Savage

[Snip] Mint has been used for culinary purposes throughout the history of many different cultures. It is used in Indian food to counter balance spiciness or add depth of flavour. It is used as a fresh, sharp flavour in numerous cocktails and soft beverages. Mint was an ingredient of many recipes mentioned in Apicius, the Roman collection of recipes probably compiled in the 4th century AD. Mint has also been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians, and it is thought they prized the herb very highly.

I love the fresh smell of mint in the kitchen. You only have to slightly bruise the leaves to be rewarded with an aroma that is cooling and satisfying at the same time. Mint is one of those flavours that works well with both sweet and savoury dishes, and also with both hot and cold. Mint ice cream is very popular, and the Mojito is one of the most common additions to any self-respecting cocktail menu. For cold, savoury uses of mint think about raita, the cooling sauce served with Indian food, or tzatziki, the Greek equivalent.

Mint jelly has been the condiment of choice for many lamb dishes for years, but it also works with chicken, fish and even vegetable dishes. Mint sauce is much easier to make than the jelly; it doesn’t last as long but it’s so yummy, that won’t matter much! Mint sauce is just fresh mint, sugar, vinegar and water. Some people blend it but I prefer to finely chop the mint for a more textured sauce. Experiment with it- everyone’s tastes are different!

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