One of the fun things about writing The Greasy Spoon is thinking up new ways of describing the various tastes. On wikipedia ("it's in wikipedia so it must be true) Sage (Salvia officinalsis) is described as having a peppery taste. I'm not sure that's right? I've been a bit off-colour for the last week (with what women call "Man Flu") and The Girl (God Bless 'Er) cooked me up a divine chicken stew laced with copious amounts of sage. The sage and chicken combination worked well. with the velvety, aromatic, oniony and slightly sweet flavours of the sage helping to create a rich, smooth sauce.
Traditionally, sage was used in the cooking of Merrie Olde England. It works well with pork, beautifully in stuffings, is the perfect match for onion and an essential ingredient in bread sauce. I love it.
Here's my recipe for bread sauce. In England, we serve bread sauce with game, such as partridge or pheasant. It really is the genuine taste of this country, with the rather Medieval flavours of sage, nutmeg, mace and cloves. It's also a good 'un with poultry. Some strange people out there like their sauce thick. Personally, I prefer my bread sauce to be a bit sloppy.
Add the following ingredients to a saucepan: 300ml milk, 50g butter, a chopped small onion, a crushed garlic clove, a bayleaf, two cloves, a blade of mace and some chopped fresh sage. Heat. Once the mixture is warm, stir in 75g of fresh white breadcrumbs and cook until thick and smooth, stirring the whole time.
When you're happy with the consistency, remove the bay leaf, mace and cloves, and pour in 150ml of single cream. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and grind in a decent amount of nutmeg.
Reheat the sauce, but to stop it going thick- mix in a knob of unsalted butter and some more milk, to taste.
Still on the subject of sage, a simple Italian sauce I'm rather fond of is Sage and Butter Sauce. This is just butter, heated until it turns a golden noisette colour (ie not burnt), lots of fresh chopped sage, salt and pepper and a decent squeeze of lemon juice. Very simple. I like it.