Herbs have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties and some are highly prized for this such as Garlic and Basil. However, today we use herbs more on a day to day basis to enhance the flavours of our food or as ingredients in essential oils and perfumes. Here are ten of the most popular ways to use herbs.
Herbs steeped in oil can be used for salad dressings, marinades, stir frying etc. This can give a huge boost to the flavors of your dish. Olive oil is best used for this but sunflower oil can be used. Add one or more of your favorite herbs to the oil and leave to steep for about a month. Strain the oil then bottle it. Basil is well suited to this and is a favorite ingredient in Italian cooking. Rosemary, fennel and garlic also make excellent herb oils.
This is a little parcel of herbs made up to put in stock, stews or casseroles and should be removed before serving the dish. To make, gather a bunch of several sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaf and tie with fine thread or string. Other herbs can be added to your preference. Place in with the other ingredients and remove at the end of cooking time. If using dried herbs, these need to be placed in a muslin bag and tied.
This is a good way to add flavor to your food at anytime as it can be made and stored in the fridge to use when wanted. Herb butter is simply butter in which finely chopped herbs have been mixed. For this herbs with strong flavors should be used such as garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme or sage. Parsley although a mild herb, makes an excellent herb butter to accompany a fish dish. Mix about a tablespoon of herbs to about 4oz of softened butter, beat until they are evenly mixed. This can then be put into a mould or shaped into a roll between greaseproof paper. It should then be put into the refrigerator until firm. It can then be either sliced from the roll or served straight from the mould. A variation of this would be to use cream cheese instead of butter. This makes an excellent spread for sandwiches.
Herb sachets can make wonderful presents to put into drawers and cupboards to make clothes smell fresh and clean. One of the most commonly used herb sachets is a Lavender sachet. Lavender is well known for it's relaxing and sleep inducing properties. One tucked under the pillow at night it will aid sleep.
There are many well known commercial brands of herbal teas on the market such as chamomile which is commonly used for relaxation. But it is very simple to make your own herbal tea. A drink made by steeping the leaves of herbs as well as the flowers or fruits in hot water is known as a tisane. Mint and Chamomile are the top two favorite herbs for this. To make use fresh or frozen herbs rather than dried and pour boiling water over the leaves and allow to stand for 5-15 minutes. For most herbal drinks 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs to one cup of water is sufficient.
As like herb oil this is very simple to make but can make all the difference to the flavor of your cooking. One or more herbs can be used at a time. First slightly crush your herbs and place in a jar. Pour over 500ml of tepid white wine vinegar. Cover tightly and place in a warm place for 2-3 weeks giving it the occasional shake. Strain the vinegar and then bottle. Include a sprig or sprigs of your chosen herb. Suitable herbs for herb vinegar include: dill, rosemary, bay, basil, mint and time.
This has to be one of the most common uses of Basil in cooking. It is very versatile and easy to make. Pesto is an Italian sauce which is used with steak, poultry, pizza and most importantly with pasta. It is a blend of Basil and Garlic with parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil all blended together. It can be used on it's own drizzled over dishes such as mozzarella and Parma ham, for dipping bread or used as an ingredient in pasta dishes etc.
This is a mixture of dried flowers, leaves or herbs that remain fragrant for a long period of time and used as a room fragrance. Often flower petals such as rose are used because of their wonderful scent. However many herbs can be used to make your own pot-pourri such as Lavender which is a very popular herb to have as a room fragrance. If using fresh Lavender, it can be dried first in a warm place such as an airing cupboard for a week or two. It can then be placed in a bowl to release it's scent.
Flowers from herbs can be used to both decorate and add flavor to salads and other cold dishes. These included the purple flowers from chives, the attractive orange nasturtium flowers, basil, thyme and pot marigold.
This is a mixture of very finely chopped herbs with a delicate flavor. Three or more herbs are required for this mixture such as; parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon. This mixture is used fresh or dried and is mainly used as an ingredient to egg dishes.
As can be seen herbs are incredibly versatile and provide a vital ingredient to cooking as well as household uses.