A guide to the herb chervil with recipes and storage information.

chervil
Chervil is not as common or well known as some of the other more popular herbs such as parsley, sage or oregano, yet it is just as flavoursome and delicious when used in your everyday cooking.

Chervil is a member of the parsley family and is actually very similar in appearance to the parsley herb.

Otherwise known as "cicily", "sweet cicily" and sometimes "gourmet's parsley", it is mild in flavour with a slight aniseed taste.
Chervil is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia but it is immensely popular in French cuisine. Along with parsley, chives and tarragon, chervil is also one of the main components of the French herb blend "fines herbes".

Chervil is used in a similar way to parsley and blends well with chicken, fish and egg dishes. Much of the delicate flavour of chervil is lost when cooked or heated to a high temperature, so it is best to add chopped chervil at the end of cooking time or when serving the meal.
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The history of chervil

Chervil has been around for about the last 2000 years. It was introduced to Europe by the Romans and was used by the ancient Greeks as a rejuvenating tonic.

It was taken as a drink that was a mixture of dandelion, chervil, watercress and water. Due to being rich in minerals and vitamins, this concoction was vital during the winter months when many types of fruit and vegetables were out of season or hard to find.

Vitamin and mineral content of chervil

Chervil is not a particularly overpowering herb and therefore can be consumed in larger quantities than some of the stronger flavoured herbs. Consequently, as larger quantities are consumed, the nutritional value will be greater and you can really benefit from the vitamin and mineral intake.

Chervil is rich in a number of different vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc.

Chervil also contains smaller but significant amounts of a number of the B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorous.

How chervil may benefit your health

As with many of the common herbs, chervil too may help with stomach disorders, particularly with stimulating the digestive system and relieving any mild stomach pains.

As well as this, chervil is also known to:
  • Clear up skin complaints such as reducing puffiness caused by allergies and alleviating problems such as acne and eczema. It can also be used as a skin tonic and freshener.
  • Benefit the circulation when taken as a herbal tea.
  • Reduce cellulite.
  • Treat varicose veins.
  • Clear up haemorrhoids.
  • Relieve fluid retention caused by menstruation or the menopause.
  • Lower high blood pressure.
  • Help with bladder disorders, particularly kidney stones and cystitis. When combined with celery, the symptoms of cystitis disappear much quicker and chervil added to a mild potato soup is good if suffering from kidney stones.
  • When prepared as a tea, chervil may help to soothe tired or irritated eyes.
  • Clear up and aid liver problems.
  • Relieve symptoms of flu and colds.

Buying and storing chervil

Chervil is always best if used fresh in cooking. Dried chervil loses much of its flavour and tastes very weak.

Chervil is quite a delicate herb and it loses its flavour quickly, especially when heated.

It should be added to a dish at the end of cooking time or added raw, just before the dish is about to be served.

Store fresh chervil in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.

Ideas for using chervil in the kitchen

  • Add chopped chervil to your omelettes or scrambled eggs.
  • Sprinkle freshly chopped chervil over your salad.
  • Add chervil as a garnish to soup.
  • Add to a homemade potato salad.
  • Substitute parsley for chervil.
  • Add fresh leaves to white wine vinegar and use as a salad dressing.
  • Crush leaves, mix with melted butter and pour over grilled fish or poultry.
  • Add to cottage cheese to eat with a jacket potato.
  • Mix with egg mayonnaise to eat in a sandwich.
  • Add to any creamy soup.
  • Use the leaves to stuff fish or chicken before cooking.

Chervil Recipes

A selection of varied starters and main meals that include chervil as the main herb ingredient including crab risotto, fish rolls with a chervil yoghurt sauce and mushroom vol-au-vent.
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Fish Rolls with a Chervil and Yoghurt Sauce

This dish is an excellent starter particularly for dinner parties if you want to impress. Strips of delicate sole and smoked salmon are stuffed with a lime filling, baked in the oven and served with a chervil and yoghurt sauce.

