Cook's Tips for Herbs

Here’s  some tips on using herbs in your kitchen.

  • Herbs are fragrant leaves, used to add flavour and colour to dishes and they are easy to grow, even in the smallest spaces. Keep one or two pots of your favourites on the windowsill.
  • The easiest way to chop fresh herbs is to place the leaves in a teacup and snip with kitchen scissors.
  • Chopped fresh herbs can be frozen and then used in cooked dishes.
  • You can dry herbs yourself. Either tie fresh sprigs in bundles and hang in a warm, airy place for several weeks, or lay the sprigs on a baking (cookie) sheet and bake in the oven at 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 until they are crisp and crumble easily when squeezed. You can also lay them in a single layer on kitchen paper (paper towels) in the microwave, place a small cup of water to one side (to absorb some of the microwaves) and microwave on High (100 per cent power), checking every minute, until discoloured and crumbly. Strip from the stalks, crush and place in clean, airtight containers. Label and store in a cool, dark place.
  • Dried herbs should be stored in a cool, dark place and used within six months or they will fade and lose their flavour. Dried herbs are a lot more pungent than fresh. If substituting them for fresh in any recipe, use very sparingly (less than half the given quantity for fresh) or they will dominate rather than enhance your food. Add just a pinch at a time, taste, then add some more if necessary.
  • Fresh herbs, particularly parsley, coriander (cilantro) and basil, are often added towards the end of cooking for maximum flavour.

Using the right herb

Here’s a rough guide to the most common combinations of herbs and foods.

  • Basil: Tomato-based dishes, poultry, cheese, salads.
  • Coriander (cilantro): Poultry, seafood, lamb, pork, spicy dishes, salads.
  • Mint: Lamb, vegetables, fruit.
  • Oregano/marjoram: Beef, lamb, pork, poultry, cheese and tomato-based dishes.
  • Parsley: Almost any savoury food.
  • Rosemary: Lamb, chicken and other poultry and dried fruit.
  • Sage: Pork, duck, cheese, offal.
  • Thyme: Poultry, fish, offal, vegetables.