Cooking with Herbs

When Christine and Iaan moved into their new home, the first outdoors project that they tackled, was to start a herb garden. It was Christine’s first gardening experience and she was really excited to get her hands in the soil, and with a busy lifestyle she was also quite surprised at how easy it is to grow salad leaves and herbs. Christine loves going outside to pick some fresh herbs, carefully wash them and use them for cooking. Most of the salads she serves are made from the produce of this small herb garden. Helping my daughter to establish a herb garden reminded me how satisfying and simple it is to grow these wonderful plants. So I would like to encourage you, even if you have no gardening experience, to grow your own herbs. You do not need a big garden, a windowsill or herb box is a easy solution if you have limited space. You won’t believe the difference a sprinkling of herbs will make to your cooking. Adding fresh herbs is a wonderful way to add flavour, texture and colour to your dishes.
In the next few weeks I am going to give you a few guidelines on how to use herbs, and show you how wonderfully versatile they are. But let’s start with the basics, the “must-have” herbs. For me the following are the indispensable herbs you should have in your garden: basil, flat-leaf parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, chervil, rocket and chives. These are the ones that I love to use, and if you have them in your herb garden, herb box or windowsill, you’re off to a good start.

Herbs can be divided in two broad groups, soft herbs and robust herbs, which will determine how they will be cooked.

Soft Herbs


Basil, chervil, chives, cilantro (coriander) and dill should not be cooked as they lose their flavour. Add raw chopped leaves at the end of the cooking process.

Robust Herbs


Bay leaf, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme can be added at the beginning of the cooking process to infuse the food and are often times removed before serving the dish.
If you’re a novice cook, and feel a little overwhelmed by all the flavours, here’s a few classic combinations of herbs and ingredients.

Beef


Bay leaf, garlic, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme, horseradish

Lamb


Bay leaf,  garlic, mint , rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano

Pork


Fennel, sage, oregano

Veal


Bay leaf, marjoram, oregano

Chicken


Marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, basil

Fish


Dill, marjoram, flat- leaf parsley, tarragon, garlic, fennel, chives, chervil

Pasta


Basil, parsley, bay leaf,  garlic, oregano

Carrots


Marjoram, rosemary, sage

Corn


Parsley & cilantro (coriander)

Green Beans


Dill, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme

Tomatoes


Basil, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley

Peas


Mint, marjoram, parsley, sage

Potatoes


Rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley, sage