Ingredients
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) fresh fish stock (see below)
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) natural yoghurt
  • 4 x 4 ½ oz (125 g) sole fillets
  • 2 oz (55 g) of smoked salmon
  • 2 oz (55 g) of low-fat soft cheese
  • 2 oz (55 g) of wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp of lime juice
  • 1 tbsp of freshly chopped chervil
  • ½ tsp of grated lime rind
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh chervil to garnish
Method
  1. To make the fish stock, place the head of one cod or salmon together with the skin, bones and trimmings into a large saucepan.
  2. Cover the fish with water and bring to the boil.
  3. As the water starts to boil, remove any surface scum with a spoon and discard.
  4. Add 2 sliced onions, 2 chopped sticks of celery, 1 sliced carrot, 2 bay leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  5. Cover the saucepan, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Once you have a flavoursome stock, strain the liquid through a sieve, allow to cool and refrigerate. Use within 2 days.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  8. Mix together the wholemeal breadcrumbs, soft cheese, lime juice and lime rind in a small mixing bowl until a stuffing-like mixture has formed. Set aside.
  9. Place the sole fillets onto a clean surface and skin them by holding the tail end of the fillet with one hand, inserting a sharp knife at the same end and passing it down through the fillet between the flesh and the skin. The flesh should tear off in one piece.
  10. Cut the sole fillets in half lengthways.
  11. Place one slightly smaller strip of smoked salmon on top of each strip of sole.
  12. Divide the lime stuffing into 8 and carefully spread on top of the smoked salmon.
  13. Carefully roll the fish up into a coil-like formation making sure that the stuffing and salmon remain inside the sole.
  14. Place the rolls seam-side down into an ovenproof dish and pour in the fish stock.
  15. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  16. Remove the fish rolls from the oven and transfer to a warm serving dish. Cover and keep warm.
  17. Pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan.
  18. Add the natural yoghurt and the freshly chopped chervil and gently heat, stirring the ingredients together.
  19. Season with salt and pepper.
  20. Serve the fish rolls with the sauce and garnish with fresh chervil. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

This dish is simple yet stunning - delicious puff pastry filled with a creamy mushroom and herb filling.

Ingredients
  • 17½ oz (500 g) of puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg
  • For the filling
  • 1 lb 10 oz (750 g) of sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 oz (30 g) of butter
  • 6 tbsp of white wine
  • 4 tbsp of double cream
  • 2 tbsp of freshly chopped chervil
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. On a lightly floured and clean surface roll out the puff pastry to a 20 cm square.
  3. Cut another square halfway into the pastry, marking out a border 1-inch from the edge.
  4. Cut diagonal lines across the inner square with the knife.
  5. Knock up the edges of the pastry with the edge of a knife.
  6. Place the puff pastry onto a baking tray and brush with the beaten egg. Ensure that the egg does not run into the groove.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes.
  8. Remove the baking tray from the oven, allow to cool slightly and cut out the inside square of pastry. Set the top square to one side. Also remove but discard the softer pastry from the interior, leaving a deep pastry shell or case.
  9. Return the pastry case with the square pastry lid to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  10. To make the filling, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a high heat.
  11. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  12. Pour in the wine, stir, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.
  13. Add the cream and chervil and mix together.
  14. Season with salt and pepper.
  15. Remove the pastry from the oven and fill with the mushroom filling.
  16. Place the pastry square on top and serve immediately.

Crab Risotto

This brightly coloured appetizing dish is an excellent way of making the most of fresh crab meat.

Ingredients (Serves 4 - 6)
  • 1 lb 12 oz (800 g) of tinned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 lb (455 g) of freshly cooked crab meat
  • 12 oz (340 g) of Arborio rice
  • 1.5 l (2¾ pints) of hot fish or chicken stock
  • 2 fl oz (55 ml) of lemon juice
  • 2 fl oz (55 ml) of dry white vermouth (optional)
  • 2 or 3 large red peppers
  • 2 finely chopped sticks of celery
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped fennel bulb
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 -4 tbsp of freshly chopped chervil
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. Preheat the grill to high. Place the whole peppers onto the rack and grill until the skins have charred.
  2. Remove the peppers from the grill, place into a plastic bag and seal the top. Set to one side to cool.
  3. When cool enough to touch, hold the peppers over a bowl to catch the juices and peel away the skins. Discard the cores and seeds.
  4. Chop the flesh, place into the bowl and set aside.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the chopped onion, celery and fennel. Fry gently for several minutes until the vegetables have softened.
  6. Add the rice and the cayenne pepper and stir well. Cook for 2 minutes until the rice is translucent.
  7. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and stir. Stir in the vermouth.
  8. Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir continuously until absorbed.
  9. Stir in another ladleful of stock and cook until absorbed. Continue this pattern until all the stock has been absorbed. By this time the rice should be cooked and have a creamy consistency.
  10. Add the chopped red peppers, crab meat, lemon juice and chervil. Stir all of the ingredients together.
  11. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Serve immediately.
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