Read these 15 Herbs In The Kitchen Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Vegetable tips and hundreds of other topics.
It's very easy to make bread at home and many people have joined the ranks of those who keep a bread machine in their kitchen. Herb bread makes a fine accompaniment to a fragrant soup, but can also hold its own with a salad or cheese and olives.
If you have access to an herb garden, you are truly in luck, as fresh herb bread is only a short wait away.
Try adding chopped oregano or marjoram into your bread mix. Rosemary, garlic and chili make a spicy addition, as do olives and sun dried tomatoes.
If you want a sweet bread, add 200g raisins and chopped prunes, two teaspoons of ground cinnamon and one teaspoon of Christmas spice or mixed spice to a 500g bread mix.
Rosemary has all sorts of uses round the house and kitchen. It cleans and disinfects worktops, dyes your hair, scents rooms, protects from cold and is often used as a marinade or rub for lamb, in herb oils and vinegars.
But in my mind, there is no better marriage than rosemary and potatoes. Roast potatoes with rosemary are a revelation, but the herb really comes to life in a simple potato and leek soup, adding depth, warmth and sophistication to these humble ingredients. Try it when it is cold, wet and miserably gray outside and see if I'm not right….
Clean and chop two or three leeks (white and green parts), sweat in a little butter until soft but not colored. Add two or three sprigs of rosemary and a pinch of dried chili and turn over in the butter. Now add three peeled, chopped potatoes and a liter of light stock (chicken or vegetable is fine). Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the potato is tender. Fish out what is left of the rosemary and discard. Blend the soup until smooth and adjust the seasoning. Serve with more chopped rosemary, toasted hazelnuts and chili oil drizzled over.
The preservative powers of many herbs make them ideally suited for marinades and pickling solutions. Seed heads of dill and fennel are usually included, as is black pepper, star anise and mustard seed. Coriander seed and chili make interesting additions. Add salt and sugar and steep the mix in hot vinegar before pouring over gherkins, silverskin onions, peppers, cauliflower or herrings.
Marinade beef or game in red wine, rosemary, black pepper and star anise for at least six hours before grilling or roasting. Rub lamb with a paste made from rosemary, garlic and salt before roasting.
Traditional pesto is made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. In our house, this fragrant paste is served with pasta, grilled meat, tomato salad, and white fish.
But while traditional pesto demands fresh basil, it does not mean that other herbs cannot perform equally well. Experiment with other combinations of herbs, nuts and even oils.
Watercress, garlic and walnuts make an interesting, earthy combination. Try it with fresh wholemeal pasta or pork chops. Watercress and pine nuts make for a cleaner paste, good with new potatoes.
Parsley, garlic and hazelnut pesto, with Parmesan and hazelnut oil, makes a vibrant sauce for grilled cod or halibut.
Coriander (cilantro) pesto, made with pine nuts and a hint of cinnamon or cumin, is sensational with steamed new carrots.
As well as making teas, herbs find their way into any number of refreshing beverages. There is, obviously, fresh mint in the famous Mint Julep, while borage flowers brighten the equally famous Pimms. So maybe it pays to look ‘sideways' at our traditional drinks and see how additions from the herb garden can change their style and character.
Adding herbs to lemonade turns a traditional summer drink into something sublime and sophisticated. Make a standard lemonade base (chop 4 lemons, steep in one liter of boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and add tablespoons of sugar) and add sprigs of herbs to it. Lemon balm goes well, as does basil, mint or thyme. Leave the herbs to infuse until the lemonade base is cool. Mix lemonade base with sparkling water. Add ice and an extra sprig of herb to serve.
Fruit juices can also be varied through an addition of herbs. Adding a sprig of fresh mint to apple juice, before serving with ice and sparkling water, produces a very refreshing drink. But if you warm the apple juice with dried orange peel and cinnamon instead, you end up with a fragrant, warming concoction that is not out of place at a Christmas party.
In the kitchen alone garlic has a 101 uses. It can be roasted, grilled, stewed, sautéed and eaten raw – just don't burn it, as it will turn horribly bitter.
For something a little special, slice the top off a head of garlic. Drizzle over some olive oil, wrap the whole head in foil and bake in a medium oven for 30-40 minutes until the garlic is perfectly tender. Serve with good fresh bread, olives, feta cheese, a green salad and a bottle of red wine for an impromptu feast. Pop the garlic out of its skin and spread on the bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat with olives and cheese.
