Ask Peter: How to use up Vietnamese mint
Do you have any ideas that use a large amount of vietnamese mint? I have a large plot but I usually only use a few leaves at a time as they tend to overpower. I wonder if there might be something I can make that would help to make a dent in it? Gillian
What a lovely problem to have. I’m replying to you from the island of Hydra in Greece, where I’m having a holiday with my partner Al. Tomorrow we’re cooking for Georgia, a fabulous woman who since arriving has made us a mushroom pecorino tart, a banoffee pie, rich rice-and-raisin stuffed vegetables and olive oil baked potato wedges. All of which were delicious. Last year she made us a fantastic huge strawberry pavlova which we loved. Georgia wasn’t aware it was a New Zealand creation, which made it even more special. The thing is, for lunch we would ideally like to make a whole range of dishes using the ingredients we love so much which might include miso, ginger, coriander, seaweed and even vietnamese mint. But the chance of getting most of those here is slim, as this is a small island of less than 2000 permanent residents. Tourists add a considerable amount in summer of course, but I’m yet to see anything fresh from Southeast Asia, let alone fish sauce or wasabi, or the likes in the shops here. However, on the positive side, it means we’ll be cooking a menu based on what we always do here which is shop local and give it a punch here and there with lovely fresh mint, wild fennel, dill and spices such as cumin and coriander seeds, dried chillies and capers.
So, if I could suddenly conjure up a bunch of your mint I’d likely make a pesto from it using some of the delicious spice-roasted almonds we can get here in the snack section of the supermarket, blitzed with a local ewe’s milk feta and fabulous local Kalamata olive oil — from the Peloponnese mainland across the water. Or I’d shred large amounts of it, mix with olive oil, lemon zest and juice and marinate the local small red mullet with it for a few hours before grilling them over charcoal in the barbecue. I’d caramelise red onions and the pungent local garlic in olive oil with a good teaspoon of coriander seeds, kept whole. I’d add lots of coarsely chopped peeled tomatoes and vegetable or chicken stock (to resemble a chunky soup) which I’d simmer with a few diced potatoes (their potatoes here are firm and really flavoursome — I’d suggest you use jersey bennes) until the potatoes are almost cooked. Then I would mix in shredded silverbeet and a small handful of shredded vietnamese mint and cook until the potatoes are ready. I would take off the heat then stir in a handful of regular mint and coriander and half a cup of yoghurt and serve piping hot on boiled short-grain rice.
You could also freeze the leaves for a rainy day or dry them out. For the former, remove the leaves from the stem and lay on baking trays in the freezer. Once frozen, pack loosely into freezer bags making sure you don’t crush them too much but do expel as much air as you can. To dry the mint, tie a few stalks with string and leave hanging upside down in a well-ventilated place. As it dries, you need to avoid it becoming moist or damp as harmful mould can form. Either store as dried branches, much as you would bayleaves, or take the leaves off and keep in an airtight container in the pantry. Either way, you’ll have vietnamese mint year-round.