I generally find dried bay leaves musty, though some say (and there are many who do) that bay should always be used dry as it takes some time for the full flavour to develop after the leaves are picked. Mmm. I simply adore the smell of fresh bay, strongly aromatic, like pine needles, eucalypt and lemon all crushed together, with a scattering of floral blossoms on top. Yep, I like it. My love affair with bay started years ago, although they nearly jeopardised a segment of my first television series. I threw a handful of them into hot oil in a casserole and they exploded like fireworks – I think it was the little seed biddies that did it – and sprayed piping hot oil everywhere, including on my hands and brand new shirt purchased especially for the show. I forgave them (the bay leaves!). The leaves are also supple, and you can do things with them, like wrap them around meatballs or slices of haloumi and then barbecue them. Or add them to vegetable or meat skewers and not have to worry about them splitting or falling off. Of course, you don’t eat them, but they add their sweet musky eucalypt scent to everything they come in contact with. If adding bay leaves to a cooked dish like a soup or a stew, always remove them before serving, because ending up with a whole leaf in your mouth is not pleasant, as they can taste bitter, and they are easy to choke on.
Photography by Julie Biuso