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In an uncharacteristic moment last summer, I got organised enough to plant up an old tin bucket with herbs so there would be fresh leaves by the back door to pick through the winter.  On the whole the plants have grown well.  The prostrate rosemary is happily producing flowers, despite the fact that there are no insects around just now to enjoy them.  And the orange-scented thyme is getting bigger.  But the sage is looking really sad and I’m not sure if it will make it through to the spring.  I still don’t know why it is the green and gold variegated sage is the only variety that doesn’t give up at the first sign of winter in my garden.

Herb bucket

The fourth herb to go in the bucket was winter savory (Satureja montana), and this too is looking good, with lots of glossy, dark green leaves.  It’s an evergreen perennial herb that doesn’t demand too much, as long as it gets lots of sun and has well-drained soil at its roots.  My plant didn’t flower last summer – I’m hoping it will this year because the white flowers are good for bees.  And, as an added bonus, the leaves are supposed to reduce the pain of bee stings if they are rubbed onto the skin.

Winter savory

Up until recently, I’d been picking just the rosemary and thyme leaves for cooking.  But being as the savory was there by the back door too, it seemed only right to give it a try.  What to do with it though?  It has a flavour that reminds me a bit of thyme and sage mixed together in the one leaf – not a bad combination, and one that should go well in lots of dishes.

Like its summer cousin, winter savory is good with beans.  So for my first foray into the world of winter savory cuisine, I added some fresh sprigs to butter beans and cooked them with onions and celery.  With some chilli for a bit of heat, and lemon zest for extra zing it all came together to make a fresh and tasty dish.  To mop up the sauce, I made some quick and easy flatbread using Andrea’s recipe from Shabby Chick (it’s really good!).  I kneaded some finely chopped rosemary leaves and flaked sea salt into the dough before it was rolled out and cooked.  Then all that was needed was a green salad to make a hearty lunch for two.

Butter beans

With winter savoury in the beans, rosemary in the flatbread, and a good handful of parsley in the green salad, this has to be my entry for January’s Herbs on Saturday.  Vanesther at Bangers and Mash is doing a great job of hosting the challenge for Karen this month – there are some delicious sounding recipes there already.

Creamy lemon butter beans

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

½ – 1 large red chilli (depending on how much heat you want), finely chopped

1 400g tin butter beans, rinsed and drained

2 sprigs of winter savory

100ml vegetable stock

salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

finely grated zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon

1 tbsp double cream

2 tbsp grated parmesan

a squeeze of lemon juice

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes.  Add the celery, stir and sauté for a few minutes more, until both the onion and celery are softened.  Add the chilli, butter beans and sprigs of savoury and stir everything together.  Pour in the stock, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to medium and let it all simmer for about 15 minutes – until there is not much liquid left in the pan.

Test the beans for seasoning – add salt and/or pepper to taste.  Then turn the heat down to low and add the lemon zest and cream.  Stir these in and allow the cream to heat through.  Just before serving, stir in the parmesan and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

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