Fresh Herbs and Cress
There’s really no substitute for fresh herbs: a bit of chopped mint here, some cow parsley there. Anybody who thinks they’re just for decoration is doing it wrong. Luckily, one man who is doing it right is chef de cuisine Steffen Sinzinger. This week I paid him a visit in the kitchens to learn more about the use of fresh herbs and cresses on everything from starter to dessert at the Brasserie Le Faubourg.
I eye up the contents of the container Steffen has just produced from the fridge. There is a yellow dandelion in amongst the green clippings – the kind you weed from between the paving stones in front of your house. Am I meant to eat this? Steffen nods. The taste is pleasant and much more subtle than I had imagined. Soon I am reaching for the other dots of colour – a lilac clover flower, a blue corn flower – in amongst the green. I start to see flowers in a whole new, edible light.
Now it’s time to find out what the rest of it is. Steffen hands me a sprig of wild clover. These innocuous looking green shoots pack a lot of taste: sour, refreshing and rather moorish. As I reach for a second helping, Steffen informs me that wild clover is actually poisonous. I freeze mid-grasp. “Only in large quantities,” he chuckles. Phew. As I chew over the cow parsley and wild cumin, Steffen explains that the fresh herbs used at the Brasserie Le Faubourg come from the forests surrounding Berlin; a local hunter gathers them whilst waiting for wild boar or deer. Very rustic!
Last but not least, it’s time to talk cress, or rather cresses. The first three I try – lemon cress, pea cress and Shiso purple – are slightly sour or bitter, and are generally used to enhance the aromas of savoury dishes. The lemon cress, for example – which tastes a lot like, well, lemons – is the perfect addition to fish. The honey cress and atsina cress, on the other hand, have a sweeter aroma and go best with desserts. Take the dessert on this month’s collection culinaire: iced honey with white chocolate almonds, cherries, sour cream ice cream and sugarchrystals – all topped off with some honey cress.
I’m already looking forward to seeing which herbs or cresses will make an appearance in the September collection culinaire. But now it’s time to go home, so I thank Steffen for the lesson, make a bad joke about “cresspertise” and leave.