It's easy being green: Bill Granger gives parsley a starring role with his healthy recipes

Parsley is all too often overlooked or just added as a garnish, says our chef

I'm on a one-man crusade to stop people thinking of parsley as nothing more than a pretty face. It seems like such a waste that one of the world's most popular herbs is more often than not used only as a garnish. Honestly, I can't think of anything more depressing on a plate than a lone, limp parsley leaf. The Middle Eastern approach of using whole bunches of parsley in salads is much more up my street: fresh, inviting and you actually get to enjoy how delicious the stuff is.

I usually know when I've had enough of wintry cooking when I start to tire of braised greens, in favour of fresh leaves. The robust earthiness of parsley makes it the perfect winter herb, able to accommodate my rejection of the slow-cooked while still accepting that the weather hasn't quite caught up with my mood and that it is still freezing out there.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com

Parsley, fennel and spinach soup

This is such a lovely, perfumed combination – sweet fennel, earthy parsley and spinach then lots of fresh toppings to add vitality and zing. This soup is also lovely served chilled on a warm day.

Serves 4

125g flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
12 fennel bulbs, chopped, fronds reserved
11 onion, chopped
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1750g chicken stock
1200g baby spinach
Grated zest 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of its juice
14 tbsp ricotta
1Crushed dried chillies, to serve

Separate the parsley leaves from the stalks. Chop half the parsley stalks and discard the rest. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped fennel, onion and parsley stalks and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook for 8 minutes, until softened, add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil then tip in the parsley leaves and spinach. Stir until wilted then blend with a hand-held blender, or tip into a blender or food processor.

Whizz, then return to the pan. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and check the seasoning. Gently reheat, ladle into bowls and top with ricotta, a grating of lemon zest, the reserved fennel fronds and a little dried chilli.

Smoked mackerel, puy lentil and parsley salad

When I'm in a real hurry, I've been known to use sachets of cooked puy lentils for this salad. I know, it sounds ridiculously lazy, but we all have those days, don't we?

Smoked mackerel, puy lentil and parsley salad Smoked mackerel, puy lentil and parsley salad
Serves 4

200g puy lentils
1Juice and grated zest ½ lemon
11 garlic clove, crushed
13 tbsp olive oil
11 tbsp capers
12 banana shallots, finely sliced
11 tsp caster sugar
1Large bunch parsley, leaves only
15 radishes, finely sliced
1300g smoked mackerel, skinned and broken into large flakes

Put the lentils in a pan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, until al dente. Drain and tip into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, garlic, olive oil and capers and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl and toss through the shallots. Set aside.

When the lentils are almost at room temperature, toss through the parsley, radishes and shallots. Gently fold through the mackerel and serve.

Daily grind: Bill's pesto mix (Kristin Perers) Daily grind: Bill's pesto mix (Kristin Perers)
Pasta with parsley, anchovy and pistachio pesto

I also like to serve this pesto with barbecued meat or fish – it's particularly delicious with lamb.

Serves 4

75g roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
12 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
14 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
1Large bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
11 red chilli, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
15 tbsp olive oil, plus extra if storing
1400g garganelli or penne pasta

Pasta with parsley, anchovy and pistachio pesto Pasta with parsley, anchovy and pistachio pesto
To make the pesto, place the pistachios, garlic, Parmesan, parsley, chilli and anchovy in a mortar and pound lightly with a pestle. Add some sea salt then stir in the oil.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, keeping back a ladleful of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan and toss through the pesto, adding a little cooking water to loosen, if needed.

Serve immediately with grated Parmesan.

Food preparation: Rosie Reynolds and Marina Filippelli; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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