cHermoula transforms past-their-best herbs, including any straggly stalks, into an awesome flavor bomb to elevate any meal. It’s normally made with mostly coriander and perhaps some parsley, but it also works with any combination of soft herbs, so use whatever you’ve got lurking in the fridge or growing in the garden.
To revive old herbs and reduce waste, remove and compost any mulchy leaves or stalks, and put the rest, still in a bunch, ideally, in a bowl of iced water for three minutes, to refresh. Remove, shake, then pat dry in a clean tea towel. Finely chop from the stalk end up all the way to the leaves, and cutting the stalks no more than 5mm long to maintain a decent texture.
In my first cookbook, The Natural Cook (Quadrille, 2014), each chapter centers around a seasonal vegetable, and how to cook them with minimal waste. Every recipe starts with a simple preparation that can then be transformed into a more elaborate dish, if desired. In the chapter on new potatoes, for instance, I include recipes for smashed new potatoes with butter and mint that get turned into my Mum’s homity pie; fried new potatoes with paprika that become a Spanish tortilla; and roast new potatoes with rosemary and thyme that can also be served with chermoula-stuffed mackerel.
Chermoula keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, but it’s so moreish, it will probably be gobbled up much more quickly than that. If you have heaps of coriander to use up and want to make a large batch, it also freezes well. It lacks a little luster to serve as it is, so it’s better to use it as a marinade for meat, fish or vegetables or to add flavor to a soup or stew. Using the soft stalks, too, adds texture and flavor to the sauce, while also bulking it out.
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sweet paprika
Sea salt and black pepper
2 garlic clovespeeled and roughly chopped
¼ organic unwaxed lemonjuiced and zested, or 1 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon
1 red chillifinely chopped
A 60g bunch of coriander
1 piquillo pepperdiced, or roast or sauteed red pepper, diced (optional)
About 100ml extra-virgin olive oilto taste
Toast the cumin in a dry pan until the seeds begin to crackle and smell aromatic, then tip into a mortar and grind roughly. Add the sweet paprika, a teaspoon of sea salt, the garlic, lemon juice and zest (or preserved lemon), and chopped chilli (with or without the pith and seeds, depending on your heat preference), then grind again to a rough paste. .
Finely chop the coriander, including the soft stalks, add to the mortar with the pepper (if using) and grind again. Stir in extra-virgin olive oil until the mix has a thick, salsa-like consistency and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to one week or freeze in an ice-cube tray.