There are no hard and fast rules for cooking with herbs: experimenting is always fun and the results can be a pleasant surprise. They can be used fresh from the garden - or most herbs can be dried successfully for use during the winter.
Use orange thyme in slow-cooked pork with cider and apple dishes, perfect for cold winter days. Add fresh-tasting lemon thyme to chicken dishes or use it in a marinade for barbecue chicken. Thyme is also good in herbal teas to help alleviate the common cold. Try our summer time lemon thyme lemonade recipe.
Myrtle leaves have a similar flavour to allspice and the black berries can be used to give a Middle Eastern flavour to lamb dishes. The leaves can also be added to pork dishes - in Sicily, you can buy liquor made from myrtle called Mirto.
There are many different types of mint and each has its own flavour. Ginger mint is a soft caramel-tasting mint that is excellent in Pimms. Black peppermint is a strong refreshing mint, good after a heavy meal as it is a digestive and cleanses the palette; the oil is used in after-dinner mints for this reason. Fresh tasting Moroccan mint is perfect for tea and along with both spearmint and apple mint is a good all-rounder for mint sauce, potatoes and mojitos. Try our black peppermint chocolate truffles recipe.
Winter savory is a strong spicy herb traditionally used to flavour bean dishes and is reported to be good for flatulence. It is a very good component to add to meat marinades and can be used to jazz up many dishes, and as an evergreen it can be used fresh all year round. Try our smoked haddock and winter savory lasagne.
Also holding the name Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese coriander should not be confused with ordinary coriander which has an entirely different flavour. Vietnamese coriander is a hot herb but loses its heat with cooking. The stalks are often added during cooking and then removed, whilst the leaves are added to dishes just before serving. It is used in South East Asian cooking and is known locally by different names. In Malaysia, for example, it is called daun kesum and is used in Nyonya and Laksa dishes.
Sage is a strong flavour and used primarily with pork in this country in sage and onion stuffing. Don’t limit this lovely herb to this dish alone as in Italy it is used extensively with gnocchi, pasta and cheeses. Saltimbocca, pork or veal escalopes topped with Parma ham and a sage leaf, then cooked in Madeira wine is gorgeous. It goes well with duck and oily fish such as anchovies. The leaves can be dipped in batter and deep-fried.
Visit our herb journal for recipes using sage.
Dill and fennel
These herbs are often confused because of their similarity, though the flavours are very different. Fennel is a hardy perennial and had a sweetish aniseed flavour, whereas dill is not a very hardy annual and tastes like…well dill. In Scandinavia, dill is very popular where it is used with fish, potatoes and vegetables, a traditional dish being Gravlax. In central and Eastern Europe it is popular in pickling. It is good for expelling wind, hence why the seeds were used to make gripe water for babies. Fennel is also used with fish like sardines, fresh in salads and vegetables.
Visit our herb journal for recipes using Dill.
Sorrel has a sharp citrus flavour that is perfect for adding a bit of bite to salads. It can also be used to flavour fish, meat or a fresh spring sauce and can be used as a soup. It is always one of the first herbs to sprout.
Visit our herb journal for recipes using sorrel.