Monday, November 19, 2007


This post is for:

  • People who have a huge rosemary bush that thinks it's a tree, but not many uses for rosemary in their everyday cooking life.
  • People who like the crunchy bits in fast food but wish it were healthier.
  • People who don't know much about cooking, and so are not likely to know about fried rosemary already, like me.
  • People who like mashed potatoes.

A couple of weeks ago I heard an interesting thing on the radio about a way to use of sage. Apparently you can fry sage in olive oil and it goes all crunchy, and then is really good sprinkled over mashed potatoes. This sounded lovely to me, but unfortunately I do not have sage in my garden, and cannot find it at the local supermarkets.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said,

"Oh, yeah. It's good! And you can do the same thing with rosemary."

"Really? Rosemary?" I said, doubtfully. We have a huge rosemary bush, but I thought the flavour of rosemary would be too strong for this.

"Yes! It's good!" she said, and then we were interrupted, or classes started, or something, so I did not find out more.

But I was determined to find out.

On Saturday I cut a couple of large twigs of rosemary (branches, actually – I was cutting it in the dark and got a lot more and I expected) and took them inside, where I regarded them doubtfully. There was an awful lot of rosemary, and I was only cooking three potatoes.

I decided to use it all anyway. I took the leaves off the branches, and heated up some olive oil. I know enough about olive oil to know that you should not heat it too much – if it smokes it is burnt and will taste horrible – so I had the gas stove on the lowest setting. I washed and then dried the rosemary leaves in a paper towel, so that it would not spit at me. Then I chucked it into the olive oil.

I had a huge amount of rosemary in not all that much olive oil, but I figured that if it tasted horrible I could chuck it out, and if it was good I could probably keep it in the fridge for the next day.

I left it cooking for what felt like ages, but was probably about 5-10 minutes, stirring it once or twice with a fork to make sure it was all nicely covered with oil. The kitchen smelt very strongly of rosemary. In fact, the entire house, and possibly the entire neighborhood, smelt of rosemary. Since I love the smell of rosemary this was not a bad thing, as least as far as I was concerned, but it was very, very strong, and I had doubts about actually eating it.

When I poked it with a fork and it was crunchy the paper towels came in handy again as I fished it out with the fork and drained it on the paper. I moved it to a little dish, mashed my potatoes, made sure everything else was ready, and dished it all up. I left the rosemary to last, as I wasn't sure if it would be good or not.

It didn't look particularly tasty. I poked it again, then decided to smash it up with the fork so I could serve it in smaller amounts. Then I took a small spoonful of mashed potato, sprinkled a bit of crunched up rosemary on it, and put it in my mouth.

That was pretty surprising. It hardly tasted like rosemary at all, despite the extraordinarily fragrant kitchen. It was like having some really crunchy something on your mashed potato, but if I didn't know it was rosemary I might not have guessed. Maybe I cooked it for too long? On the other hand, it was REALLY YUMMY. I think it was the texture rather than the taste that was so appealing. There is something utterly satisfying about the way it crunches.

I ended up using it all.

I had kept the oil I'd cooked it in, thinking that rosemary flavoured oil might be quite nice dribbled over mashed potato, so that was another experimental mouthful.

The oil was REVOLTING.

I think the flavour of the rosemary all went into the olive oil. It is entirely possible that what I ended up eating – the leaves themselves – were entirely devoid of anything rosemary-related. It was just crispy leaves, so delicately flavoured I could barely taste them. The oil, on the other hand, got all the rosemary flavour totally concentrated, and was bitter and nasty. I suppose a few leaves of rosemary in olive oil would make the oil taste quite interesting, but the large couple of handfuls I used were too much, and made the oil far too strong to use.

But if you have a rosemary bush and like crunchy things on your mashed potatoes, then I can totally recommend this, because the leaves make a wonderfully delicate crunchy topping, and you can use as much as you like and not be overwhelmed with rosemary flavour at all.

And isn't that surprising? It was to me, anyway.


Ian said...

I'd like to know how you could be so sure that you had sent rosemary vapors across your entire neighborhood.

(Rick, the youngones)
"I've told you a million times, do not exaggerate!"

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torrygirl said...

I'll definitely try this - rosemary is the only thing that I can grow. Everything else just dies. I'm not very good at gardening....

Badaunt said...

Contamination: I can smell what my neighbours are having for dinner, so it's a pretty good guess! (Besides, I never, ever in a million years would exaggerate.)

The 3rd Annual Ego-inflaters: Ooh, goodie! An award! I'm so honoured!

Torrygirl: I was talking to the woman who told me about it, yesterday, and she told me she only cooked it for a couple of minutes. I probably overcooked mine, and will try it for a shorter time next time. Maybe it will have more rosemary flavour if I don't overdo it. (But overdone it was still nice.)

Also, do a lot more than you think you could possibly eat. It is very more-ish.