Herbs are fairly easy to grow yourself, and they are very useful in cooking, they provide great seasoning and flavour to food.
MINT ~ There are many varieties of mint, which have a refreshing, cooling taste. It will blend well with sweet or savoury dishes. Try using it with summer fruits, Lamb, Peas, and my favourite with new potatoes.
MINT is one of the most familiar herbs which is known by every cook and grown by just about every gardener. The the best all-rounder for most kitchen uses has to be Spearmint - wonderful used for mint sauce, or mint jelly. Others Mints you may like to try...
Peppermint - use to flavour candies and desserts and to make hot or cold tea, cordials, and liqueurs or as a garnish for fruit.
Applemint - smells of mint and ripe apples with a good flavour, makes a wonderful mint sauce, also great with new potatoes and lamb.
Pineapple mint- great with lamb or use the young leaves to flavour salads, cool drinks, and fruit desserts.
Ginger mint - a delicate warm mint which can be use in salads and tomato dishes.
Chocolate mint - has the scent of after dinner chocolate mints, very good to use for chocolate desserts, also as a garnish for ice cream and sorbets.
Basil mint - use in salads, sauces and with meats, great with tomatoes.
Lemon mint- a refreshing minty lemon scent, great used in mint sauce or fruit dishes.
Orange mint- has an orange flavour, used to flavour teas and fruit dishes.
Curly mint - has a flavour similar to spearmint and can be use in most culinary dishes.
BASIL ~ Basil has a warm, spicy aroma. It is the perfect partner to Italian foods. Great used in all tomato dishes. on pizza, and its the main ingredient in pesto.
PARSLEY ~ There are two types of parsley- flat-leaf and curly. Its a great source of vitamin C, and iron. Try it on grilled fish and meat, also great in a homemade parsley sauce served over fish.
ROSEMARY ~ A small evergreen shrub, which has a lovely pungent, woody smell. Try with meats especially lamb and potatoes. Brilliant with root vegetables. Also can be used in breads and ice-creams.
THYME ~ This is a plant with woody stems, it's aromatic leaves have a very distinctive flavour. Also available is Lemon thyme, which goes wonderful with fish. Try Thyme in a winter stew, on barbecued meat or veggies. Great with chicken dishes.
CORIANDER ~ This has a strong sort of citrus flavour. The flavour of coriander disappears when cooked, so its best just sprinkled over your food. Often used in curries. Great with chicken and fish dishes.
TARRAGON ~ There are two types, Russian and French. The french type is the best. It has a aniseed flavour. Wonderful with fish, chicken, eggs, and in a creamy sauces.
BAY ~ As this is a evergreen you can pick the fresh leaves all year round.
Add the leaves to stews and casseroles. I like to add a leaf or two to my homemade custards and rice puddings.
SAGE ~ Perfect for chicken (sage and onion stuffing) Also good with pork joints and with roasty potatoes.
SWEET MARJORAM ~ This is a all round mediterranean herb, great with pizzas or any meat dish.
CHIVES ~ This onion -related herb is high in vit C and has a mild flavour, so is great added to herb butters, dips, salads, and egg omelettes.
SORREL ~ This has a lemony taste, so adds a nice flavour to soups, its delicious in a egg omelette. Sorrel can be cooked in the same way as spinach. Sorrel is a perennial and one of the first leaves to appear in very early spring. Easy enough to grow, or find it at the local farmers markets. Its a great springtime green herb with either shield-shaped or rounded leaves. Other names for it are spinach dock or sour grass.Sorrel makes a great all round herb. Just toss the young leaves into salads. The bigger leaves can be made into soups, sauces and risotto. Sorrel has a tangy, lemony flavour, which goes particularly well with oily fish - salmon, sea trout, sea bass and mackerel. Also very good used in egg dishes. Sorrel can be cooked in the same way as spinach. And just like spinach, it shrinks dramatically when cooked, so always pick more than you think you're going to need. Avoid cooking Sorrel in aluminum or cast-iron pans, - the oxalic acid in the leaves reacts with the metal and affects the flavour. Sorrel was once used as a substitute for apple in tarts, during the fruit-off season. Because of its sharpness it can make an interesting stand-in for fruit in other dishes too.
CHERVIL ~ This has bright green leaves and looks like carrot tops, tastes great used with fish, chicken, in herb butters and sauces, sprinkled on soups, used in dressings and as garnishes. Its flavour can be lost during cooking so it is best added towards the end of cooking.
LOVEAGE ~ the leaves are excellent for perking up the flavour of otherwise bland foods. Add them to stocks, stews, soups or sauces, using this herb will also reduce the need for salt. It has a delicious celery flavour, you won't need to use too much of this herb as its big on flavour. Try using it with vegetables or fish to really enhance their flavours. Also very good for perking up a boring salad too, just chop up a small amount and mix with your salad leaves. The leaves can lose much of their fragrance and colour when dried, so instead its best to blanch fresh leaves and young stems for about a minute and freeze them in ice cube trays, then just add them to your soups and stews.
