Cousin Barbara was a forthright, straight-backed, straight-talking thoroughly British girl with an expansive bosom and big heart. She was the kind of woman who, if you tried to mug her, you could expect a smack in the chops for your efforts.
Barbara was my dad’s cousin and her life, like many others, was shaped by the war. She was a Land Girl and learnt everything about plants, trees and flowers while digging for Britain. She used her horticultural skills and made a whole career from them.
When I was a young boy, Barbara caught me with my hands in the pickled onion jar while waiting for Grandma’s lamb with cinnamon gravy to be ready. She sent me out of the room with a flea in my ear, a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.
Barbara is no longer with us, and the world is a distinctly less British place without her.
This isn’t her recipe (it’s more a pick and mix list) but it reminds me of her – the choice of ingredients and the addition of pickled onions always brings back fond memories of her. We’re often afraid to use herbs as a star, this is just one way to make them shine.
When choosing your onions, make sure they are delicately pickled. I like using cocktail onions – they have bite and sweetness.
The choice of herbs is really up to you. Below are my favourites, you can add mint, chives, parsley or whatever is in season. If you’re wary of having an entire salad of herbs, you can use lamb’s lettuce as a base and add your herbs to that.
Music to prepare this to: ‘The boys in the back room’ by Marlene Dietrich
- 50g Each of sorrel, coriander, basil
- 25g Dill
- 25g Cocktail onions, finely sliced
- Again, not really a method, just assembly. Get the leaves off your herbs and mix together
- Scatter the onions over the top
Serve at the table with Claudie’s vinaigrette, a good steak and even better wine.