Would our food taste good if we didn’t add herbs to it? Is there anything better than flavouring our food with fresh herbs? Here we are going to look at the various herbs which are popular in recipes, especially in Mediterranean food.
Let’s start with the three most common herbs that we use in our kitchens: parsley, basil and oregano which are the ones which most of us tend to grow at home.
Parsley is so popular and easy to grow that when you go to buy your vegetables, the greengrocer throws a bunch into your bag for free. We use parsley in various recipes like beef, fish, chicken, pasta and many many others and we also use it to decorate and to give the plate some colour before serving.
When we mention basil we remember summer meals when this herb is at its best and its aroma alone makes your mouth water! Basil is very common in Italian meals such as pizza and pasta since it goes very well with ingredients like tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil; we should also note that the base of pesto sauce is basil.
Oregano is another herb which grows easily in the Mediterranean climate and in our gardens and pots at home, and it is a wild herb in Italy and Greece. We add it to sauces, meta, rice, eggs and salad, amongst other things.
When cooking chicken, the most common herb is rosemary. We also use it with lamb, different types of bread such as focaccia and with vegetables, especially cauliflower. Its flavour as well as its scent are pretty strong so it’s better to use it in moderation when we add it to our food.
Mint is also used in Mediterranean recipes. It is very popular with lamb and we Maltese like to add it to fish dishes, especially fish soup (aljotta). It is one of the most versatile herbs which can also be used in desserts and sweets, especially when combined with lemon, as well as in drinks and tea.
Marjoram, with its fresh citrus flavour is also a favourite with the Maltese and we add it to fish dishes and it also goes very well with mushrooms, marrows, tomatoes, salads, soups and different meats.
Sage has a very pleasant scent and is easily recognisable from its light green, velvety leaves. It is a native Mediterranean herb too, especially in the Northern coasts. Italians like to add it to veal, whereas the French prefer to use it with pork, sausages and preserved meats.
Thyme is one of the most sought-out herbs and is used all over Europe and not only in the Mediterranean. It is used in various meat recipes and also with duck. Thyme’s flavour complements that of other herbs such as rosemary, sage and oregano and it is common to find them in the same recipe.
We use dill in salads, soup, sauces and fish. Dill, with its pointy leaves that look like needles, is used in north Europe and Asia too and can be added to dairy products. Apart from the fresh green part you can use its seeds too – dill seed.
With these herbs or a couple of them you can make a bouquet garni – a bundle of herbs tied together with a thread or string to add to stock, soup etc. and which is removed before the food is served.
For these herbs to remain fresh longer you can store them in the fridge in different ways. Place those with a long stem in a glass of water and cover them in a plastic bag before you place them in the fridge. Herbs with short stems or made up of only leaves can be wrapped in damp kitchen paper towel, placed in a plastic bag and stored in a fridge drawer.
These herbs are also available dried, but fresh is always tastier and better.
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