A brief guide to bay leaves including nutritional information and uses in the kitchen.
Bay leaves are a wonderful addition to any soup, sauce, stew or casserole. They are mainly used dry and are just thrown into the pot and allowed to impart their rich and aromatic flavour.
The bay leaf that we use in cooking is actually the dried leaf of the Bay Laurel tree (Laurus Nobililis). This is why bay leaves can also be known as sweet bay, sweet laurel, laurel leaf or bay laurel.
The bay laurel tree is native to Asia Minor but is now grown all over the Mediterranean, as it is suited to warm climates. There are two main types of bay leaf - the Mediterranean bay leaf and the Californian bay leaf. The Californian bay leaf is much stronger in flavour and the Mediterranean bay leaf is widely used in Mediterranean-style cooking.
The bay leaf is one of the herbs and ingredients that make up a "bouquet garni". A bouquet garni is a bunch of herbs that is tied together with string and placed into a stock, sauce or stew whilst cooking. It is used to add flavour to the dish and the bundle is removed before serving and discarded.
History of the bay leaf.
Although the bay leaf was not introduced to England until the sixteenth century, it has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times.
In fact, the bay leaf was held in such high esteem that victors of battle, sport and study were crowned with garlands of laurel, as a symbol of their success. This is where the term "baccalaureate" originates from and it is now referred to when students have successfully completed their schooling years.
Vitamin and mineral content of the bay leaf.
Although bay leaves are only used a few at a time and are not actually consumed themselves, they still provide a number of vitamins and minerals to a dish through cooking. Bay leaves are a good source of Vitamins A and C and also contain significant amounts of iron and manganese in particular, as well as smaller amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Health benefits of the bay leaf.
In ancient times bay leaves were used medicinally for a number of things. They were used for ailments of the liver, kidney and stomach and were also thought to alleviate wasp and bee stings.
Nowadays, bay leaves are still used by herbalists to treat even more illnesses and complaints than ever. Below is a list of how bay leaves are used curatively today:
* A cloth soaked in boiled bay leaves in water, which is placed on the chest can relieve chest infections, flu, coughs and bronchitis.
* Massage bay leaf essential oil onto affected areas to relieve sprains, swellings, backache and arthritic and rheumatic pains.
* An infusion of bay leaves will promote sweating, which will help clear up flu and feverish symptoms.
* Bay leaves settle the stomach and help to treat digestive disorders.
* They are useful for proper digestion and can reduce flatulence.
* They can help to breakdown and digest certain food types such as proteins.
* A bay leaf rinse can help to treat dandruff.
Ideas for using bay leaves in the kitchen.
Bay leaves are never eaten themselves and are really just used to add extra flavour to a number of dishes. Bay leaves can be used in the following ways:
* Prepare a bouquet garni and add to soups, stews, casseroles and sauces.
* Use in pickling solutions.
* Add to boiling water for shrimp, crab and other seafood.
* Use in marinades for meat and fish. * Add to milk when preparing homemade rice puddings or other milk puddings.
Bay Leaf Recipes.
All the best Jan