Herbs are an integral part of nature’s treasure chest. And whilst we have all heard of them, we don’t always use them in cooking as much as we could.
There are so many ways to include herbs in dishes from curries to pasta and salads.
To help you enjoy their amazing health benefits and flavours Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite cooking herbs and the dishes that they complement.
One of the more common cooking herbs, basil is popular in typical Mediterranean dishes, especially those containing tomatoes and courgettes. From a health perspective, basil is known to help soothe the digestive system and control nausea. It can also calm the nervous system and has been used as a general tonic.
However, basil also provides some delicious flavours too. It is one of the key ingredients in pesto which can really cheer up a chicken and pasta dish. However, for a great antioxidant blast then cherry tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, and pasta (preferably wholemeal for the energising B-vitamins) is a perfect, very cost-effective mid-week family meal. Don’t forget some grated Parmesan to top it off!
An absolute ‘essential’ in curries, sauces, and a range of Asian-inspired salads. Traditionally coriander was used to treat urinary tract infections but nowadays people use it to sooth a troubled digestion or simply because it adds so much flavour to dishes.
Carrot and coriander soup is a well-known option, which is incredibly quick to make, also adding chopped onion, potato, and chicken stock. One of the many great things about using fresh herbs in dishes is that you can add as much or as little as you like – there is no right or wrong. And if you’re looking for a different salad to partner your summer barbeque, then lemon and coriander couscous is brilliant and incredibly easy to make. Simply cook the couscous and then add plenty of chopped coriander, pine nuts, lemon zest and some raisins. Your guests will be more than impressed!
This delicious herb is one of the most versatile, pairing well with fish, beef, eggs, chicken or in varied soups. Importantly, its health benefits are far-reaching. Tarragon is a powerful antioxidant, helping to banish free radicals. It can help balance blood sugar levels so may be useful for weight control and also helps manage inflammation throughout the body which is especially beneficial for the heart.
For a real taste of summer, why not gently bake some salmon fillets with garlic, lime, tarragon, and ginger? This dish not only provides all the health benefits of tarragon, but garlic is great for the heart, lime is a powerful antioxidant and salmon is loaded with the omega-3 fats. These have amazing benefits throughout the body, and especially for the heart. Tarragon certainly partners fish perfectly and this dish can be enjoyed with some Jersey Royal potatoes (in season now) and a fresh green salad.
Another herb that conjures up thoughts of the Mediterranean. However, rosemary is a really hardy herb and is not difficult to grow here in the UK, so we don’t need to miss out on its amazing taste and health benefits. As with all herbs, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant, but it’s also used to calm the nervous system hence it is often used as an essential oil in massage treatment rooms.
Rosemary is most popular cooked with lamb (often with garlic too) or chicken but also works perfectly with roasted potatoes. Again, rosemary can be used as liberally as you wish.
We probably come across this herb in our daily lives mainly on top of margarita pizza! However, oregano is great added to any dish that could do with some additional herbal flavour.
In terms of health benefits, oregano can be taken in supplement form to ease digestive issues, especially in cases of unwanted bacterial infections or yeast overgrowths. Oregano can also help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
Spaghetti Bolognese, any cooked tomato-based dish, spinach and ricotta pasta, roasted chicken, or Greek salad; it’s a great addition to most dishes, so do use liberally.
So, why not use more herbs in your dishes and enjoy the health benefits and delicious flavours they provide.
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