Make a Bouquet garni

22/02/2013 09:13

A classic flavouring in French cooking, a bouquet garni is a selection of fresh herbs simply tied together or dried ingredients combined in a small muslin bag. These little bundles of herbs impart a great depth of flavour when added to slowly simmered soups, casseroles, stews and stocks. A Bouquet garni is added at the beginning of cooking and is removed from the dish before serving. Bouquet garni make wonderful gifts for family or friends who are keen cooks.

Although the classic contains just three herbs - Thyme, Bay leaf, Parsley, you can make your own bouquet garni from any combination of herbs you like. Usually, a blend of two or three herbs provides enough flavour interest and balance for most dishes. Dishes like long-simmered soups or stews with bouquets garnis may use up to four or five herbs. Woody herbs such as thyme or rosemary rather than leafy varieties are used because they can withstand long, slow cooking methods.

It is very simple to make your own bouquet Garni. The proportions of different herbs in your bouquet should be balanced. If you combine equal parts of robust and mild herbs, then the robust will mask the mild.

MILD HERBS ~ basil, bay leaf, chervil, dill, marjoram, and parsley

ROBUST HERBS ~  mint, savory, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme

To make traditional bouquet Garni with fresh herbs you will require ~ 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley-stalks (save the parsley leaves for garnish). Just bunch the herbs and tie them securely together with a cooking twine. You can also use a leek leaf to wrap around the herbs before tying them together too. Leave the twine long so you can attach it to the pot handle, this will make the bouquet garni easier to retrieve.

For a dried version of bouquet garni, herb leaves are placed in coarse cloth (cheesecloth/ Muslin) and tied with string to create an herb packet. Use -
1 heaped tbsp dried parsley, 1 tsp dried thyme and  1 dried bay leaf.  Other ingredients, such as whole peppercorns and garlic cloves, can be also be added to the pouch for extra flavour too.

Your Bouquet Garni should include ingredients that will harmonize with a recipe.
Here are a few good combinations to choose from ~

Beef ~ marjoram, oregano, orange zest, thyme
Pork ~ marjoram, rosemary, sage, myrtle, thyme
Lamb ~ garlic, mint, rosemary, savory, thyme, oregano
Fish ~  fennel, parsley, thyme, dill, tarragon, lemon zest
Chicken ~ marjoram, sage, tarragon, thyme/lemon thyme, lovage, lemon zest


THYME ~ This is a plant with woody stems,and it's aromatic leaves have a very distinctive flavour. You can also get Lemon thyme, which goes wonderful with fish. Try in a winter stew, it also great with chicken.


PARSLEY ~ Parsley is a member of the carrot, parsnip and celery family. There are two types of parsley, the flat-leaf and the curly. Parsley is a great source of vitamin C, and iron. Try on grilled fish and meat, also great in a homemade parsley sauce used over fish.


BAY LEAF ~ other names - Bay Laurel, Apollo's Bay Leaf, Indian Bay, Wreath Laurel. Bay leaves give off a pungent and warm bouquet and flavour when added to a dish. They are strongly aromatic and so should be used sparingly. You can purchase fresh or dried whole bay leaves. Bay is always included in a bouquet garni, also an essential ingredient in many classic sauces - bechamel and bread sauce. Add the leaves to soups, stews and casseroles. I also like to add a leaf or two to my homemade custards and rice puddings.