5 Feb 2011

Bay Leaves for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is around the corner and thinking of it brings an old, old tradition to mind. The night before Valentine's Day, young women in Europe and Britain, placed a few bay leaves either under their pillows or in little red bags pinned to them. This was said to let them see,in their dreams, who their future husbands would be. The Victoria ladies also liked to chant “Good Valentine, be kind to me, in dreams let me my true love see", as they prepared their little bags.

Most of us have bay leaves (Laurus nobilis), also known as Turkish bay, bay laurel, or sweet bay, in our kitchens. They are well known for the wonderful flavour they impart when cooked in both savoury and sweet dishes. They are also known for their medicinal properties.

Bay leaves contain folate, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and B6, calcium, manganese, iron and phyto-nutrients. Their oil contain cineole, linalool, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol acetate, mucilage, tannin, and resin. Bay leaves properties include being an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
Some of the health benefits bay leaves have due to their excellent properties are stimulating the appetite, aiding in the digestion and absorption of food, reducing flatulence, and treating upper digestive tract disorders. Bay leaves also help both externally and internally by easing arthritic aches and pains and as an aid in the treatment of bronchitis. Some find the tea to be useful in the treatment of migraines. A tea made from bay leaves can cure dandruff. Rub into the scalp and leave on for half an hour before rising. Do this regularly.

WARNING: Pregnant women should avoid eating in excess as they can cause menstruation.

In the kitchen bay leaves are known for their being an ingredient in a bouquet garni and in court bouillon. It should be noted for those growing their own tree that the fresh bay leaf is very mild and does not develop its full flavor and aroma until several weeks when it is fully dry. Bay leaves are generally crushed or ground before cooking. If cooking with whole leaves, remove before serving the food as they can cause choking or cut the tongue. Use in rice and vegetable dishes, sauces, pickling, puddings and as a tea.

A bay leaf tree in a pretty pot is a great present for both a male or female on Valentine's Day as it is a present that will live forever.
Thyme and Mushroom Gravy
By Celia Brooks Brown From BBC-Food 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
50gms / 1-3/4ozs mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
125mls / 4-1/2fl ozs port or other fortified wine
250mls / 8-1/2fl ozs  vegetable stock
2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until golden. Add the herbs and mushrooms and cook until softened (about five minutes). Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring, for about two minutes. Stir in the port or wine, vegetable stock and soy sauce and simmer, stirring, until the gravy has thickened slightly (3-5 minutes). Remove and discard the bay leaf. Pour the gravy into a jug and serve. Serves 4.

Turkish Pilaf
By Niki of Nikibone        

6 tbsps Vegan marg
1 cup rice
1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 tsps salt
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
2 cups vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. melt the margarine in a skillet. Stir in the rice and cook over low heat until all the grains glisten. Add the onion and cook, stirring until they are soft. Put the mixture into a 1.5 quart casserole. Add the salt, bay leaf, cinnamon, raisins and almonds. Heat the broth to a boil, mix with all the ingredients in the casserole, cover and bake for 45 minutes.

Spanish Green Beans and Tomatoes
By Jed at AllRecipes         
A traditional Spanish side dish~Jed

2 tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 lbs / 0.9kg fresh green beans, cut into 1" / 2cms lengths
3 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
1 tbsps chopped fresh chives
3 tbsps pine nuts
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat if garlic begins to brown. Add green beans, then continue to cook and stir until bright green but not quite tender, about 4 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, lemon juice and pine nuts, and season with chives, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer gently uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving   Serves 6

Coconut Payasam (Better than Rice Pudding!)
From the Go Dairy Free Newsletter - Recipe by Chef Jason of the Vegan Culinary Experience.
This is a nice accompaniment to a spicy dish as the coolness, starchiness, and sweetness of the dish will counteract the spicy course. Try serving this with a spicy cauliflower and tomato dish ~ Chef Jason

1/2 cup of long grain rice
1-1/2 cups of coconut milk
1-1/2 cups of almond milk
Option: Almond milk instead of coconut milk
1 tbsp of currants or raisins
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 bay leaves
4 tsp of slivered almonds
4 tsp of turbinado sugar
Option: 1/4 cup of broken vermicelli

Bring the coconut and almond milk to a boil. Add all of the ingredients and stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook this for about 18-20 minutes. Chill the dessert for about 30 minutes. Add more coconut milk as necessary once it is fully chilled. Option: Break the vermicelli, then toast it over a medium heat in a dry pan until it browns. Add it to the pot with the rest of the ingredients.
Presentation: Try serving this in a small glass. It’s the right size for a dessert and it showcases the color of the dessert. Leave a bay leaf in the glasses, too, as it looks exotic and provides a good color contrast. 4 servings.

Almost Hands-Free Dill Pickles
From RealSimple      

4 Kirby cucumbers (about 1 pound), quartered lengthwise
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla), thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
kosher salt

Place the cucumbers in a 1 quart/0.95litre jar or some other container with a tight-fitting lid. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, onion, garlic, sugar, dill seed, peppercorns, bay leaf, 2 teaspoons salt, and ¾ cup hot tap water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar with the cucumbers, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 day before serving. The pickles will last up to 1 week.Makes 16 spears


Dirty Butter said...

Interesting lore about bay leaves. Glad you slowly improving.

I follow you on ExposeYourBlog.

Anonymous said...

Lovely recipes here, and the bay heart is really lovely


urban vegan said...

I learned something new, as I always do when I visit your blog, Jackie.

cube said...

I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I am always on the look out for some good veggie recipes to throw at my omnivores.

Your recipe for Turkish pilaf lists 6 tbs for vegan marg. I'm a beginner at this and don't know what vegan marg is. Please advise.

The rest of the stuff sounds yummy.

Jackie said...

Cube, basically Vegan margarine it is margarine without dairy or any other animal product added.

So where I live and cannot get the Vegan branded versions like Earth Balance which is sold in the US, I have still been able to find two brands of dairy-free margarine.

cube said...

So basically I could substitute any margarine if I don't adhere to vegan principles.

Allen Sawyer said...

Bay leaf has strong smell, but you made it look delicious to any vegan tongue. Thanks.

Allen S.
Medical Dictionary

Marion said...

I love the bay leaf wreath...if bay leaves weren't so expensive here, I would consider making one. Down south, I had a bay tree...wish I had seen your wreath then, ha!

I'm going to try the Coconut looks scrumptious! Thank you, Jackie!