THE HERBIEST HERB OMELETTE
A confession. I love an omelette. Actually, any eggy dish where the egg is cooked to form its own container for the other stuff in the pan. Omelette, Frittata, Tortilla. The French, Italians and Spanish might all lay claim to the best version, but they’ve never met the Erbolate.
Erbolate is one of the recipes that appears in the Forme of Cury (cury meaning cooking in Middle English). Commissioned by Richard II in 1390 the Forme of Cury contains 196 recipes and is probably our first manuscript recipe book.
Essentially, this a herb-laden omelette. The Spring garden in a pan – portable, picnic-able, sharable.
Here is a version that omits a couple of herbs, tansy and rue for example, that we now consider too bitter for our palates or just downright dangerous.
50g fresh herbs (I use a mixture of lovage, dittander, lemon verbena, marjoram, parsley, fennel, savory and mint)
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 180℃
Don’t be too purist about this. You may not have easy access to dittander, verbena, savory for example. Don’t worry, you soon will when they star as a British Herb Kitchen ‘herb of the month’. What you’ve got in there is something celery, something lemony, something minty, something aniseedy, something aromatic and something hot and peppery.
Take the leaves off the stems, wash and dry them well – I use a salad spinner for this. Chop them finely with a very sharp knife (so you don’t crush them and lose their colour and freshness).
Beat 6 eggs, then gently whisk in the milk. Mix in the herbs and season well.
Heat butter in a skillet (or another heavy pan that can go in the oven) until foaming. On a low heat cook the base of the Erbolate as you would an omelette. When the base is set and just starting to brown put it in the oven for 10 minutes until the edges start to puff up and colour. Remove and eat hot or cold.
Grate a bit of cheese on top and add a bit of ginger into the mix if you want to go more 17th century, when Erbolate developed into Herbolace and more recipes started to appear.