Fresh herbs give an instant lift to most dishes. There is such a wide variety of herbs available, it is sometimes confusing to know what goes with what!
You can buy fresh herbs from most green grocers and supermarkets, but why don’t you try and grow your own? Even if you haven’t got a garden, they are very happy on a sunny windowsill in your home. Mints thrive in a bathroom and give a wonderful fresh scent – a natural air freshener that’s good for you too!
Basil – Tomato based sauces and casseroles, pasta, chicken, fish, vegetables, mixed salads, fresh tomatoes, cheese
Rosemary – (use very little) Beef, lamb, potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash.
Coriander – Curries, butternut soup, fresh tomatoes
Chives – Most dishes, especially good with risotto, vegetables, gnocchi, pasta al fredo, chicken, soups, cheese and eggs
Oregano – Italian dishes, pizza, pasta and tomato based casseroles
Mint – Chicken, rice, lamb, peas, some curries, fish, baby potatoes, mixed salads, beetroot, pineapple and chocolate
Dill – Perfect with salmon and other fish. Also good with potatoes, green beans or carrots
Fennel – great with salads, fish and cheese dishes
Parsley – most savoury dishes. Add at the end of cooking to retain the flavour
Thyme – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage
Bay – this is the only herb that has a better flavour when it is dried, it can be bitter when fresh. Use it with all meats and vegetables which are cooked in soups and casseroles.
Lavender – cakes and sugars, marinade for meat
Sage – red meats, root vegetables, breads 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. Use a small amount first, stir it in and then leave for at least 5 minutes. Taste and add more if needed. Chili takes about 5 minutes to develop its flavour in a dish, so it’s very easy to add too much.
Do you love curries? Here are a few ways to make it even more special. Freshen up the taste with fresh herbs, add some sambals, yoghurt or poppadums to turn your curry from ordinary to fabulous!
Chop up some fresh herbs and sprinkle on top. Here are some suggestions of good partners
Coriander – all types of curry
Mint – fish or lamb, green vegetables
Fennel – fish or chicken
Parsley – beef, fish and vegetable
Basil – all Thai curries
Fenugreek leaves or sprouted seeds – all curries
Lovage – lamb or beef
Mustard greens or sprouted seeds – beef or chicken
Nasturtium leaves – chicken, lamb and beef
Nasturtium flowers – vegetable or fish
Sesame seeds – chicken and Thai curries
Add sprouted chickpeas or peanuts – this is a wonderful addition to a vegetable curry
Add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, top with fresh herbs for extra taste
Add some sambals…………..
Tomato and onion – finely chop up one tomato and half an onion, you can also add a little fresh chilli
Banana and coconut – slice a banana and toss in lemon juice and then into desiccated coconut.
Mango and mint – finely chop fresh mint and sprinkle on thin slices of mango (slightly under ripe is best for this)
Cucumber raita – grate fresh cucumber and add an equal quantity of plain yogurt
Beetroot raita – make in the same way as cucumber raita
Chutney – Mrs Ball’s is still the best!
Green mango chutney – the best ones are available from good Indian restaurants and shops.
Poppadums – You can buy packets of uncooked poppadums at most supermarkets. Cooking them is very simple and they look so impressive on the table. Just make sure that the oil is very hot, put the poppadum in the oil, it will puff up immediately if your oil is hot enough. They take about 30 seconds each to cook. Drain them on kitchen towel before putting onto a plate or in a basket. They are fine even if they are cold, just don’t cover them or they will go soggy.
Naan bread – buy ready made from Woolworths or Pick n Pay and keep it in the freezer for up to a month
Chilli – for those that like it hot! Mix a tablespoon of fresh chilli with a tablespoon of oil.
Have you ever looked into your cupboard and wondered how long an item had been there and if it’s still ok to eat?
I often see magazines that tell us how long our food-stuffs last and advising us to be diligent about throwing out the expired ones. But, in the real world, how do you remember when you bought that packet of pasta, the Earl Grey tea that your Aunty drinks when she visits, or the mung beans that you bought when you wanted to go on that health diet? Yes, there are ‘best before’ dates on most foods, but what happens when you put your rice and sugar into the glass jars that look so nice? Maybe some people are so organised that they write this stuff down somewhere. Even if I did, I would probably forget where I wrote it, or one day find a piece of paper that says ‘Honey 29032020’ and wonder who Honey is and why she has such an odd telephone number!
So, how long does it last? The good news is that it’s probably a lot longer than the suppliers say. It’s worth remembering that the reason foods were dried, bottled or preserved in any other way, was to ensure a supply until the next time they could be harvested – i.e. at least a year away. Therefore, most of your preserved groceries should last at least that long and generally much longer.
But, honestly, if you cannot remember buying it, haven’t cooked it by now, and can’t see yourself ever cooking it, it’s time to chuck it out.
For those foods that you plan to keep, here are some guidelines on storing them, which might even make them last a little longer.
Most dried products, such as beans, pulses, flours, rice, seeds and fruits will benefit if they are decanted into glass or tin containers. I prefer glass as it always seems much cleaner and an added bonus I can see what is inside and don’t have to write a label.
Weevils are often a problem with dried foods, especially whole-wheat items. Usually if they get into one packet they will soon move into the others, which is another reason why it’s better to put dried foods into containers. Bay leaves are a great deterrent so get into the habit of putting a leaf into every container. Of course, if you do have weevils it means that your food still has some life in it. I have never seen weevils in commercial dried white pasta.
Dried beans, peas, pulses: Up to two years, although the flavour does deteriorate, especially in lentils. The older beans are, the longer they take to cook.
Rice: up to two years.
Pasta: Dried, up to a year
Vinegars: most will last indefinitely. Some vinegars have sprigs of herb inside which will start to lose their colour after about 6 months.
Oils: good quality, cold pressed oils should be stored in a cupboard, away from light and heat. Some, such as wheat germ are better kept in the fridge. They should last at least a year in the right conditions. If they taste rancid throw them away. Regular cooking oil will keep for a lot longer.
Herbs: Dried herbs last for a maximum of 6 months. After that they lose their flavour and you may as well add cardboard to your cooking!
Spices: About a year
Honey: FOREVER!! Apparently the honey found in the Egyptian tombs is still edible (No, I don’t know who tested it)
Jams, chutneys: Jams and chutneys were originally made to preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables, so they really should only last about a year, when the food is back in season.
Tinned foods: Most have a shelf life of a year. The coating of the tin begins to deteriorate after a year which can damage the contents
Frozen: Most food-stuffs are best eaten within a year. They are generally still edible for longer, but flavours do deteriorate.
Sauces (bottled). Again, about a year if unopened. After opening, keep in the fridge and use within a month[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row