Dill is sometimes confused with fennel leaves, but they are different. Dill has a milder flavour, although it still tastes of aniseed. It’s good with fish, shellfish, vegetables and in yoghurt dips. You can use the leaves and the seeds, although these are not interchangeable. You should add dill leaves at the end of the cooking process to preserve the flavour.
Dill is native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, although it now grows almost everywhere. It was mentioned in ancient Egyptian medical texts written around 3,000 BC. The ancient Greeks believed it was a sign of wealth, and for the Romans it was lucky. In mediaeval times it was believed to have magical properties, and if you drank a tea made from dill leaves and other herbs, people believed that it would rid you of any curse or evil. People burnt dill leaves to calm a thunderstorm, and used it with wine and other herbs in love potions. They hung the dried seed heads in homes, over doorways and babies’ cradles to protect themselves from evil. If you give a witch dill tea, it will take away her power to harm you or so it was believed. Dill symbolized love and protection.
Dill calms the digestive system and contains vitamin C as well as being rich in minerals, particularly calcium. To relieve indigestion, you should bruise 13 gr dill seeds, and steep them in a cup of boiling water. Leave them to infuse for about 20 mins, then strain the liquid and take a tbsp of it. Its name comes from Old Norse, dylla, meaning to soothe.
In recipes, one measure of dried dill is equal to 3 of fresh dill leaves. Culpeper made use of this herb and thought that it ‘strengthens the brain’- brain food, like fennel seeds. Dill seed is good in salad dressings but the leaves are excellent in sauces.
DOLMADES WITH EGG AND LEMON SAUCE
250 gr minced beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup cooked rice
1 small head white cabbage
4 egg yolks
½ cup lemon juice
small bunch dill leaves, finely shredded
250 cl water or chicken stock (see recipe for Bay leaves),hot
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Steam the cabbage leaves until they are soft and pliable.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent, then add the meat and stir occasionally until it is cooked through. Remove from the heat and mix in the cooked rice.
Taking a leaf at a time, stuff the cabbage leaves and roll them up, making secure parcels of them. Use wooden cocktail sticks to secure them if you have to.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk them with a fork, then VERY slowly add the lemon juice, until it has all been mixed with the egg yolks. Gradually stir in the hot stock or water. Add the shredded dill leaves and seasonings.
Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves in an oven proof dish and pour the sauce over them. Cook in a preheated medium oven for 30 mins.
Serve with a salad, alone or with a side dish of vegetables.
This has Taste and is a Treat.