I remember in years past following recipes that asked for a bouquet garni and being quite put out by the need to collect numerous species of herbaceous plants, plus a few other odds and sods, and then have to wrap my gathering in muslin cloth or tie it with ‘kitchen’ string (which of course never existed in my culinary world), and all for what? No, it was way too much hassle to even consider something that would only be thrown away at the end of cooking. And by the way some clever company had designed some teabag like contraption which contained the dried variety of everything you needed to flavour your stew or casserole – no, I never used those either.
Roll on to recent times, and you will see a different outtake on the humble bouquet garni. If flavour is what is important in your cooking, and I am bordering on the rhetoric there, then a bouquet garni is what will deliver that piece de resistance in terms of that flavour. For me it is now an empirical part of any stock that I make, and is used when appropriate to flavour sauces and casseroles. The beauty of it is that it can, and should, be a representation of what you can obtain locally. For example in Provence rosemary is always added, whereas in Old French cookery cloves and various herbs were bundled together and wrapped in a thin rasher of bacon. In Italy there is the mazzetto, which contains rosemary, sage and often celery, leek or orange peel.
The composition is unlimited, but always consider the harmony that is trying to be achieved with the final dish or stock.
This basic recipe is for a bouquet garni that I use when chicken or meat (lamb and veal) is the principal component, mostly in stocks. The inspiration was from Michel Roux – the idea of wrapping everything in a leek is genius, just as long as I have some of that kitchen string (which I now get from the local butcher in 500km…ish balls).
Bouquet Garni for Chicken and MeatPrint
- ■ 1 medium sized leek | Trim the ends keeping the white part - remove the outer layer and use the next two layers.
- ■ 2 bay leaves | I use fresh bay leaves for their more vibrant flavour (not necessarily more intense). Dried can certainly be used.
- ■ ½ stalk celery | Cut into thin strips.
- ■ 6 parsley stalks | The stalks have an intense flavour.
- ■ 1 sprig tarragon | Fresh.
- ■ 1 sprig thyme | Fresh.
- ■ 6 whole white pepper corns |
- ■ 4 whole black pepper corns |
Take the two leek layers that have been prepared. Lay them out flat with the top of one layer overlapping the bottom of the other layer.
Over the leek layers lay the bay leaves, celery strips, parsley stalks, tarragon sprig, thyme sprig, white peppercorns and the black peppercorns. Now the slightly tricky bit – wrap the leek fairly tightly round the ingredients and then tie each end with kitchen string, tight enough to hold the bundle together, but not too tight as to cut through the leek. Now that’s done put it in your stock or the dish that you’re preparing, sit back and enjoy the aromas from the kitchen.
It’s important that the leek is really fresh for this to work. I have had countless times where when trying to wrap the leeks they just snap. I rarely have this problem with fresh leeks.