When you don’t have much time for cooking, it may be useful to have a look around your backyard.
I love the idea that when you live on the countryside – which is now my case – you sometimes only need to kneel down to find the ingredients of your meals. This of course is less true in case you’re an exclusive meat eater, but…it’s not the point.
I long ago knew about burnet by name, mainly because “pimprenelle”, the French word for burnet, was the name of one of the characters in a children’s daily TV-show. But I also knew it was used as an herb thanks to a “happy few” French foodbloggers.
I had no idea in which places it could be found, but my interest for it increased once we got settled in our new living place, and my enquiring has been quickly satisfied.
Burnet is a perennial, yet delicate plant that actually grows easily in much places, be the weather sunny or rainy, and quite wildly, be it in the middle of a weeds’ garden or between the shaded stones of an old construction.
It does have skin curing and preserving (anybody interested ?), tonic and digestive properties, but is not only a “healing” herb: it had also long been used as an aromatic for salads, sauces, omelets, soups, or for herb-seasoned cottage/cream cheese… before parsley got on top for these uses. As to me, I’m so delighted by the distinctive cucumber aroma and flavour of this cute-looking herb that parsley fell far behind.
So, when I had to use up leftover cottage cheese, and happily stumbled upon Heidi’s lovely recipe for cottage cheese pancakes, it naturally occurred to me to use burnet – all the more so as I happened not to have any other aromatic left ! My first idea was to throw some into the batter, but I definitely didn’t want to expose it to burning. A second reading about the “dill butter” Heidi suggested as a topping for the pancakes made things fall into place : THAT was the perfect thing to whip up with my burnet, both preserving and underlining its flavour.
Let’s be honest: as a French girl, butter spread over bread or the like is something I could hardly ever give up. It’s even more true since I tried this compound butter. I hope the vegans among you will forgive me !
Incidentally, I realized that the English “burnet” is, save for one letter, an anagram of the word butter…
- 4 tbsp butter (half a 4-oz stick), softened
- 10-15 sprigs of burnet, rinsed and air dried
- 1 generous pinch of unrefined sea salt
With such a recipe, you necessarily turn fussy when it comes to the choice of ingredients. I make sure my butter is the freshest and most locally sourced by getting it from the farmers’ market. I can only urge you to use “real butter” too !
However, the amounts given are for information only, this recipe being of course highly adaptable to your taste and needs.
Chop the burnet, more or less coarsely to your liking (I like it rather coarse, as you may see on the pictures).
Work the butter with a fork to loosen it, then stir the salt and burnet into the butter thoroughly, in order to distribute them evenly.
If you like, give the seasoned butter a shape by moulding it with a container of your choice.
Transfer the butter into parchment paper or cover the container with cling film and refrigerate at least 1 hour (best overnight) to allow the burnet flavour to develop.
To serve, take the burnet butter out of the fridge 1/4 to 1/2 hour beforehand, so as to make it spreadable onto your favorite cottage pancakes / bread / toasts / buckwheat crepes… it’s so versatile you can also use it in anything you would use cucumber (along with butter) in, for your sandwiches, or to complement seafood or steamed veggies.
It would keep refrigerated for up to a week with no alteration in the flavour.