Storage and Uses

 

An invaluable addition to the kitchen, fresh herbs and aromatic spices give dishes distinctive taste and ethnic personality. These charts help pair flavourings with the foods they best enhance.

STORING HERBS

Because they do not keep well, fresh herbs are best used straight after picking. The following methods of storage will help keep them fresh and prolong their life, essential techniques in the summer months if you have a herb garden.

• For short storage of 1-2 days, pack freshly picked herbs in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Delicate varieties, such as basil, benefit from being wrapped in slightly damp paper towels before they are placed in bags.

• To dry herbs, hang them up by their stalks in a dry, well-ventilated room. This position concentrates the flavour in the leaves. Once dried, store herbs in airtight containers.

• Fresh herbs can be frozen with excellent results. For best flavour, use young herbs picked before the flowering stage. Gather them in the early morning when the dew has dried and the leaves are at their most aromatic. Strip off the leaves and chop them finely (bay, rosemary, sage and thyme should not be chopped, but snipped into small sprigs). Place chopped herbs in ice-cube trays, cover with iced water and freeze. When solid, pack herb ice cubes in freezer bags, ready to drop into liquids straight from the freezer. Sprigs of herbs should be frozen as they are, in airtight containers.

HERBS AND THEIR USES

HERB

FLAVOUR

USE WITH

BASIL

Sweet, warm, softly spicy, aromatic

White fish, veal, chicken, seafood, salad greens, eggs, tomatoes, pesto and other pasta sauces

BAY

Aromatic, pungent

Soups, stocks, stews, casseroles, sauces (especially béchamel)

CHERVIL

Delicate, slightly anise-like

Fish, chicken, omelettes, sauces

CHIVES

Mild, oniony

Fish, eggs, cheese, salads, creamy soups, potatoes

CORIANDER

Intensely aromatic, spicy

Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes, carrots, salads, yogurt

CURRY LEAVES

Spicy "curry" flavour

Indian curries, casseroles, soups, seafood, stuffing's

DILL

Delicate, anise-like

Salmon, soused herring, veal, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, mayonnaise, soured cream, soft fresh cheeses

FENNEL

Anise-like

Fish soups, pork, seafood, eggs

MARJORAM/ OREGANO

Sweet, aromatic, pungent

Grilled meats, chicken, tomato sauces, eggs, cheese, flavoured oils and marinades

MINT

Strong, sweet, clean

Cucumber, potatoes, peas, cheese, melon, chilled soups, lamb, yogurt

PARSLEY

Fresh, slightly spicy

Eggs, fish, soups, poultry, meat

ROSEMARY

Pungent, oily, aromatic

Lamb, chicken, pork, bread, potatoes

SAGE

Aromatic, slightly bitter

Pork, veal, duck, goose, turkey, pulses, eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, risotto, pasta

SUMMER SAVORY

Pungent, lemony

Pulses, broad and French beans, eggs, cheese, grilled meats, tomato sauce

TARRAGON

Aromatic, anise-like, cooling

Chicken, eggs, tomatoes, béarnaise

THYME

Intensely aromatic

Poultry and meat roasts and casseroles, roast potatoes

SPICES AND THEIR USES

SPICE

FLAVOUR

FORM

USE WITH

ALLSPICE

Hints of clove and cinnamon

Whole berries or ground

Caribbean meat stews, game, lamb, onions, cabbage, spiced vinegar, poached fruits, cakes, breads, and pies

CARAWAY

Aromatic, strong hints of fennel

Whole seeds or ground

Meat stews, sausages, cabbage, pork, sauerkraut, breads, cheese, rich fruit cakes

CARDAMOM

Pungent, lemony

Pods, loose seeds or ground

Indian and Middle Eastern curries, stews, pickling brines, pastries, cakes, fruit dishes, quick breads

CAYENNE/ CHILLI POWDER

Spicy, very hot

Ground

Indian, Mexican, Cajun, Caribbean and Creole dishes, seafood, béarnaise sauce

CINNAMON

Sweet, warm aromatic

Sticks or ground

Middle-Eastern dishes, curries, fruit desserts, cakes and breads, milk and rice puddings, chocolate desserts

CLOVES

Sweet, strong

Whole buds or ground

Ham and pork, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spiced cakes, apples and other fruits, stocks

CORIANDER

Fragrant, lemony

Whole berries or ground

Indian and Oriental dishes, meat, chicken, pickled fish, mushrooms, breads, cakes, pastries and custards

CUMIN

Pungent, warm, earthy

Whole seeds or ground

Indian and Mexican dishes, pork, chicken, lamb, cheese, bean soups, rice pilafs

FENNEL SEED

Sweet, licquorice flavoured

Whole seeds or ground

Mediterranean fish soups and stews, grilled fish

GINGER

Pungent, spicy

Fresh root or ground

Oriental and Indian dishes, chicken, vegetables, particularly pumpkin and carrots, fruits such as melon and rhubarb, cakes and biscuits

JUNIPER

Pungent, clean, pine-scented

Berries

Sausage, pork and game dishes, pâtés and terrines, particularly venison, cabbage, stuffing's

MACE

Sweet, fragrant

Whole blades or ground

Stuffed pastas, meat and béchamel sauces, spinach and potato gratins, cakes and biscuits, milk puddings and custards, mulled wine

MUSTARD

Pungent, hot

Whole seeds or ground

Beef and pork, chicken, rabbit, vegetables, pickles and relishes, sauces and dressings

NUTMEG

Sweet, fragrant

Whole or ground

Stuffed pastas, meat and béchamel sauces, spinach and potato gratins, cakes and biscuits, milk puddings and custards, mulled wine

PAPRIKA

Pungent, sweet or hot

Ground

Meat and poultry, especially Eastern European dishes, eggs, vegetables, cream cheese

PEPPER

Pungent, mild or hot

Berries (peppercorns) or ground

Almost every savoury dish and a few sweet ones, such as strawberries and sorbets

POPPY SEEDS

Nutty, sweet

Whole and ground

Breads, cakes, pastries, salads, coleslaws, egg noodles, sauces for meat and fish

STAR ANISE

Warm, aromatic, spicy-sweet

Whole, broken, seeds and ground

Oriental-style dishes, especially Chinese, pork, duck and chicken, fish and shellfish dishes, marinades

TURMERIC

Warm, mild aroma

Whole and ground

Adds subtle flavouring and a distinctive yellow colour, used in curry powders, rice, pulse dishes and chutneys