If you grow your own garlic, you'll be able to make fresh garlic soup. This is a very rare treat as shop bought garlic has usually been dried and has too strong a flavor. For this soup, use the garlic as soon as you have pulled it from the ground. Do not hang it up to dry. Peel and slice the garlic (use at least one whole head per person), and sauté in butter until soft. Do not let the garlic color. Add half vegetable or chicken stock and half milk to the soft garlic and bring to the boil. Add a sliced, peeled potato if you want a bit more substance to your soup. Simmer until the garlic has positively melted into the soup. Blend until smooth and taste. The soup should be pale and delicate and just scented with garlic. Season with salt and white pepper as required. Ladle into bowls, and sprinkle with finely chopped garlic chives.
This takes me right back to my childhood, when a friend's mum made elderberry soup every autumn. As well as great taste and an outstanding color, it boasted ‘floats and swans' (rusks and meringue) as decoration.
To make elderberry soup, pick a few large seed heads and rinse them well under running water. Tie the seed heads in muslin (if you don't like sieving) or just submerge the seed heads in sugar water (one liter of water with 100g caster sugar).
Bring to the boil and simmer until the berries have burst, the juice has been released and the pot looks to be full of ink. Remove the seed heads and strain the liquid through a fine sieve to remove stalks, pips and grit etc. Return the liquid to a clean pan and bring back to the boil. Reduce by about a third, and then add the juice from one lemon and sugar to taste.
Blend a tablespoon of corn flour in two tablespoons of water, and then stir this into the soup. Turn the heat down and keep stirring until the soup thickens. Taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if required. Serve with rusks and stiffly whipped sweetened egg white floating on top, or with fruit bread or brioche.
Elderberries have a shortish season (the birds usually get there first), but I'll try to make something with them each year. It could be soup, or I'll add the berries to jams or fruit pies. Alternatively, dry the berries for use in teas and as a cough treatment.
Herb butters are a useful freezer standby. They add highlights to grilled meats, zing to steamed vegetables, interest to pre-dinner nibbles and unexpected depths to stews and casseroles.
And to top it all, they are very quick and simple to make. Just finely chop your herbs and add to room temperature butter. Mix vigorously to distribute the herbs evenly through the butter. Roll the butter in foil or freezer-proof food wrap, shaping it into a neat cylinder as you go. Label and pop into the freezer. When needed unwrap and slice, then return the rest to the freezer.
Herb butter with garlic, chili and fresh coriander (cilantro) or parsley is great with char grilled beef or chicken, as is lemon and thyme butter (with or without added garlic).
Ground cumin, fresh coriander and chili butter is lovely on couscous. You could also stir in some ground turmeric for an eye-catching color.
Oregano butter (use lots of fresh oregano) is great on good quality pasta. All you need with it is some Parmesan and a glass of wine. Or try it with baked onions.
Garlic and orange butter (squeeze two oranges and reduce the juice until syrupy, add finely chopped wild garlic or two crushed cloves and stir into butter) is heavenly with freshly picked purple sprouting broccoli.
As a child I hated sage. We only ever used the dried leaves and teamed them with pork knuckles, sausages and pot roasts. To my mind, the strong flavor of the dried sage overpowered every dish it was added to and until recently I avoided cooking with it like the plague.
I did grow several sage plants in my garden, but only for cold treatments and the lovely flowers, who attract bees and, when dried, make the most wonderful purple tea!
But recently, while experimenting with herb oils, I found that fresh sage bears no resemblance to dried. Fresh sage leaves infused in good olive oil made a flavorful condiment. I used it to roast butternut squash and the results were impressive.
Even better is a marriage between unsalted butter and sage. Melt a knob of unsalted butter and add several finely chopped sage leaves. Stir them around until they wilt and start to crisp round the edges, then pour this sage butter sauce over pumpkin ravioli or fresh, home-made egg pasta. Very simple, but very impressive.
My favorite herb to use with potatoes is rosemary, but if you want to serve a tasty but unusual accompaniment with pork chops, try this one: Scrub 1 large potato per person and slice into an even number of slices. Sandwich two potato slices together with 1-2 whole fresh sage leaves. Brush the ‘potato sandwiches' with butter and season with salt and pepper. Pop under the grill and broil until they are nicely golden and puffed up. Turn over, paint with more butter, season and return to the grill to cook the other side. Serve alongside your roast and vegetables or as an unusual nibble with beer or wine.
Herbs lend themselves very well to flavoring mayonnaise. Garlic mayonnaise (a crushed clove of garlic stirred into home-made or shop-bought mayonnaise) is already common. Now experiment with basil (good with grilled fish), chili (with fresh herb bread or grilled chicken), parsley, coriander, chervil and tarragon (exceptionally good with grilled steak). Thyme and grated lemon rind added to a portion of mayonnaise make a fine accompaniment to roast lamb.
