There are a million recipes for salsa verde and people will instantly say this isn’t an authentic recipe. Some people think salsa verde should be chopped herbs suspended in oil, others blend it, others insist it must be done in a mortar and pestle. Others put tomatillos in their salsa verde. Should salsa verde have chillies or not? Should salsa verde be thick like a pesto or thin? Even more controversial, should salsa verde have anchovies or garlic or capers? The truth is it depends what part of the world you’re in and what you want to serve it with. The recipe I’m sharing is quite a simple one based on the Italian version and can be adapted depending on what you want to us it for. I use it almost like a dressing and I’ll share a few recipes below: Crispy roast potatoes with salsa verde (patatas verdes,the green cousin of patatas bravas) is one of life’s greatest pleasures; Confit octopus with salsa verde and potato is an amazing tapas dish and cumin spiced grilled lamb with salsa verde is perfect for barbecues.
*A quick aside*
I believe food evolves with us and that the names of dishes are no more than an aide-memoire. A link to dishes we’ve had in the past and a message to our tastebuds as to what we should expect.To that end it’s disappointing when you order a dish in a restaurant which has associations and you get a perfectly passable dish which bears little resemblance other than an homage to the flavour. I view with great scepticism restaurants who place “quotation marks” around a dish’s name as I know my “trifle” is going to be in some way deconstructed. Although that “trifle” may be delicious, it’s not going to provide me with the innate satisfaction that a real trifle could. However, when it comes to regional variations in classic dishes that are fiercely defended I think it’s helpful to use a name people will recognise, like salsa verde. Although I’m still not brave enough to expose my bolognese recipe to the world.
To make this salsa verde you blend together a variety of herbs and olive oil before adding lemon juice and salt. As the meerkats would say, “Simples!”. However, there are a few little things which really make the difference. I’d always thought it was myth that you need to blanch the herbs and shock them in ice water – however it really makes a difference. G and I blind taste tested two otherwise identical versions and we could both tell the difference – blanching takes away a slight bitter edge. Also with your eyes open, it’s really obvious – blanching makes it a more vibrant green.
The second tip is the quality of the olive oil. I tried it with three different types – one a plain non-virgin oil, one a good but not great extra virgin olive oil and the third a quite expensive really delicious oil. The verdict here, is goldilocks was right. You can’t use a plain oil or the salsa verde tastes greasy and a little bitter. A really good oil tastes too much of the oil and is too pronounced – save that stuff for dipping bread into or the occasional salad dressing. The one in the middle (which was a supermarket own brand extra virgin olive oil) really worked the best.
Finally it’s up to you how you finish the salsa verde but varying it a little bit depending on what you’re serving it with makes a really big difference. When I served it with lamb I liked to add a really small amount of ground cumin, put a bit less tarragon in the mix and add a couple of anchovy fillets when blending. For the confit octopus which I served as part of a tapas meal to friends, I actually used a little more tarragon and added a tiny bit of cayenne pepper (see the cauliflower risotto with scallops or braised chickpeas for some more recipes from that meal). For the crispy potatoes (which is my must make) I leave out the tarragon all together and ramp up the lemon juice to make it a little tarter.
In fact, it’s worth spending just a little time on those potatoes because if there’s one dish I’m going to make over and over again it’s crispy potatoes with salsa verde. The recipe is similar to my recipe for super crispy roast potatoes. You boil unpeeled new potatoes in water with lots of garlic cloves (I don’t peel the garlic, just simply cut a whole bulb in half crosswise) and a quartered lemon. Boil the potatoes until they’re nice and tender then drain really well in a sieve and pick out the potatoes. Place the sieve with garlic and lemon over the potatoes and squeeze them a little with a wooden spoon to extract some of that garlicky lemony goodness. Then place the potatoes in a roasting dish, crush lightly and cover with olive oil and sea salt before placing in a 220 degree celsius oven for ~40 minutes or until really golden and crisp. Then lather with the salsa verde and devour – I mean really go to town – if you don’t eat them quickly someone else will.
Salsa Verde (and bonus potato recipe)
Ingredients (the weights are indicative and it won’t ruin the dish if the balance of herbs is a little different)
- 50 grams basil
- 15 grams tarragon (optional)
- 40 grams coriander leaves
- 45 grams flat leaf parsley
- 145 grams olive oil
- lemon juice
- (optional extra fix’ins – to blend with the herbs: anchovies. Or after blending: minced capers, ground cumin, ground coriander)
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Prepare an ice bath.
- Blanch each herb type individually by adding to the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes and then submerging in the iced water
- Wring out the herbs in a kitchen towel to remove as much moisture as possible
- Add to a blender with the olive oil and blend on high for a couple of minutes until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning and add lemon juice. if necessary adjust consistency with more olive oil – it should be smooth and glossy but not super runny
- Store in a cold environment – ideally over the ice bath. Frankly though – you’ll use it pretty much immediately. Don’t make it more than about 3-4 hours before guests arrive or it will discolour a little – it will still taste fine a day later but any more than that and it will be a bit flat.
For the crispy potatoes with salsa verde
- 500g new potatoes
- 1 lemon – quartered
- 1 bulb garlic – cut in half crosswise
- 1 spring onion – very finely sliced
- olive oil and salt
- salsa verde
- Preheat and oven to 220 degrees celsius
- Place a large pot of salted water on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and lemon. Place the potatoes in the pot and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender
- Strain in a sieve and leave to steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove the potatoes, leaving the garlic and lemon in the sieve.
- Place the potatoes in a bowl and place the sieve over the top. Squeeze the garlic and lemon lightly with the back fo a wooden spoon to release some of the garlicky/lemon flavour onto the potatoes.
- Place the potatoes in an oiled roasting tray and squash lightly with the back of a fork. The potatoes should burst slightly but not fall apart. Drizzle some more olive oil over the top of the potatoes and season with sea salt
- Place in the oven for ~40 minutes or until golden and crispy. Toss with the thinly sliced spring onions. Serve hot, lathered with salsa verde.