The History of Rosemary: Magic, Marriage, Medicine and Mutton. Part 4 – Mutton

Cooking with Rosemary

Rosemary’s oldest culinary record goes back to the 15th century from when we have a recipe for a Rosemary condiment to be served with salt meats. Salt meats are, of course, preserved and it is this necessity that probably started the association of Rosemary with roast meat. Our ancestors recognized Rosemary as a good preservative (it contains anti-oxidants, though our ancestors didn’t know this) and meat would be coated in crushed Rosemary leaves. Not only did the meat stay fresher for longer, it was also noticed that the Rosemary had imparted an excellent flavour.
A quick – I say ‘quick’ – Google for rosemary+recipe produces no fewer than 28,300,000 results. Of course, many of these will be for chicken and lamb, but in today’s kitchen Rosemary is nothing if not versatile. Although it is impossible to pin down exactly when Rosemary became almost exclusively used with lamb (some say the late 18th, others the 19th century) scanning just the first few pages reveal so many mouth-watering possibilities that the exact date is irrelevant as it is clear that Rosemary has been rehabilitated as the following recipes from those pages (and these are but a few) demonstrate:
Apple and Rosemary pancake
Beef cobbler with cheddar and rosemary scones
Boeuf bourguignon with Rosemary baguette dumplings
Chocolate Rosemary mousse
Fresh Rosemary Pasta
Lentil shepherd’s pie with champ and Rosemary
Mashed Potatoes with leek and Rosemary
Nut roast pie with Rosemary
Orange-Rosemary Vinaigrette
Pear, Thyme and Rosemary Sorbet
Pears poached in Rosemary syrup with caramel sauce
Polenta with Rosemary
Rabbit with rosemary and lemon
Roasted butternut squash with rosemary
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Rosemary Almonds
Rosemary Butter
Rosemary Focaccia
Rosemary Honey Ice Cream
Rosemary Infused Oil
Rosemary Lemonade
Rosemary Mint Wine Jelly
Rosemary Pear Crisp
Rosemary Risotto
Rosemary Shortbread Biscuits
Slow roast leg of lamb with chardonnay, rosemary, sage and bay
Etc., etc., etc…
Rosemary is also an integral element in one of the most famous and popular blends of dried herbs – Herbes de Provence. Here’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s take on a classic:
Mix together (in a pestle and mortar if you are using home dried herbs):
5 tbsp dried thyme
4 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp dried summer savory (optional)
1 tsp dried lavender
And store in a lightproof and airtight container.
So, whatever you fancy, be it sweet or savory, when you give your Rosemary bushes their annual cut, don’t put the branches onto the compost heap, bring them in, tie them in bundles and hang to dry anywhere that’s cool, dry and airy.
PS: you can give ordinary salt a bit of a kick by adding a dry sprig of Rosemary to your salt container.
PPS: Tie together a small bundle of rosemary branches around 3cm long to make a brush for basting oven roasts and barbeques.