Some general guidelines for cooking with herbs
There are no hard and fast rules for cooking with herbs, experimenting is always fun and the results can be a pleasant surprise. They can be used fresh from the garden – or most herbs can be dried successfully for use during the winter.
Use orange thyme in slow cooked pork with cider and apple dishes, perfect for cold winter days. Add fresh tasting lemon thyme to chicken dishes or use it in a marinade for barbecue chicken. Thyme is also good in herbal teas to help alleviate the common cold. Click here for summer time lemon thyme lemonade.
Leaves which have a similar flavour to allspice and the black berries can be used to give a Middle Eastern flavour to lamb dishes. The leaves are also be added to pork dishes - in Sicily you can buy a liquor made from myrtle called Mirto.
There are many different types of mint and each has its own flavour. Ginger mint is a soft caramel tasting mint that is excellent in Pimms. Black peppermint is a strong refreshing mint, good after heavy meal as it is a digestive and cleanses the palette; the oil is used in after dinner mints for this reason. Fresh tasting Moroccan mint is perfect for tea and along with both spearmint and apple mint is a good all-rounder for mint sauce, potatoes and mojitos. Click here for black peppermint chocolate truffles recipe.
Is a strong spicy herb traditionally used to flavour bean dishes and is reported to be good for flatulence. It is very good added to meat marinades and can be used to jazz up many dishes, and as an evergreen it can be used fresh all year round. Click here for smoked haddock and winter savory lasagne.
Also has the name Vietnamese mint and should not be confused with ordinary coriander which is an entirely different flavour. Vietnamese coriander is a hot herb, but loses its heat with cooking. The stalks are often added during cooking and then removed, but the leaves are added to dishes just before serving. It is used in South East Asian cooking and is known locally by different names. In Malaysia, for example it is called daun kesum and is used in Nyonya and Laksa dishes.
Is a strong flavour and used primarily with pork in this country in sage an onion stuffing. Don’t limit this lovely herb to this dish alone, in Italy it is used extensively with gnocchi, pasta and cheeses. Saltimbocca, pork or veal escalopes topped with Parma ham and a sage leaf, then cooked in Madeira wine is gorgeous. It goes well with duck and oily fish such as anchovies. The leaves can be dipped in batter and deep fried.
Dill and fennel
Are often confused because of their similarity, though the flavours are very different. Fennel is a hardy perennial and had a sweetish aniseed flavour, whereas dill is a not very hardy annual and tastes like …… well dill. In Scandinavia dill is very popular where it is used with fish, potatoes and vegetables, a traditional dish being Gravlax. In central and Eastern Europe it is popular in pickling. It is good for expelling wind, hence why the seeds were used to make gripe water for babies. Fennel is also used with fish like sardines, fresh in salads and vegetables.
Has a sharp citrus flavour that is perfect for adding a bit of bite to salads, a fresh spring sauce (it is always one of the first herbs to sprout) for fish or meat and as a soup. Click here for sorrel sauce and here for sorrel and land cress soup.