By Foodism Team
Herbs To Pep-up Bland Food
Bringing you the perfect blend of healthy and delicious
Charlemagne was bang on when he said “Herbs are the friends of the physician and the pride of cooks”
Well the word ‘herb’ per se refers to a vast range of plants. Albeit culinary herbs are from the leafy green part of plants, and generally used to season and spice up our bland everyday meals. These can be used in both their fresh or dry mode
The kitchens of home chefs practically survive on herbs besides adding a touch of homeliness and good health they also ring in fragrance, colour and flavour to their culinary endeavours be it a dish or a drink, whether sweet or savoury, sans adding fat, salt or sugars.
Even prior to the pandemic herbs were slowly and gradually coming to the fore especially when it came to ‘healthy’ cooking. But COVID-19 has escalated their significance as some herbs boast of immunity-boosting powers.
Practically all of us are more or less familiar with herbs albeit our degrees of familiarity may vary! Since time immemorial, herbs have been used not only in the fields of culinary and medical science but also in spiritual endeavours.
But some of the untutored amongst us may still find it a challenge to identify and distinguish one herb from another at the local grocery and also the benefits and usage of each. Relax! The Foodism Team brings you the benefits of herbs along with a closer look at herb combinations, cues for cooking with herbs and some tempting food-herb combos …
Benefits of herbs
Research claims that consuming herbs may help prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes; besides reducing blood clots and providing anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties:
- Garlic, linseed, fenugreek and lemongrass may help alleviate cholesterol levels
- Garlic is useful for people with mildly elevated blood pressure
- Fenugreek plays a pivotal role in helping control blood sugar and insulin activity
- Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, mint, basil, oregano, sage and many other herbs purportedly help protect against cancer
- Herbs like cloves, cinnamon, sage, oregano and thyme are replete with anti-oxidants, thereby helping to reduce low-density lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol)
But the underlying message to remember here is that fresh herbs contain higher antioxidant levels vis-à-vis their processed or dried versions. So if you are turning to herbs in order to harness their health-promoting aspects then always strive to add your fresh herbs right at the end of the cooking process or even prior to serving in order to maximise on their healing properties.
Flexibility that cooking with herbs allows
Herbs allow you to let your imagination run wild when it comes to using them as they can be added to practically any recipe to lend it a distinct flavour, colour and fragrance.
But herbs are generally added to - stews and casseroles; breads; soups; marinades; butters; sauces; stocks; mustards; salad dressings; vinaigrettes; yoghurts; custards; vinegars; drinks and deserts
The best part as mentioned earlier is that herbs needn’t always be added into a dish either – herbs when added post serving a dish is an awesome way to enhance the fragrance, flavour and visual appeal of your dish. Surprised? Recollect spaghetti Bolognese with some fresh basil leaves sprinkled on top; or a pumpkin or chicken dish with fresh sage leaves.
Tempting food-herb combos
Albeit when it comes to using herbs in your cooking the sky is the limit! Yet Foodism brings for you some conventional food-herb pairings which can just never go wrong:
|Thyme||Chowders, bread, chicken and poultry, soups, stock, stews, stuffings, butter, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar|
|Tarragon||Salad dressing, egg dishes|
|Sage||Stuffings, tomato dishes, cheese dishes, pumpkin dishes, chicken dishes|
|Rosemary||Fish, poultry, meat, bread, sauces, soups|
|Parsley||Pesto, egg dishes, pasta, rice dishes, salads, butter, sauces, seafood, vegetable dishes|
|Oregano||Cheese dishes, egg dishes, tomato sauce, pizza, meat, stuffing, bread, pasta|
|Mint||Drinks, confectionery, meat, chicken, yoghurt, desserts, sauces, vegetable dishes|
|Marjoram||Meat, fish, egg dishes, cheese dishes, pizza|
|Lemongrass||Asian dishes, stir fries, curries, seafood, soups, tea|
|Ginger||Cakes, biscuits, Asian dishes|
|Garlic||Soups, sauces, pasta, meat, chicken, shellfish, pesto, salad dressings, bread|
|Fennel||Stuffings, sauces, seafood, salads|
|Dill||Salads, sauces, fish, sour cream, cheese and potato dishes|
|Coriander||Asian dishes, stir fries, curries, soups, salads, seafood, guacamole|
|Chives||Salads, chicken, soups, cheese dishes, egg dishes, mayonnaise, vinaigrettes|
|Chilli||Meat, chicken and poultry, shellfish, tomato dishes, curries|
|Bay Leaves||Soups, stews, casseroles, meat and poultry marinades, stocks|
|Basil||Pesto, tomato sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice, potato dishes, prawns, meat, chicken and poultry, pasta, rice, egg dishes, strawberries|
A word of counsel … less usage of butters and creams would go a long way in maintaining your health quotient
Cues for cooking with herbs
Now don’t we know this one! Dried herbs are more strongly flavoured vis-à-vis their fresh counterparts. A thumb rule here would be - One teaspoon of dried herbs is equivalent to four teaspoons of fresh herbs
Hard herbs like rosemary and parsley can be added at the very start of your cooking process because they are renowned for retaining their flavour throughout the process
Bay leaves are used only to flavour a dish but are not consumed
Dried herbs – rather their flavour - have a shelf life of one year
As compared to loose leaves sold in jars or packets, dried whole herbs (which have their leaves attached to their stalk) tend to have a stronger flavour
Tie chopped and mixed herbs in little muslin bags and add these to your cooking for flavour but remove them prior to serving
For home chefs with a streak of adventure some conventional and yummilicious herb combinations worth exploring are:
Basil + chives + chilli+ garlic+ oregano
Bay + parsley + thyme + garlic + oregano + marjoram
Chilli + coriander + garlic + ginger + lemongrass + mint + oregano
Garlic + basil + rosemary + sage + fennel + chilli + coriander
Oregano + basil + parsley + chives + thyme + bay + chilli
So tie-up your apron and experiment with herbs to not only pep up your food but also strengthen your health !