THE WEATHER this year has been perfect growing conditions for the rosemary hedge I planted two years ago.
Made up of several varieties of the aromatic herb, I have one that suits virtually every recipe I can come up with.
I planted so much rosemary because I love the flavour and aroma and it's such a pretty plant, with its deep green needle-like leaves and gorgeous mauve flowers that signify remembrance.
Lavender is a member of the lamiaceae family that contains many of the aromatic culinary herbs such as basil, sage, mint, oregano and thyme.
One of the varieties I planted was taken from a cutting from a friend's garden (rosemary will strike cuttings easily at the moment - cheap and useful Christmas presents).
She has no idea of the variety, but the leaves are considerably softer than usual, slightly paler in colour and about a third longer.
It is much easier to chop these leaves so ask at your local nursery and see if they can advise you - I've searched on the internet and unfortunately, can't find any reference.
Rosemary is of course, the ideal herb for lamb, but it can be used in many other ways.
Try a potato and rosemary pizza, with thinly sliced potatoes, olive oil, sea salt and plenty of the fresh herb.
It also goes well with chicken, or kneaded into a home-made bread dough.
I came up with this recipe last week - rosemary and parmesan shortbreads.
These moreish savoury biscuits are ideal nibbles to have with drinks or hand around at a party.
I used unsalted butter as parmesan is quite salty. You can omit the cayenne pepper if you prefer.
I also sprinkled some with sesame seeds for a little variety.
Rosemary Parmesan shortbread
Makes two dozen shortbread
100g fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
100g unsalted butter, chopped, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (approximately two 120mm sprigs)
3/4 cup plain flour
1/8 tspn cayenne pepper (optional)
3 tblspn sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Place grated Parmesan, rosemary, flour and cayenne pepper (if using) in a food processor and pulse until mixture forms a dough. If you don't have a food processor you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Place dough into a polythene freezer bag and roll on a firm surface until dough forms a log approximately 40mm in diameter.
Refrigerate for one hour or until firm.
Line two biscuit sheets with baking paper.
Cut 5mm thick disks from the log of dough with a sharp non-serrated knife.
Place on the two biscuit sheets, leaving a little room for spreading.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
Bake shortbread for 12-13 minutes at 180°C or until light golden (biscuits will darken slightly after baking).
Remove biscuit sheets from oven and allow shortbread to stand on the sheets for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Store in an airtight container in a dark place for up to one week.
NOTE: Dough can be frozen for up to two weeks before baking.
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