I could write a book about herbs, there is so much to say about their culinary, medicinal and holistic properties and I’m very pleased that the first week of May is National Herb Week, writes Uckfield News Fabulous Food blogger Beverley Butler.
I look forward to this time of year because the mint plants in our garden are beginning to grow large enough for me to pick leaves, on a regular basis, to make fresh tea.
I am not a ‘traditional’ tea drinker and relying on manufactured mint tea bags is not something I enjoy. Buying dried leaf mint tea and making my own teabags using individual tea filters is a vast improvement on anything that comes out of a box but there is nothing as refreshing as mint picked straight from the garden.
There are so many types of mint to experiment with it is always worth trying a few different varieties.
My favourite at the moment is ginger mint, which seems to provide the right strength of flavour in most dishes. Traditionally used in boiled potatoes, mint is also lovely in long summer drinks and delicious with other fresh chopped herbs in a salad.
Another on my favourite herbs is coriander, which is also known as cilantro.
Having never managed to successfully grow it in the garden I add it weekly to my shopping list. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a stir-fry if added at the last minute, a curry, a pesto sauce (as I am not a fan of basil) and basically just about everything that comes out of my kitchen!
It is so versatile with roots, stems, leaves and seeds which can all be used in cooking and although it may look similar to parsley in appearance it is easily identifiable with a lemony-ginger aroma and a very savoury taste. The seeds have a more citrus smell and flavour and are a must in making curries.
The addition of rosemary is always welcome when cooking lamb and is an obvious choice for me when roasting vegetables.
It provides a warm, spicy scent that reminds me of the Mediterranean and compliments many types of dishes.
Flat breads, or pizza bases, drizzled with olive oil, chopped garlic and rosemary, dotted with a few olives and freshly ground black pepper, baked until golden is guaranteed to put a large smile on my face, and the house will smell lovely in the process.
Great with egg dishes, such as omelettes, tomato based pasta sauces, rosemary is also surprising good with strawberries and ice cream. The pretty blue flowers of the rosemary bush are edible and make a lovely splash to a summer salad.
Sage is an excellent choice with pork and chicken dishes. The classic stuffing for roasting birds is sage and onion and they work very well together. Place a few sage leaves on slices of pancetta or bacon before wrapping around a chicken breast and the flavour will be exquisite. Lemon and sage are a nice accompaniment to fish and placing a leaf between vegetables on a skewer before cooking is also a delightful way of infusing flavour.
Freshly chopped thyme added to olive oil of melted butter and rubbed into chicken, pork or fish before roasting or grilling will again fill the kitchen with some very tantalizing aromas. Add fresh thyme leaves, chopped chives and freshly ground black pepper to softened cream cheese for spreading on crackers or stirring through pasta.
Like so many aspects of cooking it is all about personal taste and fresh herbs add so much flavour to dishes that you have to be careful not to overpower the food.
When you next go shopping try a different fresh herb from the market or supermarket shelf and experiment with both sweet and savoury dishes. Remember – parsley is not just for decorating sandwiches.
A date for your diary:
Following on from my article recently on Allergy Awareness Week I would like to draw your attention to an event taking place at Archway Complimentary Therapies on Thursday, May 1, from 6pm-8pm. Nutritionist Julie Shannon will be giving a talk about ‘Useful tips for family cooking with a dairy-free and/or wheat-free diet. Tickets are £8 each and they will only have room for about 10 people. It is a fascinating subject that everyone can benefit from.
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