Fresh Recipe Ideas for Your Favourite Herbs
New ideas for old herb favourites.
Rosemary brings a wonderful Mediterranean fragrance to dishes, but rather helpfully also thrives in considerably cooler corners of the world. Even better, it’s an evergreen. While your mint plot may keep an unhelpfully low profile during the winter months, rosemary remains on permanent standby to infuse food with its deep, woody aroma.
Lamb and rosemary may be a classic, unbeatable combination, especially when cooked together on a barbecue, but rosemary also works beautifully with chicken, pork and turkey. Need to add a flavour boost to your vegetables? Try adding it to roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips or beetroot.
Not a fan of Sunday roast? Then try mixing finely diced rosemary with butter, flour and grated cheese – parmesan or cheddar are both ideal – to bake wonderfully easy, alarmingly moreish savoury biscuits. Sweet tooth? Mix some rosemary into your next chocolate brownie batch for a sophisticated twist on this crowd-pleasing pud.
Is there a more versatile herb than mint? Its breezy, fresh menthol flavour is equally at home with sweet dishes as savoury, lending itself to reviving liquid refreshment and substantial solid sustenance alike. North Africa and the Middle East have embraced mint in their cuisines with particular gusto but it also adds a cooling, summery lift to many Indian and European dishes.
On a hot day you want to keep it simple: stir a few mint sprigs into your buttery new potatoes or sprinkle some over a bowl of strawberries for a wonderfully harmonious combination. Mint also brings a cleansing lift to chilled summer soups: think pea or cucumber. And no drink screams summer more loudly than a Mojito.
This is such a comfortably cosmopolitan herb that it can convey a profound sense of place in wildly contrasting cuisines. Take a starter of trout with water mint and watercress: the perfect encapsulation of an English riverbank in summer. Then transport yourself to a sultry evening in Beirut with a spread of fattoush, tabbouleh, kibbeh and maghmour – and don’t be stingy with the mint for any of them!
That Lebanese tabbouleh didn’t just come with a generous fistful of mint: parsley is equally key to this dish. When it’s not being abused as a sad garnish on an underwhelming inflight meal, parsley brings its breath-freshening, gently bitter character to dishes and sauces from around the world.
It’s the star of the show in Italy’s salsa verde, a perfect embellishment for pork or beef steak. If you’re in South America, then that steak will almost certainly appear with chimichurri, where again parsley is the star. Moving back to Italy again, no self-respecting osso buco comes without an invigorating spoonful of gremolata. Over in England, a majestic ham just cries out for parsley sauce – a classic roux with the essential addition of finely chopped parsley.
Feeling creative? Or simply have a glut of parsley on your hands? Then try using this herb for a twist on the standard basil pesto. Parsley and pumpkin seed pesto, or perhaps parsley, walnut and blue cheese pesto, would both be delicious toasted on bread, combined with cold meat in a sandwich filling or stirred through a potato salad.
Just the mention of coriander – or cilantro as it’s also known – sparks a gastronomic wanderlust that could take you anywhere from Mexico to Vietnam. Whether your thoughts have turned to creamy, citrussy guacamole with tacos in Oaxaca or a bowl of restorative, fragrant pho on the streets of Hanoi, coriander is the star.
Somewhere between those two poles lies the Middle East, where coriander pops up once again as the main ingredient in zhug. Originally from Yemen but enthusiastically adopted elsewhere, especially Israel, this spicy chilli sauce is the perfect partner for falafel. It’s also impossible to imagine Indian food without coriander, whose seeds form part of the garam masala spice mix that is a base for so many curries.
That warming, earthy coriander seed character can also lend itself well to more European ingredients. Just think of carrot and coriander soup – or combine those two flavours in more substantial form by making carrot and coriander fritters. Use the fresh leaves rather than the seeds this time for a full-flavoured but light midweek lunch.
Freshly made pesto is a thing of beauty, but basil’s talents stretch well beyond its most famous incarnation. And no, we’re not just talking about the equally classic, delicious combination of a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.
Basil can swap very happily into several recipes more commonly associated with mint. Strawberries and basil are a surprisingly excellent combination; the same is true of peaches. Sticking with the pudding theme, a basil sorbet served with vibrant red berry fruits will score highly – not just on flavour but culinary skill and aesthetic appeal.
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