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Simple Salsa Verde

This is one of the most useful and versatile sauces I know - it works for fish, meat and poultry, hot and cold - and I’ll probably include a version of it in every cookbook I ever write. Its three best companions are roast lamb, oily fish such as mackerel, red mullet, salmon or sea bass, and cold poached tongue with Puy lentils (add a little extra mustard for this last one). Ingredients are variable, as are the quantities, but the basic idea is to make a mildly piquant sauce in which the explosive aromas of (ideally) just-picked herbs come shining through. Parsley is pretty much essential - indeed, you can make a good version using parsley alone. Add other herbs according to your own taste and what comes to hand: basil and tarragon are favourites of mine but chives, marjoram, chervil and oregano can all be used. I tend to avoid sage, coriander and rosemary as they overpower the other ingredients. Here’s a basic version as a guide:


Finely chop the garlic on a large chopping board. Then add the herbs, anchovies and capers and chop all together until the ingredients are well mixed and fairly fine in texture. Transfer to a bowl and mix in a little mustard, sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, black pepper and enough olive oil to give a glossy, spoonable consistency. As you add these last ingredients, taste and tweak the mixture till you get something you really like.

This sauce is best made immediately before serving but it will keep for a few days, covered, in the fridge.

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1 small garlic clove

A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of coarse stalks

About 15-20 basil leaves

Leaves from 3-4 sprigs of tarragon

2-3 anchovy fillets

About 1 teaspoon capers

About 1 teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)

A pinch of sugar

A few drops of lemon juice or vinegar

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper