Herbs galore – now what to do with them?!

Several weeks ago I planted some very small herb plants, and the combination of April showers and quite a bit of sunshine with mild to warm weather since then has led to them exploding. Most of them have now reached the stage where they can be used liberally in cooking, and it’s fantastically rewarding, I find, to have all these fresh flavours so readily available throughout the summer.

I’m determined to make the very best of what’s out there this year, and for that reason I’d like to use this post to ask about your tried and tested favourite recipes or tips for cooking with fresh herbs. Yes, I do have recipe books and (obviously) an internet connection, but over the years it’s been almost always the case that my true favourite recipes have come as a personal recommendation from friends, family or acquaintances. 😉

The picture shows just what’s outside the french windows in the living room – at the top there’s coriander (l), oregano and tarragon (r), in the hanging pots there’s an aubretia (just for decoration – not planning on eating it!) and a nasturtium (now with a stonking orange flower), then at the bottom there’s a jungle of (l-r) rosemary, sage, Moroccan mint, thyme, lemon thyme and lavender. Upstairs on the roof terrace outside the landing window there’s more lavender, parsley, lemongrass, strawberry mint, Thai basil and some (still very small, grown by M from seed) chilli plants.

The herbs I seem to be harvesting most of at the moment are coriander (curries and Mexican food), thyme (anything Mediterranean), tarragon (great in salad dressing and with fish) and that old stalwart, parsley. There are a couple of others, though, for which I’d be particularly grateful for culinary tips…

Sage advice, anyone?

I adore sage and use it relatively frequently with pork, and it also combines well with olive oil, garlic and parmesan to make a simple pasta sauce or (in greater concentration) pesto. I also love sage tea, though I have a very big pack of dried sage bought during the winter that I’m ploughing through for that purpose. The “problem” this year is that the sage plant has already grown to be absolutely mahoosive, with the biggest leaves I’ve ever seen on such a plant. And for that reason I’d like to extend my repertoire of dishes that call for it.

What shall I do with all this (lemon) thyme on my hands?

M is a big fan of lemon thyme, and I have to say that whatever he cooks with it does indeed taste very good. However, my preference is clearly for the more ordinary variety – if I want something to taste lemony, then I’ll put some lemon juice or zest in it. However, maybe someone out there knows of a dish (or a drink or other use – it doesn’t have to be “food” per se) where lemon thyme works really well and has a definite advantage over its more down-to-earth relative.

Anyone got recipes that are worth a mint?

This is where my German friends are expected to say “But you eat mint sauce with everything, don’t you?” and I roll my eyes skywards and grimace. Asterix has a lot to answer for! In actual fact, I really went off mint at some point after childhood, and it’s only now that I’m really appreciating it. Yes, it IS good with lamb, and I use it a lot in Indian cooking (various curry sauces and raita) and Middle Eastern / North African dishes (e.g. tabboulé). However, that still seems a bit of a narrow palette and I’d be glad if I could extend it somewhat. Tea made out of fresh mint is also delicious – I sometimes also mix it with fresh root ginger for a really zingy drink – but I’m looking for more strictly food-based ideas in this case.

Why are there no bad puns on “oregano”?

Oregano seems to be another of those staples everyone has in their herb and spice rack, but I can’t claim ever to have done anything very memorable with it. I tend to use it mostly in combination with other herbs, sometimes in salads or with Italian and Greek food. It really doesn’t have a strong profile with me, though.

~~~

I’d be really delighted to receive some tips and tricks for the herbs I’m a bit stuck on, and indeed on any of the others mentioned. And now I’m off to cook a curry!

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Herbs galore – now what to do with them?!

  1. That was food for thought and has put me firmly in my place. Most of my plants are struggling, the chillies have not even put in an appearance. The Coriander is fine though, I crush seeds and mix with lemon, pomegranate seeds and hummus. The Fennel is a star, lots of seeds on feta with oil on yesterday’s toasted baguette. I doubt we will fill the huge wooden apothecary’s fennel tub – (label – Fruct Foeniculi) that we were given! at a Flohmarkt in Freiburg. Parsley grows for me – I was told that this is because it is the devil’s herb! – even got it to grow in seaweed amongst rocks on beach. Sage, well I didn’t know you could eat it. We hang it to dry and then burn a little and enjoy the smoke reminiscing of carefree days of retsina and greek ciggies, even better than driving past a woodfire with car window open.
    Thank you for interesting blog

  2. Debby

    You could always freeze some of the herbs for use in winter (better than dried…)
    I quite like mint in a tomato salad combined either with mozarella or tomatoes, onions and fennel…
    And adding any chopped herbs to scrambled egg should make that extra special (though that will probably need experimenting – I can’t imagine minty scrambled egg).
    My mouth is now watering and that reminds me that our plants need watering, too…..

  3. Jools Cyprien

    Hi Bexxi

    Sounds like you have your hands full with herbs, did I email you my nam Tok salad? If not will do again uses plenty of mint, as for parsley how about a nice punchy chimichurri?

    For the Thai Basil you could fry some of it and serve it with Thai fish cakes or great in a Thai chilli sauce served over crispy whole fish.

    Will email you recipes of you need?

    If I think of anything else will let you know

    Jools

  4. Hi Rebecca

    As promised I will email you shortly a great barbcued forerib of beef recipe, which 9for me) is completely transformed by a “topping” of (fresh) oregano, garlic & dried chilli.

    I only ever use dried oregano on greek salad (cucumber, tomato, olives, peppers, feta), it just seems to work. otherwise I find the dried variety a bit musty in flavour and aroma.

    Thyme – I can never get enough as I mentioned on twitter, lashings added to pizzas right after they come out of the oven, lemon thyme ditto.

    Today I made the simplest lunch dish which used up excess lemon thyme – take a block of good feta cheese, grind some black pepper over, some olive oil, then sprinkle lemon thyme liberally on top, into the oven for 20 mins at 180, and then eat with crusty bread and a salad – it’s not like feta as we know it, and the lemon thyme plays an important role.

    Lastly (for now…) I often have (or get given) surplus basil, and it when I’m tired of it in salads, it’s made into pesto every time.

    Off the subject of herbs I know, but we live close to a watercress stream here and we often get bundles of fresh watercress. Again, most of that gets made into watercress pesto, quite delicious.

    Bye for now! Brian

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