If you don’t know it already, meet anise hyssop. I’m very excited by this delightful new acquaintance, my serendipitous culinary discovery of the summer. Also known as liquorice mint, its leaves and beautiful purple flowers taste remarkable. It is actually sweet, which gives its liquorice flavour an instantly more-ish quality that herbs like aniseed and fennel don’t have without a bit of treatment. The liquorice flavour is definitely there in anise hyssop, but not at all macho, and not quite just liquorice: it has complexity, with subtle undertones of mint and something else herbal and wild. Even if you don’t like liquorice, you might very well be seduced by this versatile and surprising herb.
Its leaves and flowers can be used for sweet and savoury dishes, as a primary flavour component or a subtle accent. I’ve been harvesting from a pot in the garden to use in beef stir fries; in salads with raw Florence fennel; alongside dill and bronze fennel with fish; and scattered on fruit salads, where it’s particularly lovely. Its poker-like flowerheads are easy to strip into myriad little flowerettes with a gentle stroke, and these have also gone into shortbread, and on top of sliced tomatoes and beetroot. They’re irresistible as an edible flower garnish that actually tastes of something.
Without doubt, however, this refreshing gelato-style ice cream is the very best way I’ve found to highlight anise hyssop’s unique qualities. It truly is a stunning celebration of this herb, as the dairy medium carries its flavour unimpeded, allowing it to taste of itself. And who could resist the transformation of such a lovely flavour into a treat so cooling, with such an exquisite mouthfeel? [Read More…]