Use homemade rosemary and chili oil to make your own mayonnaise. This one's great with new potatoes.
Speculatius is a spicy biscuit, usually found in Germany around Christmas time. Flavored with ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mace and cardamom, it adds welcome warmth during the cold months without being too sweet. Traditionally, special rolling pins with imprints of pictures on them were used to make the biscuits. I haven't yet been able to find one of these, but can happily eat the biscuits all year round.
There are many recipes for Speculatius, with the variation usually in the spice mix. Experiment until you find a mixture that's right for you. Below is the basic one my grandmother gave me.
Sift 400 g plain flour with 50 g ground almonds. Add one teaspoon ground cinnamon, one teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon cardamom, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves and ¼ teaspoon mace. (Alternatively, use one teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground ginger and Christmas spice or mixed spice). Cream 150g unsalted butter with 300g unrefined caster sugar. Beat in one whole egg and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Now mix in the flour and spices. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a firm dough. Rest dough in the fridge for 30 minutes, then roll out thinly. Cut freehand shapes or use a cookie cutter. Place biscuits on baking sheet and bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes.
Coriander (cilantro) leaf has a very distinctive, fresh lemony flavor. Blitzed with garlic, lemon juice, salt and chili it makes a great accompaniment to grilled meat. Fresh chopped coriander is essential in couscous. It also complements steamed carrots and makes a vibrant herb sauce.
The taste of coriander seed is warmer, deeper, more orange than lemon. Roasting the spice before grinding it in a pestle and mortar enhances its flavor. Coriander seed is an essential component in curry powder, but also marries well with lemon and olive oil.
For a tasty quick lunch, clean some baby leeks and slice lengthways. Place in an ovenproof dish. Toast two tablespoons of coriander seed and lightly grind them in a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle over the leeks along with sea salt and black pepper. Squeeze two lemons and add the juice to the leeks. Pour over a similar amount of olive oil and a similar amount of hot water. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a medium oven until the leeks are tender, 20-30 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes. Taste the cooking liquor and adjust the seasoning. Dribble a little more olive oil over and sprinkle with fresh chopped coriander leaves. Serve with fresh bread to mop up the sauce.
Marjoram is an herb with multiple culinary and medicinal uses. In Germany, the dried herb is used in sausages, stews and casseroles, while in the Mediterranean marjoram is often used fresh and sometimes even given center stage.
This recipe is from Ursula Ferrigno's excellent cookbook “Truly Italian” and while she mentions that marjoram is good for relieving stress and aiding restful sleep, I tried it out because I like the taste of fresh marjoram. But the relaxing quality of marjoram is true enough. So try this when you are feeling a bit frazzled and see…
For four, melt 85g of butter in a small pan, add 1 tablespoon of chopped pine kernels and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh marjoram and heat for 1 minute before seasoning well. Meanwhile cook 275g of farfalle (pasta bows) in salted water until al dente. Drain and mix with the marjoram and butter sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.
This soup is warming when you're cold, calming when you're feeling stressed out and wonderfully frugal when you're trying to combat a period of excess. It's also very quick and easy to make:
You will need a large bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil, 1 red or green chili, 1 piece of ginger (2.5 cm will do), 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, chicken or vegetable stock.
Warm the olive oil in a cooking pot and add the chopped garlic, finely chopped chili (take out the seeds if you don't like it too hot), finely sliced ginger and chopped parsley stalks. Turn over a low heat to soften, then add the stock and bring to the boil. When the fragrance of the soup fills your kitchen, take the pot off the stove and add the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
If you want something a little more substantial , add some Chinese noodles for the last few minutes of cooking. Add the parsley and serve when the noodles are done.
The most common culinary herb, Parsley can add freshness and zing to any dish. It is often used only sparingly as a garnish, but it can easily take centre stage as it does in the cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Create a fragrant, zingy dip by blending a slice of bread (briefly soaked and squeezed dry) with 1-2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, a tablespoon of lemon juice and as much fresh parsley as you can find (at least two hands full). With the blender still running, slowly trickle in olive oil until a good dipping consistency is reached. Serve with toasted pita bread, tomatoes and cucumber sticks.
For a super-quick after-work dinner, mix a tin of chick peas (garbanzos) with thinly sliced red onion, quartered cherry tomatoes, 1-2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and a large bunch of parsley. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and capers in a dressing and pour over the salad. Top with grilled halloumi cheese and serve with extra bread to mop up the juices.