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Bay or Laurel
Bay Growing

Bay or Laurel is one of the most sought after culinary herbs for flavouring soups, casseroles, stews, fish, meat, poultry and marinades. The best bay leaves are from the countryside near to Izmir in Turkey, where they are still hand-picked, soaking in the glorious summer heat of the Mediterranean.

Fresh bay leaves have a pungent, warm aroma with fresh camphor notes and a lingering astringency. The flavour is also pungent, sharp, bitter and astringent. The dry leaves are lighter green and less shiny, and when broken have even stronger aromas as the volatile oils have become more concentrated, while the bitterness evident in the fresh leaves has been toned down.

Use bay leaves in any red meat dish, in sauces or casseroles, while they are core to bouquet garni. Don't be afraid to double the quantities given in recipes for an even richer flavour. Add to court bouillon for poaching salmon or other fish, or for flavouring rice, adding two torn bay leaves to enough rice for four people. Bay is surprisingly good with milk, so use to flavour custard or crème brûlée to add a little mystery.

Or use in pickling, e.g. pickled beetroot.


Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN 9780778804932.
  • McVicar, J. (1999, republished 2006) Jekka's Complete Herb Book, Silverdale Books. ISBN 9781845093709.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465435989.