There are many things in this life that I don’t understand, but one that truly baffles me is how the ancient and majestic lovage ever became a ‘forgotten’ herb. So often I mention it to people and they haven’t even heard of it, never mind tasted it.
How has this happened? Lovage is such a wonderful herb, so distinctive and flavoursome, so versatile (and – keen cooks and gardeners please take note – so easy to grow), and yet it has languished at the margins of ingredient knowledge for as long as I can remember.
Personally, I adore it, and can’t wait for its growing season to come around. That season is now upon us, and I have as much lovage I can possibly use and more (last year, it grew to about 7ft), so I’m on a mission to convert friends, family, and neighbours. So far, the response has been enthusiasm plus astonishment as to why they haven’t previously come across it.
I’ll write more about lovage shortly. But in the meantime, here’s a simple but delicious recipe (adapted from Jekka McVicar’s original version) that will persuade anyone of its merits. Be warned, though – after trying this, you may never want any other flavour of soup again.
Lovage soup (serves 2)
1 onion, chopped
250g floury potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3 generous tablespoons lovage, finely chopped
425ml chicken stock
small amount (to taste) freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, and gently saute the onions and potatoes for about 5 minutes, until soft – but not brown. Add the lovage, and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and seasoning, and bring to a simmer. Cook for a further 15 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are soft. Blitz the soup in a liquidiser and return to the pan. Check the seasoning, adjusting if ncessary, and add the nutmeg. Serve hot or cold (it knocks the socks off vichyssoise).