One, Two, Salsa!

No! Not that sort of salsa!

If you think I'm going to be a dance master in April, you little know your man. Even before the titanium hip I discovered that I had been born lacking a sense of rhythm. The delights of dancing the salsa (which, as you know, is a Cuban fusion of the two main musical styles on the island, Cuban Son and Afro-Cuban rumba) will forever remain a mystery to me. Fortunately this is a cookery column. The one, two of the title refers to today's two recipes.

Yes, I did serve lamb at Easter, but no, in spite of last week's recipe, I didn't make mint sauce.  That is a peculiarly British thing, I think, eaten here and places where expats are to be found. In the USA it seems to have morphed into mint jelly, but I'm not aware of it in the rest of Europe. Whereas today's number one hero, salsa verde, is an ever present with roast lamb in Italy. Four mentions in Anna Conte's Gastronomy of Italy; just three lines in the French biased Larousse Gastronomique, though Raymond Blanc is a fan.

The name just means green sauce. It's pretty simple. You can play around with the herbs, depending on what you have. Traditionally you prepare it with a mortar and pestle which I find inutterably tedious. Fortunately my current stick blender came with a cylindrical jug just wide enough to hold the blade. Chuck things in, blitz, et voilà!

I think for most versions flat leaf parsley is a staple. I've written what I used, but other recipes have included tarragon, rocket and marjoram. Anna includes breadcrumbs. I didn't. Quantities are approximate. Use your best quality olive oil for this.

Salsa Verde (this provided about 4 - 6 dollops)


2 good handfuls flat leaf parsley; 1 small handful each of mint leaves (coarse stalks removed) and basil leaves; 1 shallot, very finely chopped; 2 cocktail gherkins, very finely chopped; 2 tsp capers, drained of the vinegar; 1 clove of garlic, crushed; 2 anchovy fillets (preserved in oil), chopped; 1 tbsp Dijon mustard; 1 - 2 tsp red wine vinegar; 4 tbsp of good EVOO; s & p to taste.


Blitz the shallots, garlic, anchovy and capers to a paste. Chop the herbs really finely. In a bowl, mix the herbs and the paste together with the mustard. Pour in the oil and some of the vinegar. Check the seasoning. You may not need any at all remembering that your capers and anchovy are already salted, and you may think that 1 teaspoon of the vinegar is enough. Serve more or less immediately. I'm told that it may keep in the fridge for a day or two, in which case you should add a layer of oil to stop it discolouring too much.

Salsa Mexicana

I make this for most barbecues. This is my attempt to brighten the spirits and tell you that, yes the sun will shine some day. It couldn't be easier to make, and you may be able to find ripe tomatoes which taste of something. I saw a recipe which called for two tomatoes and four jalapeño chillies! This may suit my dear friend JH, but not for me. As you know, chilli strength varies. Keep some ingredients back so you can adjust the flavour to suit.

Top Tips

To maximise the amount of juice you can extract from a lime, put it in a microwave on full power for 30 seconds.

If you don't know how to skin and deseed a tomato, watch this video. Tinned tomatoes won't work.


4 tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed and finely chopped; 1 - 2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped; 1 small red onion, very finely chopped; good sized bunch of coriander, stalks removed and finely chopped; juice of 1 - 2 limes; salt to taste.


Mix the tomatoes, chilli and onions together. Add lime juice (retaining a little in case you need to adjust the flavour). Add some salt, then the coriander. Mix well and leave for 30 minutes. Check the flavouring and seasoning.

Serve the same day. Good with grilled meat, sausages, burgers, etc,

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