Common herbs and what to do with them. I love herbs and I mean I really love herbs! A handful of whatever aromatic plant you are using can turn a great dish into an amazing one!
As a child I ate very plainly, my Mum’s mashed potato was just that mashed potato! My Mum who used to do all of the cooking in our house didn’t use any herbs or spices well that is except for garlic salt! Which she used to make her stir-fried rice!
So when I took a job in a restaurant as a line cook. I was introduced properly to the wonderful world of herbs and sauces and it was here I became hooked on food and cooking!
Herbs can Make a dish
Herbs really can make a dish, their robust flavours really can add that missing ingredient to the dish! Equally, though using too much of a herb or adding too many types herbs and you will quickly ruin that dish you have spent hours (or days!) creating!
So here is my list of favourite herbs and a dish to use them in. Try where possible to fresh herbs, they have a better flavour than dried. I do keep dried herbs in my cupboard though! This is because sometimes I can’t get hold of a particular herb. Oragno is an example of this because supermarkets, where I live, don’t stock it.
These herbs are the most commonly used and the dish suggestions are only examples
Also, I really feel that you should experiment and make sure you have fun! I would love to see your creations so post your dishes in the comments box below!
basil has a slight aniseed flavour and is really aromatic! Some even describe it as a little sweet. When using basil make sure your leaves are bright green. Basil is excellent in a Spaghetti Bolognese. Add your Basil once your Spaghetti Bolognese has just finished cooking. This is because basil loses its flavour if cooked and the heat from your ragu will be enough to release its flavour. Make sure you tear the leaves up as this will stop the leaves from bruising and the heat from the Ragu will be enough to release the aromatic flavour from this herb.
The herb, Rosemary is robust. It grows as a bush and because of this Rosemary leaves need to be taken off from the stalk. You can get away with using the stalks with a few of the herbs out there but rosemary definitely isn’t one of these! It can be added at any time during the cooking process except at the end! Try using Rosemary, minced garlic and grated orange peel in oil as a marinade for roasted Lamb. It will add a beautiful flavour to your Sunday roast!
The herb mint has a really fresh flavour. It can have a cooling mouthfeel due to the methanol compound in it. To prepare mint, pick all of the leaves off and slice them as fine as you can. This herb needs to be added at the end of the cooking process. Add Mint to your dish just before you are about to turn the heat off if you are using it in hot food. This is an excellent herb to add to buttered crushed pea’s! Or if you prefer something light and fresh try adding torn mint leaves to a cucumber and feta salad! Just
I absolutely love coriander is this is my favourite herb! Although this was not always the case, when I first tried it I found it really overpowering. Some people think it tastes soapy which is down to their genetics! (yes really!) Coriander has a citrus taste and the whole of the plant can be used, Leaves stalk and roots! The flavour gets stronger the further down the plant you go. You can even use the seeds, although the seeds are classed as a spice! Use Coriander in, Mexican foods such as Fajitas, Encahalias and quesadillas. It works well in Indian and Asian cuisine’s as well!
The Herb parsley comes in two common varieties the curly leaf and the flat leaf. The flat leaf variety is said to have a stronger flavour and because it can withstand the heat better it is used widely in Italian cooking. The curly type is better for garnishes and pairs really well with garlic, which is why you find it in garlic butter. Try it in my Garlic buttered Mushroom bread it is epic!
An important note: Parsley has extremely high amounts of Vitamin A. excessive Vitamin A intakes can carry risks to pregnant women. You have to eat a lot of this herb mind, so a sprinkle in garlic butter won’t do any harm, just don’t eat bunch after bunch of the stuff!
Thyme is a subtle herb and fairly fragrant one. Thyme has lovely earthy tones and is slightly lemony. Its cousin Lemon thyme is with no surprises a lot more lemony! This herb is similar to Rosemary in the fact that it has a woody stalk. You need to pick off the leaves, which can be thyme consuming! (Pun intended!) It works well with lemon and roasted chicken. Try stuffing a chicken with a bunch of thyme and a cut lemon before roasting it. Trust me you and your family will thank me!
The herb Dill has a strong distinctive flavour with slight aniseed flavours. It is also a weed! Please don’t let that put you off though! This herb works really well with fish, especially Salmon, the Swedish use dill and lemon to make what they call Salmon Gavlax. Which a cured salmon dish traditionally served as a starter. You don’t have to go to the lengths to cure your own salmon though, try pan-fried salmon with a dill butter sauce and crushed potatoes. It doesn’t really stand up to heat that well so add your dill into your dish just before you turn the heat off to serve.
I hope you like this guide to common herbs. These are available in most supermarkets and make a great addition to most dishes. Look out for my next post on herbs as this one will about the rarer more exotic herbs!