5 Ways with Herbs

Last week we kicked off this series by discussing herb gardens and how to start them. This week we start cooking. In spring and summer, my herb garden yields the most beautiful fresh herbs and in an established herb garden like mine, there’s often too much for the use of just one household. Or when I buy fresh herbs, I often have quite a bit left over. I rarely use the whole punnet all in one go, which means I have to come up with ways to use or preserve them. If this sounds familiar, then we have some quick and easy ways to use leftover herbs.
But these recipes are not an afterthought, in fact a bright green pesto or salsa verde can be the star on the plate. These short recipes are great to add that extra layer of flavour, colour and elegance to your cooking.

Bouquet Garni


Bouquet Garni is a fancy word for a bundle of herbs used to flavour “wet” dishes such as soup and  stews. To make a bouquet garni, simply tie a bay leaf, fresh thyme and parsley with some kitchen string, or put the bundle in a muslin bag. Remember to take  it out before serving. Keep the piece of kitchen string quite long and tie it to the handle of the saucepan to easily remove the herbs. 

Gremolata


This  Italian salsa is traditionally sprinkled over cooked dishes such as Osso Bucco, but can add loads of flavour to salmon and even chicken. Simply combine 1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley,1 finely chopped garlic clove and the grated zest of 1 large lemon. Mix and sprinkle over the dish before serving.

Herb Oils


Herb oils are great to drizzle over poached chicken, fish, salads,potatoes or even as the base for crispy bruchetta breads. You can use almost any herb to flavour oil. Basil, chives, parsley and tarragon, thyme, oregano and marjoram can all be used for oils (to see which herb complements which dish, have a look at last week’s article). Place a cup of blanched herbs, 200 ml grape seed oil, 50 ml olive oil, some lemon zest and freshly milled black pepper, in a blender and blitz to combine. You can also use a pestle and mortar. Strain through a sieve. Add the oil just before serving. If you have any left over, freeze them in ice trays. Herb butters can be melted over grilled chicken, lamb, fish and even corn. Blitz together 250 g of soft butter, a cup of soft herbs, with 1 finely chopped garlic clove and some grated lemon zest and black pepper. Set in an ice tray or scoop onto cling film and roll around the butter to form a sausage shape, then twist the ends to seal.

Salsa Verde


This cold, rustic sauce is traditionally served with grilled fish, meat or pasta and is so easy to make. Chop together ½ cup flat leaf parsley, ½ cup basil leaves, ½ cup mint, ¼ cup chervil, 1/8 cup  tarragon and ¼ cup  chives. Add 1 chopped spring onion, 1 tbsp small capers and 1 tsp whole grain mustard. Mix and then add the zest and juice of a lemon and olive oil. Cover and leave the salsa to develop some flavour for at least 30 min. Stir just before serving.

Basil Pesto (Pictured Above)


Place the 1 bunch of fresh basil leaves, 3 cloves of blanched garlic and 50 g almonds (with the skins removed) in a blender. Add 20 g grated Parmesan. Finally add the 125 ml olive oil while the motor of the blender is running. Season with salt and pepper  Cooks note : I prefer to use almonds to pine nuts as I prefer  the taste and I always have fresh almonds in the kitchen.