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.