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There’s been a shift in the herbs that I’m picking from the garden to use in the kitchen.  The summer herbs are just about over, now it’s time for the evergreen herbs to step forward and provide some flavour to see us through the next few months.

I’m keeping the last of the basil going for as long as possible – there’s one pot left on the kitchen windowsill, it still has some leaves but they’re getting a bit tough and the plant isn’t growing any new ones now.  The mint and tarragon will soon disappear until next spring, I may get a few more pickings of leaves from them first.

Still with us too is the parsley, which should last right through the winter, as long as I don’t try to pick too many leaves all at once.  But now is really the time of year when herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay and sage come into their own.

Rosemary and thyme I use pretty much year round, but for some reason sage seems more suited to the hearty dishes of autumn and winter.  So it’s making a comeback in the kitchen after being given a break over the summer months.  I’ve tried growing different varieties of sage – the standard green type, purple, and ‘Tricolor’ a pretty variegated variety, but the only one that survives in my garden is the green and gold variegated sage ‘Icterina’.  It’s pretty and grows well – that’s enough for me.

I add sage leaves to risottos with pumpkin, sauté chopped sage with mushrooms, or cook them gently with onions.  This soda bread uses some of the gently cooked sage and onions for flavouring.  It’s a quick and easy bread to make when there’s no time to wait for yeast to do its thing.  And even if there is time to make a yeasted bread, sometimes I make it just because we all like it – it’s that good!

Which seasonal herbs from the garden are you enjoying just now?

I’m linking this recipe to Karen’s Herbs on Saturday challenge.  Its regular home is Karen’s blog at Lavender and Lovage, but this month Herbs on Saturday is visiting with Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes.  Last month I was lucky enough to have my recipe for fennel & raisin biscotti chosen to win a book – a real honour as there were so many other great recipes.  If you haven’t checked out Karen or Jen’s blogs already I would certainly recommend them for a visit – not just for the herbs, but all sorts of interesting food ideas.

Herbs on Saturday

But before you go, here’s the soda bread recipe…

Sage & Onion Soda Bread

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1onion, chopped

1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped

freshly ground black pepper

a good grating of nutmeg

500g plain flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

200g natural yoghurt

200ml milk

Heat the butter in a small pan over a medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the onion and cook gently until it has softened and become translucent.  Add the sage, some black pepper and nutmeg, stir well then take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190oC, 375F, gas 5.  Grease a baking sheet with butter.

Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl.  Add the cooled onion mixture and stir it all together to distribute the onions evenly through the flour.   Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt along with enough milk to bring everything together into a shaggy ball of dough, you may not need all of the milk.  Form the dough into a round about 4″ (10cm) in depth.  Put the shaped dough onto the prepared baking sheet, cut a cross in the top and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes – the bottom will sound hollow if you tap it when the bread is cooked through.

Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can resist it – it’s best eaten warm, so don’t leave it too long!