~ Tidbits about Lovage Seeds ~
In the eighteenth century, the seeds and stems were candied like angelica
and the seeds used to make a cordial. Dried lovage seeds are similar to caraway seeds, and can also be used in bread. Queen Victoria liked to carry candied lovage seeds in pockets she had sewn into the hems of her dresses to hold tidbits to satisfy her sweet tooth between meals. You can use the lovage seeds whole or ground and add to candy, cakes, meats, breads, and savory crackers or biscuits.
FENNEL ~ Fennel is a herb or spice. This aromatic herb is a member of the parsley family. I love the taste of fennel, all parts of the feathery herb have a 'aniseed' flavour. Fennel is fantastic used with fish, especially oily fish like mackerel, herring and salmon. The dry stems of fennel are great burned on the barbie when grilling your fish, it gives a unique and wonderful flavour to the food. Fennel is really good with pork and lamb too. Dry-frying and crushing fennel seeds before using them heightens the flavour. Ground fennel is used in many curry powders and also in the chinese five spice powder. Crushed seeds can be used in sweet and savoury baking - breads cakes and biscuits.
SWEET CICELY ~ the soft leaves have a myrrh-like scent with hints of moss and aniseed. Sweet tasting cicely leaves can be used as a substitute for sugar and the leaves cooked with sour fruits like rhubarb or gooseberries, this helps in cutting back on sugar normally used for sweetening sour or bitter fruit dishes.
TIP ~ An easy way to store herbs is to freeze them in ice-cube trays.Herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon, and basil work well. Wash and chop the herbs, then put them into the ice-cube tray, add water and just pop into freezer. Perfect for adding to stews, soups, gravies, and summer drinks.
WOODY & SOFT HERBS
Just about all herbs can be put into two categories "Woody" or "Soft". I have put together a few tips on how to get the best from these herbs.
~ WOODY HERBS ~
Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano & Bay.
To prepare ~ Use the sprigs for soups and casseroles. Tie them into bundles to keep them all together, you then won't end up with "twigs" in the cooked dish this way. If you just need to use the leaves, strip them off by running your fingers down from the tip and use as is, or chop or bruise them.
To Cook ~ Woody herbs like long slow cooking to bring out their flavours, if your recipe doesn't require long cooking, say if you are grilling or frying, then chop or crush the herbs to release more flavour.
To Store ~ To dry, tie into bundles (loosely, so air can circulate) and hang somewhere that is well ventilated and out of direct sunlight. Crumble the leaves into air-tight jars or just pick them off as needed. Infuse olive oil with them - just bruise the leaves to release their flavour, push into clean bottles and cover with oil.
~ SOFT HERBS ~
Parsley, Mint, Coriander, Chives, Dill & Basil.
To prepare ~ With Parsley, mint, and coriander, pick the leaves off the stalk, scrunch together and chop as finely as you would like. Chop your chives and dill as fine as you like as well. Always tear Basil, as chopping will bruise and blacken the leaves.
To Cook ~ Soft herbs are best added towards the end of cooking as they flavour will be lost by over-cooking. The heat in the food is enough to bring out their flavours.
To Store ~ Place chopped herbs in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3-4 months.
Another idea is to whizz the herbs to a puree with a little olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays.
~ Extra Tips ~
* Don't discard the stalks from soft herbs; make in to bundles and add to stocks and soups or use them in pastes and pestos.
* The more finely you chop your herbs the more flavour you will get, as more of the essential oils are released.
* Chop your fresh herbs at the last minute so that none of their flavour will be lost.
* Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavour, so you will only need half the amount as fresh.
* Herbs provide great seasoning and flavour to your food, so they are really great to use, especially if you are trying to cut down on your daily intake of salt.
I quite like the idea of growing a few favourite herbs in pots near to the Kitchen door, there they are ready to pluck in an instant and add to your recipes. Meat, Poultry, Fish and Vegetarian dishes are all enhanced by using a variety of herbs.
Large pots filled with a selection of herb combinations make it so much more easier when choosing herbs for a your recipe.
* MEAT POT ~ fill with herbs like Rosemary, one of my favourite herbs, it fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma, and is very good for seasoning lamb. Also Thyme and Marjoram are good with meats, as is Winter Savory, which has a peppery flavour, great to use in meat stews.
* POULTRY POT ~ fill with Bay, Sage and Flat-leaved Parsley, these are all good for making a stuffing mixes. Lemon-Thyme gives chicken a wonderful flavour. French Tarragon is really good as well, it has a aniseed flavour. Herbs really enhance the flavour of poultry, chop and mix herbs with salt, then rub into the skin, or add a handful of herbs into the cavity.
* FISH POT ~ fill with Curly Parsley perfect for a creamy parsley sauce. Sorrel leaves have a sharp, lemon flavour which is so perfect with fish. Orange - Scented Thyme combines well with the more stronger flavoured fish, such as mackerel or herring, its also good for marinades too. Fennel has a lovely aniseed flavour and is great to place into the cavity of the fish before baking.
* VEGGIE POT ~ Herbs are the perfect partners to vegetables. Mint is delicious with root vegetables, in salads, also dressings and marinades. Chives are very versatile with their mild onion flavour and can be chopped and scattered into salads. Chopped Celery leaf adds flavour and texture to salads, also goes well with root veggies. Chervil has a gentle aniseed flavour and is great in salads.
There are many more herbs available, all with their own wonderful flavour to transform your food, so experiment with different varieties and find your favourites.