Theresa Loe is a freelance garden/culinary writer, book author and blogger who specializes in organic edible gardening and gardening with children. You can find her recipes and garden tips at www.gardenfreshliving.com.
The leaves of bay (Laurus nobilis) are used in many slow-cooked foods such as stews, soups, and roasts; they are equally good in sweet recipes. In Europe, bay leaves are commonly used to flavor desserts such as custard and pudding.
Most people are familiar with dried bay in cooking, but fresh bay has a much more distinctive flavor. Crush fresh bay leaves in your hand and discover their sweet, spicy scent, reminiscent of nutmeg. If a recipe calls for dried bay, you may substitute fresh with excellent results.
(Learn more about how to grow bay in your own garden.)
Here is a recipe that uses quite a few FRESH bay leaves. It is a perfect introduction to the spicy flavor of this herb. The fresh bay leaves add a nutmeg flavor to this old favorite. Be sure to only use fresh leaves in this recipe, as dried do not impart enough flavor.
Rice Pudding with Bay
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 15 fresh bay leaves, lightly crushed
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups cooked short-grain rice
• ½ cup raisins
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Pinch of nutmeg
• Hot water (for the oven)
1. In a small saucepan, combine milk and bay leaves. Over a medium flame, heat the milk and leaves to almost boiling. Turn off the heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Strain the milk into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Discard the bay leaves. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, rice, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into an ungreased, 2-quart casserole dish. Set the casserole dish inside a larger, shallow pan. Add enough hot water to the larger pan to come up halfway on the casserole dish.
2. Place the pan of water, with the casserole dish into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring the mixture after 30 minutes. As with all rice puddings, the cooking time varies depending upon the shape of your casserole dish. Just cook the pudding until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Then you know it is done. Serve warm or chilled.
(Try more delicious recipes using the 2009 Herb of the Year.)