Cooking simply doesn’t have to be cooking boringly. A fresh piece of wild fish or some high-season asparagus doesn’t need much doing to it. Meals like this are quite often the best, in terms of flavour, sustainability and time. Vegetables at their freshest and most seasonal take almost no time to cook and with something like a flavoured butter or herb oil to complement them you are going to eat very well.
You can make many of these things in advance, butter freezes well to use as and when you like; spice mixes; freshly toasted and ground, will keep well in a jar in the cupboard for a couple of weeks to sprinkle over a finished dish. Try this gunpowder recipe for roast squash or this za’atar one to add to stems of tender broccoli or to sprinkle over.
Flavoured butters are one of my favourite way to add flavour and excitement to a dish and — contrary to the advice given by the idiots in charge of dietary ‘guidelines’– it is good for you. Why on earth you would substitute a natural and delicious ingredient for an industrially produced trans-fat laden ‘spread’ which is one step away from plastic is beyond me.
Last week I made a batch with wild garlic as well as a harissa-laden one. I used them liberally to cook salmon, melt into a butter bean and chorizo stew and pour over fried eggs. This version, using a bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves (I threw the stalks into the blender too) is an elegant pale jade colour. Its maiden voyage is going to be with cauliflower, the florets first boiled until just starting to soften, next a coating of turmeric powder and mustard seeds, then caramelised in a pan and poached in the butter until ready.
250g softened unsalted butter (homemade from pasture-raised cows milk would be best, but failing that, Yeo Valley butter is a good supermarket one, if you must use those vile warehouses of sugar, food-type products and palm oil)
5g Maldon salt
1 bunch of fenugreek, well chopped
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Melt 25g of the butter with the olive oil and add the salt. Throw in the fenugreek and stir well. Cook for about five minutes, until everything is well wilted then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour.
If at the end of the infusion the butter has started to solidify again, gently heat it.
Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl, discarding the leaves then add the remaining butter and whisk well until it all comes together.
Pour into a jar or dish and chill until firm.