Store-Cupboard Staple: Bay Leaves

I bet you’ve all had a look in the kitchen cupboard and thought, ‘what the hell am I going to do with this?’, more so than ever in recent weeks! 

The truth is, we’re all in this strange scenario together, and if we’re going to put a positive spin on it, let’s think of cooking as a challenge – a chance to unleash our creative side.  

With that in mind, I’m going to be setting fortnightly tasks for some of our team. My first ‘store-cupboard challenge’ goes to our Café 21 Head Chef, Kev Pratt. 

We’ve all been tasked with tackling those forgotten-about store-cupboard products. You’ve probably all got a jar of out-of-date bay leaves in the cupboard somewhere. How can we put them to good use in the kitchen?  

Let’s see what Kev can do with those bay leaves. 

Over to you, Kev…

 

 

BAY LEAVES

Often used either on their own or as part of a classic bouquet garni, bay leaves are at the foundation of flavoursome cooking. Think of bay as more of a spice than a herb; at its best when used with other ingredients to enhance herbal warmth or depth of spice.

Originally from the Mediterranean, bay leaves are one of the few herbs to grow as a tree, which makes them very different in the way they are enjoyed in food.

Use them to flavour and enhance your cooking. They release fragrance and flavour best when cooked slowly, so that is why you’ll often find them in soups and stews, but they also work well in desserts, such as rice pudding and crème brûlée.

Bay has been used medicinally since the middle ages, and contains vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Try dropping two leaves into boiling water with a pinch of sugar and cinnamon for a restorative drink.

 

3 WAYS TO COOK WITH BAY AT HOME

 

SCOTCH BROTH

[serves 4]

  • Gently fry 2 chopped onions in a little oil.
  • Add 250g each of chopped carrots, turnips (or swede) and 2 chopped celery stalks. Season well and sweat for a few minutes.
  • Add a handful of pearl barley and a handful of soaked split peas, then top up with stock and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour.

 

‘COQ AU VIN’

[serves 4]

  • Sweat 2 chopped shallots in a buttered casserole dish, then stir in 3 crushed garlic cloves, 50g chopped streaky bacon, dried thyme and 2 bay leaves.
  • Cook for a minute, then add 100g button mushrooms and 8 chicken thighs. Cook further to brown the chicken.
  • Add two teaspoons of flour and stir to incorporate, then add 600ml chicken stock and a glass of red wine.
  • Bring to a boil then simmer very gently for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

 

BAY-INFUSED RICE PUDDING

[serves 4]

  • Add 1 bay leaf to 500ml milk, 100g pudding rice, 60g sugar and 1 vanilla pod, and simmer very gently until the rice is soft.
  • Soak 1 gelatine leaf in cold water for 5 minutes, squeeze out then add to the rice.
  • Remove the bay. Whisk 130ml double cream into peaks and mix in 65ml natural yoghurt. Add to the rice with 30g raisins.
  • Pour into 4 moulds and chill for an hour.

 

Share what you do with your bay leaves on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.