The aromatic awesomeness of herbs makes a great addition to the atmosphere of a garden. And, scrumptiously, adds depth to the flavours of any cooking. I can’t express how much my mind gets blown every time a quick addition of herbs intensifies the explosion of the deliciousness of a meal. Just have a look at what we are about to see how you can use herbs to your advantage in many aspects of your world! So let’s quickly run through a few tips on how to best work with herbs in the kitchen.
A flourishing verandah pot can mean excess herbs and spices! Here is thyme, chilli and mint ready for bulk cooking and storing.
Dry Versus Fresh Herbs
Good to have a stock of both. The flavours are quite spectacularly different and can be handy for different meals. I opt for as many fresh herbs as possible that I would regularly use (e.g. basil, parsley, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, mint, lemongrass…) and others on the cupboard shelf (tarragon, herb mix of dried oregano, marjoram, rosemary…). Some herbs have a stronger flavour when dried (for example oregano) while other, more delicate leaves are spectacular fresh (such as basil or coriander)
Store bought dried herbs arranged in no particular order (much to the distress of my mother) – though in easy reach in the kitchen. The most commonly used in our place includes Mixed Spice (for muffins, cakes etc.) and Tarragon (for meat).
Bulk Cooking With Herbs
Many recipes are easy to follow and whip up in bulk batches of, for example, double or triple the quantity. Like we did with a chicken vegetable soup recipe. Remember to add the number of herbs to suit your palate – you may decide to increase the number of herbs as you add more ingredients, or be happy with the flavour that one or one and a half batches would require. Up to you! I’m a fan of lots, and lots of herbs so often add a tad more than any recipe recommends – it always tastes fantastic to me and is often complimented on by guests.
Another example of bulk cooking chicken – this time with leek, peas, white wine and stock. Herbs added included dried tarragon and fresh lemon thyme. Great to store in portion size containers the freezer. Make sure they are covered with the cooking liquid, so the chicken doesn’t dry out. Alternatively, add cooked rice to the portion, so the chicken and rice are mixed.
Store surplus in the most common serving size of your household (e.g. for one person, four people 1, etc.) in freezable containers for a quick, delicious meal. It’s handy if they are also microwavable for easy defrosting but otherwise remove and place in the saucepan on the stove top also works. I find Tupperware and also take away containers (which I purchase bulk and reuse) are easy to stack and store. A handy tip is always to write the date made or frozen (usually for me this is the same!) and the contents in a permanent marker on the container. That way it’ll be easy to see what’s what when you’re searching for a quick meal.
Super fast healthy ‘take away’ – bulk savoury mince, and chicken broth stored in the freezer ready for a quick meal for adults or kids alike. I wash and reuse these containers as much as humanly possible.
Storing Surplus Fresh Herbs
- All of that mint, basil and other delicately leaved produce can be plucked and stored in the fridge – see Taste’s top tips on how to store specific herbs well.
- A dear family friend showed me that freshly washed herbs with delicate leaves can be chopped into small pieces and added to water in an ice cube tray (one teaspoon per section) for long-term storage in the freezer. This way you can quickly throw a cube into your cooking, and it will melt while providing some lovely fresh herb flavour.
- The Spruce has a great article on how to dry and store your herbs – check it out
Surplus herbs, such as basil, can make lovely, simple bouquets. Keep at arm’s reach for quick and easy access when cooking.
The Beauty Of An Old Recipe Book
My dad’s beautiful English friend, Jen, who he met back in his old London hippy days, introduced me to ‘The Cookery Year’ (The Reader’s Digest Assoc Ltd, London 1974). It was given to her as a wedding gift quite a few decades ago and still has loads of great info to reference.
The way they used to cook and the ingredients they used in recipes decades ago has changed quite dramatically in some ways (for example the use of dripping and lard), and yet some things particularly the type of meat, the spices and the herbs used, has remained the same. I could pour over all day long. I love older things and am actually in awe of any eras bygone – how great is it to hear all about life from those wiser and more experienced than I am, in a period, I’ll never experience.
We flicked through it one evening over (a few) gin and tonics. It was so very cosy in the book-lined nook of the living room. Always crammed with fabulous things of all lace craft, a museum of wildlife paintings and a china cabinet of the most spectacular finds, and a budgie. I can’t tell what warmed the cockles of my heart more – the lamp lighting, Jen’s liquid honey voice, the treasures filling my peripheral vision or the gin. It was pretty magical. I almost remembered her as a 20-something-year-old redhead. First few weeks of married life – mini skirt and apron in the kitchen – chatting to her sexy man as they set in for the eve. (Now vintage) Motorcycle out the front. Wow. Shortly after pouring over the pages we were at the computer scrolling through eBay to grab a copy of my own.
It still gives me goosebumps thinking of how many thousands of homes warmed with the cooking from this book. AND the spectacularly retro kitchens they were created in. What a gift to discover this book and hear from the same voice as one who used it about the same age I was at the time but in such a different ‘lifetime.’ And I still use this book today! Check out this recipe as an example of how to whip up your nostalgic meal and add some richness to your daily grind! You, or the family, or your friends may even start to note in the history books that this dish was the one you nailed perfectly over time!
Modern Cookbooks: To Name A Few…
- A list of Amazon’s Best Sellers in the Herb, Spice and Condiment category
- Barbecue Sauces Rubs and Marinades by Steven Raichlen
- The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The art of making your staples by Miyoko Schinner
- Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Forêt
- A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Lesley Tierra
- Real Food by Mike Seasonal whole food recipes for wellbeing by Mike McEnearney
- Herbarium by Caz Hildebrand – this one is of particular interest
- Edible Wild Plants & Herbs. A Compendium of Recipes and Remedies by Pamela Michael, Christabel King (Illustrator)
- I felt like I stumbled across a library dedicated to herbs when I explored 101 Cookbooks
- This site is a sight for the eyes with all of the delicious looking pictures – my mouth is watering, and I can’t wait to try some of their recipes
- Bon Appetit provides a delectable slideshow and heaps of dishes using herbs – also great ideas on a presentation by looking through the slideshow and images