In Greek mythology, poor old Minthe, the naiad that caught the wandering eye of Hades, was transformed into a mint plant by his vengeful wife, Persephone. Clearly a simple "hands off, you hussy" wasn't enough. Much like the unrepentant little minx, the herb mint can be a little overpowering, but unlike the nymph, a little goes a very long way. While I treat most of my fresh herbs much as I would coriander, I sometimes find that mint has a much shorter shelf life, but I suspect that this may be something to do with what type of mint (usually spearmint) I have bought. Treat mint (or other fresh herbs) like cut flowers by removing any bindings holding the bunch together. Trim the ends and remove any leaves that will be immersed in water. Place the stems in an open container and add just enough water to cover the cut ends. Leave in a cool place and change the water every two days or so, or if it is cloudy.Another way of preserving mint is to separate the stems and layer between paper kitchen towels. I store these in a sealed plastic container and find they will last quite happily in the fridge for about a week.
While you can freeze mint, it will become mushy. A good way around this is to make ice cubes containing small amounts of chopped leaves. You can now add the cubes to cool summer drinks for an extra vibrant flavour.1. Grilled courgettes, feta and mint salad
Grilled courgettes make the perfect summer salad, particularly when paired with mint and feta. I added a handful of pomegranate seeds, which I happened to have left over
Serves: 2-3 (as a side dish)
500g courgettes, cut into long, thin strips
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
a small handful of mint leaves, shredded (I used about 15 leaves)
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
pomegranate seeds (optional)
In a bowl, toss the courgette with just enough of the olive oil to coat.
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a heavy-based frying or griddle pan until smoking hot. Add the courgettes and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side until tender but with a little bite. (You may need to do this in batches to prevent overcrowding in the pan.)
Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain.
Toss the courgettes with balsamic vinegar, mint, and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese. Add salt if you want, although the cheese should be quite salty.
Top with a few pomegranate seeds.2. Broad beans with black pudding and mint
Niki Segnit's mentions the flavour pairing of black pudding and mint in The Flavour Thesaurus. I wasn't convinced at first, but was definitely intrigued by the Spanish combination of morcilla, beans and mint. Needless to say I was completely won over and it seems the perfect dish as yet another damp squib of an English summer ends.
250g broad beans, podded
2-3 tbsp olive oil
150g black pudding (or morcilla), cut into chunks
1-2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
half tsp fennel seeds
90ml chicken stock
a small handful of fresh mint, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pod the broad beans. Steam them either in lightly boiling water or in the microwave for 3 minutes. Drain and hold under cold running water. Then remove the skins. They may pop out of their skins quite easily. Alternatively use the point of a sharp knife to make a small nick in the skin and then squeeze.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Fry the chunks of black pudding for a few minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the garlic and fennel seeds. Fry for about 2 minutes, before adding the broad beans and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes.
Add the cooked black pudding. Season to taste.
Stir through chopped mint and serve with crusty bread.Other ideas for using up mint:
3. This very English salad of green beans and mint from the 1920s is both simple and delicious. It might just surprise you.
4. Melon and mint is the perfect marriage. Do have a look at Bintu from Recipes from the Pantry's gorgeous summer pasta dish of melon, mint and pancetta.
5. A Taste of History with Joyce White has an intriguing and delicious Italian recipe that dates back to the 16th century with aubergines and mint and a little cinnamon, proving that Italians were early adopters of aubergines!
6. Yasmin Khan's makes Iranian salad shirazi; a gorgeous summery mixture of finely diced cucumber, tomatoes, radish and mint, traditionally served as a rice accompaniment.
7. One recipe to bookmark is Karen of Lavender and Lovage's perfect autumn windfall jelly with crab apples and mint.
8. A lovely way of using up courgettes and a handful of fresh herbs is by making fritters; one of my favourite party nibbles.
9. A refreshing cocktail with a bit of swagger is the classic minty mojito.
10. Or just forget the cocktail, what about Vicki Higham's mojito chicken (or tofu or prawns!)
11. Siobhan McGuinness of Vohn's Vittles makes a beautiful light courgette and mint soup.
12. Becky Thorn of Mint Custard has these fantastic Vietnamese-style spring rolls that also use leftover roast lamb.
13. Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog's goes for the classic combination of chocolate and fresh mint to make these fabulous cookies.
14. Nazima Pathan's spiced crab with roasted peppers and date sauce is simply sublime.
15. I accidentally left a bag of frozen peas out overnight. Curses! But combining the peas with mint and parmesan made a delicious topping for crostini.
16. Author Rachel Cotterill's harissa and mint roasted vegetables with freekah is a delicious Middle Eastern-style dish.
17. I am not the world's biggest fan of a traditional British mint sauce as an accompaniment to lamb. However this mint and tomato salsa really hits the spot.
18. Kate Hackworthy of Veggie Desserts blew me away with these beautiful cucumber and mint cupcakes with a rosewater buttercream.
So, do you believe, as 17th-century botanist and herbalist John Gerard did that "the smell of mint does stir up the minde and the taste to a greedy desire of meat"? Or do you, like me, associate mint with the taste of toothpaste?
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Spanish style broad beans with black pudding and mint. Photograph: Rachel Kelly