Culinary Herbs and Food Partners

Culinary herbs - Barefoot HerbsMost cooks will agree that herbs are essential for most dishes. Whether you are making a simple family supper, a gourmet meal or even scrambled eggs, herbs provide flavour. Even if you are eating a ready-made, frozen meal, a sprinkling of fresh herbs will give it an instant lift.

There is such a wide variety of herbs available, it is sometimes confusing to know what goes with what!  Here is a list of common herbs with dishes and ingredients that go well together and are used in many traditional recipes.  But don’t limit yourself to these suggestions. I add fresh dill to an egg mayo sandwich and make a salad with rocket and strawberries.  Neither are recommended combinations, but I love them both.  Play with your food, have fun with testing and tasting.  It’s the only way to find out what you like.

You can buy fresh herbs from most green grocers and supermarkets, but why don’t you grow your own?  Herbs need very little space, and if you need help with planning and starting, take a look at Your Productive Small Garden. And, if you haven’t got a garden, herbs are very happy on a sunny windowsill. Mints thrive in a bathroom and give you an added benefit of being a natural air freshener.

These are some common herbs and foods that they compliment

Basil – Tomato based sauces and casseroles, pasta, chicken, fish, vegetables, mixed salads, fresh tomatoes, cheese

Rosemary – Beef, lamb, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, bread and soft cheese

Coriander – Curries, Thai dishes, butternut soup, fresh tomatoes

Chives – Most dishes, especially good with risotto, vegetables, gnocchi, creamy pasta sauces, chicken, soups, cheese, scrambled eggs, scones and breads

Oregano – Italian dishes, pizza, pasta, tomato based casseroles, breads, cheese

Mint – Chicken, rice, lamb, peas, some curries, fish, baby potatoes, mixed salads, beetroot, pineapple and chocolate

Dill – Fish, especially salmon.  Potatoes, green beans, carrots, eggs, soft cheese, pancakes, blinis

Fennel – Salads, curries, soups, egg, cheese, bread, cakes

Parsley – Any savoury dish.  Add at the end of cooking to retain the flavour.

Thyme – Chicken, beef, lamb, pork, most vegetables, breads, cakes, apples, pears

Bay – This is the only herb that has a better flavour when it is dried as it can be bitter when fresh.  Use for any casseroles, soups or sauces.

Lavender – Cakes and sugars, marinade for meat

Sage – Red meat, root vegetables, breads, pasta and strong cheeses

Chili – There is a huge variety available nowadays.  Some are very mild and some are fiery.  Apart from the obvious, adding to curries and sauces, they can give a great lift to salads and veggies. And you won’t believe how delicious a chocolate sauce tastes with a pinch of chili powder added.

Chili takes about 5 minutes to develop its flavour in a dish, so it’s very easy to add too much. Use a small amount first, stir it in and then leave for at least 5 minutes.  Taste and add more if needed.

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