Cooking With Herbs

July 23, 2011

A few herb tips for you from Jamie. I hope that you find them useful. Feel free to share any of your own tips in the comments below.

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Lavender

June 24, 2011


My lavender plants are just starting to flower so I thought this old article might be useful for any of you who are wondering how to grow, harvest and use your lavender plants.

The word lavender is derived from the Latin ‘lava’, to wash, the Romans introduced this plant into Britain, they used it in their bath water.

It was used as a strewing herb for its insect-repelling properties and also included in tussie-mussies to mask household and street smells.

There are many varieties of lavender some are more tender than others. In Europe some of the more tender lavenders will not last through the winter, so make sure you know what you are buying at the garden centre! The reason Lavender is unlikely to last through the winter is the combination of wet ‘feet’ and frozen ground which it does not like at all.

Growing

Lavender can be grown relatively easily from seed, but it will take a few years for the plant to become established and some people say that it has a tendency not to be true to species if grown this way.

Alternatively, softwood cuttings can be taken from non-flowering stems in the spring or semi-hardwood cuttings in the summer/early autumn from the new growth. Another method is layering which would be done in the autumn, this is where you lay a stem along the ground and either peg it down with a wire clip or weigh it down with a stone; roots should form where the stem is in contact with the earth. Any rooted cuttings need some protection in the winter and are more likely to survive if planted out in the following spring.

It prefers well drained soil in a sunny position and should be pruned just after flowering to avoid the stems becoming too woody.

It is advisable to replace lavender bushes once established after 3 to 4 years, when they are past their peak.

Harvesting

Lavender buds/flowers should be harvested just as the flower buds open and either used fresh or dried and then stored in an airtight container. For a great photographic guide to when this is click here.

Culinary Uses

There are numerous ways of using lavender in cooking; in lavender biscuits, flavouring sugar, made into herb jelly or vinegar, Lavender tea, sprinkled on fruit or made into a syrup.

Household uses

Can be put into lavender sachets or pillows.

Blend with other herbs eg roses, lemon verbena or mint to make pot pourri or a filling for a ‘dream pillow’

Lavender water/room spray (lavender essential oil)

Lavender wands You can see how to make these here.

Lavender wreaths

Medicinal uses

Lavender has calming, sleep inducing properties so is often used in sachets tucked into a pillowcase.

Lavender sprinkled into a hot bath is calming, or it could be mixed in to salts to make lavender bath salts.

Lavender essential oil applied to a burn will aid healing.

To hear more about lavender, you can listen to my contribution to the Emma Cooper’s Alternative Kitchen Garden’s podcast (episode 20 entitled ‘welsh onions’) which you can access via the links on this page.

Copyright 2007-2011 Madeleine Giddens

If you want to try any of the above and need more ‘how to’ information, leave me a comment below and I’ll write a more detailed article just on that.

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If you have a few established herbs, you might be wondering what to do with all that lush growth that they’ve produced. Listed below you’ll find a mixture of cooking, craft and skincare ideas to inspire you to use chives, lavender, basil, coriander, lemon balm, rosemary and thyme.

Chives

  • harvest, chop finely and use in omelettes, potato dishes eg potato salad, sprinkle on salads, mix with steamed peas – but add at the last minute to retain their flavour and be generous.

  • chop and freeze in containers or ice cube trays filled with water for later use.

  • harvest flowerheads and dry for flower arrangements (be warned, the seeds fall out all over the place as they dry!)

  • Add to herb sauces

  • Make a chive herb butter

  • Stir into yoghurt or cream cheese with some seasoning and lemon juice for a gentle onion flavoured dip.

  • Try with fish and vegetable dishes.

  • Lavender

  • When using in cooking do so sparingly because it is a strong flavour.

  • Dry for decorative use – hang upside down and tie 5 to 7 stems together. Dry in a dark, dry, airy place.

  • Once dry, use flowers to scent clothes by placing in a drawstring fine mesh bag or sewing into a lavender pillow/piece of muslin and hanging in your wardrobe. Alternatively, just wrap in some fine cloth and tie with string or ribbon.

  • Use dried flowers to flavour sugar to use in baking.

  • Use fresh flowers for cakes, pastries or make some lavender biscuits.

  • Lavender can be used to flavour ice cream.

  • Make some lavender wands.

  • Basil

  • Make pesto

  • Try a leaf or two with cold meats eg ham

  • Sounds odd but it goes well with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries too.

  • The classic combination is of course with tomatoes either in salads, sauces, soup, with garlic on breads or in stuffings with butter.

  • Add a few leaves to a salad.

  • Try making basil butter.

  • Add a few leaves to pasta dishes or egg dishes.

  • Coriander

  • Experiment in the kitchen adding it to dishes containing avocado, fish, citrus fruits, rice, root vegetables. It can also be combined with basil, chillies, chives, dill, galangal, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint or parsley.

  • Freeze in containers to use later.

  • Use in tomato dishes, salsa and dips

  • Sprinkle chopped coriander onto salads, chicken and pork dishes.

  • Dried coriander seeds can be dry roasted and ground and used in cakes, biscuits and root vegetable dishes.
  • Lemon Balm

  • Blend fresh leaves into smoothies for a mild lemon-mint flavour.

  • Try it with fish/poultry in marinades, sauces or stuffings.

  • Add leaves to green, tomato or fruit salads.

  • Use to make a herb butter.

  • Try a few sprigs in recently boiled water for a lovely relaxing tea.

    Rosemary

  • If pruning an older bush, use some of the thicker stems (soaked in water first and leaves stripped off) as BBQ skewers

  • Use an infusion as a hair rinse and tonic.

  • Use it in your cooking – it helps your memory according to this article.

  • Tastes delicious with fresh oranges or can be made into a syrup to add to fruit salads.

  • Use it in foccaccia and other breads.

  • Use it to flavour oil.

  • Freeze the tiny flowers in ice cubes to make a pretty garnish for summer drinks.

    Thyme

  • Use dried thyme in potpourris and sachets

  • Use to season tomato sauces, potatoes, peppers, cabbage.

  • One of my favourites is to add a few sprigs of thyme to steamed or roasting carrots or to flavour onion soups. Yum!

  • Add fresh leaves to salads

  • Make a thyme herb butter – great for melting onto hot vegetables or meats.

  • Flowering thyme can be used to make a lovely herbal tea.

    Now, I’ve told you what you can do, but not ‘how’ in detail so if you want to send me a quick email or leave a comment telling me which one or which other herbs you want more detail on, I’ll make the most popular requests the subject of my next few blog posts.

    Alternatively, let me know which one you’re going to try and how you get on in the comments below.

    Copyright 2009-2011 Madeleine Giddens All rights reserved.

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