The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Salvia fritta - fried sage leaves

Very few know how exciting fresh sage can be. It is undoubtedly unique chopped and mixed with mashed onions and breadcrumb to flavour the dull turkey or scattered among roasted potatoes with sprigs of rosemary for a truly Mediterranean spirit.

In Siena we fry it. Can you eat raw sage?!? Yes you can, no worries. Sage is not toxic. In fact I remember the many times my mother extolled the many virtues of salvia officinalis...
Sage, or salvia (from *salvare, to save) acts as an anti-inflammatory, relieves soar throat or tooth ache, calm stress and even improves memory. I bet you won't throw away your salvia now..

If the secret of Italian food is in the good ingredients, this counts even more for Tuscan food. Honest, open people, and reasonably friendly we are extremely attached to our land. And our flavours are equally straightforward. Tuscans seem to be well known among Italians as being jovial, ironic and ready to take the mic out of everything and everyone...

I believe that June is the best time to go to Tuscany. Not melting temperatures yet, no chance of rain, and an explosion of flavours everywhere, including sage. You can stroll around at your own pace without having to take that fourth shower of the day or pack your sights because of a few hours of light allowed by the day.

Fried sage has so far surprised all my guests, even the Italian ones. As soon as it makes it to the table it has already been polished off. Practically almost every other restaurant in Siena will lure you with a few leaves while you are waiting for your dish to arrive.

I am glad to hear that many foreigners do not limit their horizons to Florence but go as far as Siena (not that it is particularly far in fact! it is only 60km away - not even 45 minutes by car - English standards). I bet you won't regret it.

Choose medium-big leaves. Rinse them in water and then dip them in a batter made simply with 1 egg, 50ml milk and 100g of flour (4-5 tbsp or enough to make the batter thick). Obviously you should double or triple up the doses if you intend to fry and serve the entire plant...

Some people replace iced water to the milk which can work equally well but make the batter less soft but more raised. Also a variation is to spread a bit of anchovy paste (to my surprise available even in Sainsburys for only £0.80!) on each leaf. That makes it more flavourful and salty.

Do not season your batter as the leaves are salty enough already. Fry them in deep hot sunflower oil until golden and serve immediately on a kitchen paper. They will look like little fish...

I think after a good plate of fried sage leaves (and a few more courses you will have no doubt ordered) is time for a stroll in the countryside....


  1. I was filled with joy of colors reading these articles here..wonderful pictures!! i have shared this with face book !! have also added this to my google reader and expecting many more!!

  2. Thank you for you comment! Glad you like the pictures and hope you will try to fry sage! It's one of my favourite nibbles...;D