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Recipe: Dave Wall’s lovage soup

PUBLISHED: 11:56 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:44 15 August 2018

Dave Wall's lovage soup  Picture: Phil Morley

Dave Wall's lovage soup Picture: Phil Morley

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Dave Wall, head chef of multi award-winning The Unruly Pig and Eat Suffolk’s Best Restaurant, 2018, talks about this intriguing, versatile but under used herb.

What the hell is lovage I hear you ask? Well, think about a herb that really lifts a salad, which is great in mash, is superb seasoning in stews and makes a simply sublime soup. You can also stuff it in a chicken or fish. That’s lovage for you. Its flavour is a mixture of celery and parsley (and maybe a little citrus). I suppose you might easily describe it as punchy parsley (and thus the French call it celeri - batard). It’s therefore surprising that it not more extensively used in the UK. So, if lovage is something new to you, don’t miss out. Give it a try and I am sure you are going to be pleasantly surprised and, indeed, intrigued as to why you have left it so long before giving it a whirl.

Lovage is a perennial plant that can grow to a height of 2.5 metres. It is easy and rewarding to grow at home as it has two seasons each year. Its leaves look like large flat leaf parsley. It will be no surprise to therefore learn that the name “ lovage” comes from “ love ache “ which is a medieval name for parsley. It used to be also called “ love parsley “ because of its alleged aphrodisiac qualities. The Greeks and Romans used lovage medicinally as it was believed to be good for all sorts of ailments.

One of lovage’s main attractions is its colour. It’s very green leaves are just so vibrant. Another attraction is that lovage is very versatile. Sprinkle the chopped leaves over plates of green beans or peas or add them to salads. Lovage can be a good substitute for dill, parsley, chervil or tarragon, and can be used instead of basil to make pesto. Its celery-like taste is a match made in heaven with new potatoes. Whichever way you use lovage however, my tip is just to go a little easy- don’t forget lovage can be punchy!

Two of my favourite ways of using the herb are in pasta and soups. Add lovage to garlic infused olive oil and gently fry with, say, some courgette ribbons (or indeed most other thinly sliced vegetables) and just add a squeeze of lemon. Throw in some fresh egg tagliatelle, seasoning and a bit of Parmesan and you have a lovely summery plate of goodness. It’s such an easy peasey dish.

My recipe for lovage soup below is also very straightforward. It’s a very pretty summer soup that has been a bestseller at The Unruly Pig. Our customers love lovage not just because it so different but because it is so refreshing and fresh. That vibrant green colour looks so enticing. You will see I add some smoked mackerel pieces (if this is not your bag, then just leave out the mackerel) but for me lovage and smoked mackerel are a marriage made in heaven. This soup is just full of goodness. Go on, give it a try. What is there not to love?

Lovage soup

(makes 4-6 portions)

Ingredients

2 onions peeled and sliced

1 medium potato peeled and sliced

Leaves picked from two large bunches (around 300g) lovage

200g butter

750ml vegetable stock

Oil

Method

A decent blender is essential to making a good, silky soup. Be sure to set up the blender before you start cooking, along with a fine sieve and a bowl (that the fine sieve sits nicely over the top) and a ladle to push the soup through the sieve. Unless you are to eat the soup immediately, you need to chill the soup speedily so it retains its colour and vibrancy. Therefore, sit the bowl/sieve over a larger bowl filled with lots of icy water. Faffing about setting up equipment once your soup is made is not a great idea! Any second wasted at this stage would be detrimental.

Pre heat a heavy bottomed casserole over a medium heat. Sweat the onions and potatoes in a little oil with a generous pinch of salt until soft and the onions are translucent (maybe five minutes). Do not allow the potatoes / onions to ‘catch’ or colour- stir constantly and if it seems to be getting a little too hot, turn down the heat a little and add a small splash of the stock. Next, add all the stock and bring to a rapid boil. Drop the lovage into the soup, bring back to the boil and cook for 30 seconds (only). Add to the blender. Using the fastest speed, blend until smooth and velvety. Pass the soup through the fine sieve, using the back of the ladle to push it through. If it seems a little too thick, add a drop more stock (or water if you’ve used it all), and then taste, adding as much salt as you prefer. Once you are happy with the consistency and seasoning, cool the soup as quickly as possible. If you are chilling over the ice bath, then keep stirring it regularly to encourage the soup to cool quickly and evenly.

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