Many, many years ago, before Courses For Cooks was a twinkle in my eye, I watched a cookery demonstration from a lady who grew herbs for a living.  One of the herbs she used was Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) as a sugar substitute.  I have kept my eye out for it in garden centers ever since but it wasn’t until last year that I actually managed find a plant!

Sweet cicley is also known as sweet chervil, sweet fern, British Myrrh or the Roman plant.  It is part of the umbelliferae family, so looks a bit like cow parsley, with fern like leaves and small, white flowers clustered together on a tall stalk.  The leaves have a sweetish, aniseed flavour and almost a slight saccharine taste, just chop the leaves up like parsley and mix them into compotes and cakes, the seeds can be used too.

I used the fresh herb – approx 1 tablespoonful per 250ml, or dried herb would be 1 teaspoon per 250ml.  It’s a subtle sweetness, so experiment!

Red Fruit Compote

Serves about 8

400g Blackcurrants

400g Raspberries

400g Strawberries

4 tbsp chopped sweet cicely

1 tbsp honey or to taste

  1. Put the blackcurrants in a pan over a medium heat with the sweet cicely and cook gently until the juices are released.
  2. Add the raspberries & strawberries, stir gently and cook until the juices run but the fruit is still in chunks.
  3. Add honey to taste and serve.

    Hubble, Bubble ….

  4. Delicious with ice cream, a dollop of creme fraiche or as a topping on muesli or porridge.