Seasoning tips

Herbs

Herbs are hugely versatile, amplifying the flavour of food to subtly transform and elevate the taste of a dish. Essential oils in the herb react with different ingredients to make a more complete dish, such as rosemary with roast lamb. Dried herbs are stronger than fresh, so you need to use a smaller quantity when you’re cooking.

Using a pestle and mortar to crush and mix fresh herbs, really releases the natural flavours, making your dishes tastier and more aromatic. The Cole & Mason pestle and mortar is ideal for this task. With a deep base and generous pestle for grip, the contact between the two pieces is extremely efficient for crushing, grinding and releasing the wonderful aromas held within dried leaves.

The difference between Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices both come from plants, but from different parts. Herbs come from the leafy green part of the plant, whereas spices come from other parts, such as the root, stem, bulb, bark, seeds, flower buds or fruits.

 

Spices are usually dried before being used in cooking, and you can use herbs fresh or dried. In some cases, both the herb and the spice come from the same plant – for example, coriander gives us both fresh leaves and dried seeds.

 

Some flavours come through most strongly in their fresh form, like ginger. Other spices change and develop their true flavour on drying. For example, peppercorns are picked green and the enzyme reaction that occurs as they dry turns them black, and creates the pepper flavour we know.

Tips for using Fresh Herbs

Herb oils are very fashionable at present, to use the herb oil correctly, use them as you would the herbs. They have a short lifespan when fresh herbs are used so it is better to create small quantities for use over a few days. Storing them in the Cole & Mason Flow Select pourer or Mister is an ideal way of creating an infusion that can be used throughout the cooking process or at the table. Their anti-clog filter is ideal for infusion blends. For example, make a garden herb salad with parsley oil, or a tomato and mozzarella salad with basil oil.

 

Herb Butter – This is a good medium for adding herbs to food and a good way of using up leftover herbs as it can be frozen

 

To slice or cut a chiffonade of herbs, basil and parsley: stack the leaves a few at a time, fold them over to secure them, then carefully cut them lengthways or on a diagonal into thin ribbons.  It’s particularly important to use a sharp knife, using a blunt one will bruise the herbs and cause the edges to go brown.  Alternatively, use a hachoir to quickly and safely cut your herbs.  The Cole and Mason hachoir and board is designed to swiftly cut through delicate leaves, with its contoured base which gives maximum contact to the curve of the blade.

 

For some of the more fragile herbs like chervil and tarragon, pick the leaves and tiny sprigs without cutting them.  

 

To remove leaves from a woody stem simply hold at its tip and run your finger and thumb down its length.

Remember that a lot of herb flowers add texture, flavour and colour for garnishes and salad.  Common ones include chives, rosemary, pot marigolds, thyme, rocket, borage and sage flowers.

When buying fresh herbs, choose fresh herbs that are bright in colour with no yellowing of the leaves and that show no sign of wilting or bruising or going into flower.

 

 The more you use herbs fresh or dried in your cooking, the more you realize you have magic at your fingertips.  The more you understand and learn about herbs, the more essential ingredient they become.

Fragile herbs like chervil and tarragon, pick the leaves and tiny sprigs without cutting them

Storing Fresh Herbs

Herb Gardens

If you want to plant a herb patch or garden, make sure it is near the kitchen door, so you will use them.  No one is going to go to the end of the garden in the rain to cut herbs.  Herbs have a strong preference for sunshine and well-drained soil, but most will grow in shade as well.  Herbs that particularly like the shade are chervil, parsley and coriander, as their leaf production goes on longer.

 

Indoor Herb Plants

Herb plants can also be cultivated in the kitchen.  The most common problem for keeping herbs indoors is how to water them and how much water is needed.  The Cole & Mason Herb Keeper comes with a hydro felt pad which sits underneath the plant when potted and draws water up from the base (which is easily refillable) to ensure the plant does not get over saturated.  The roots of the plant absorb the level of moisture they need.

 

Fresh herbs are at their most potent when freshly harvested.  If you are picking herbs for a salad or cooking a dish, pick just before using them.   Picking herbs regularly and removing flower stalks encourages fresh leaves.  Avoid storing your fresh herbs on window sills because they don’t respond well to direct sunlight or draughts.

 

Storing Cut Herbs

A fresh herb keeper is their best solution for storing cut fresh herbs.  Cut fresh herbs last longer when they are in water and are not touched or knocked – this causes bruising and deterioration of the plant. 

 

The Cole & Mason Cut Herb Keeper is designed to store multiple herbs in the fridge, with dividers to keep them separated.  The flip top lid with its protective casing which easily raises and lowers gives easy access to the herbs without agitating the leaves.  A window at the base indicates when the water needs topping up or changing. 

 

It is best to keep the water in a herb keeper fresh and clear to prolong the life of cut herbs and always ensure no leaves are submerged in the water – these will decay quickly and turn the water green.  If you purchase cut herbs from the supermarket, they will need plenty of water when you get them home to keep them fresh. The Cole & Mason Cut Herb Keeper will keep herbs fresher for up to 10 days over the supermarket recommended care and use.

 

All herbs can be stored in cool temperatures except basil, which does not like the cold and will turn black quickly if it is stored in the fridge.

 

Fresh herbs can also be frozen, using an oil as a base place the leaves either whole or chopped into ice cube trays, cover with a small amount of water, or store in a container like a freezer bag.

Cooking Tips with Fresh Herbs

When cooking joints or cuts of meat, use salt and pepper and two or three herbs, such as, thyme, rosemary and sage, chopped and mixed together, then rub them on the meat.

 

Fresh herbs are best with seafood because fish dishes require little cooking. The marriage of fresh fish and fresh herbs is a match made in heaven.

 

Basil leaves are best torn to prevent bruising, although this is not necessarily practical with larger amounts.

 

 

When chopping herbs, usually it is only the leaves that should be chopped; the exception is coriander, where the intense flavour is in the stems and roots.  Use a sharp knife to avoid bruising them or cross chop them with the Cole and Mason hachoir and board.

 

Stiff rosemary branches act like skewers.  Use them to thread monkfish, chicken or lamb, brush with oil and place on the BBQ

 

Woody herbs are best added at the beginning of the cooking process and more delicate herbs like basil, dill, coriander, parsley and mint for example, are best added at the end of a dish, and sprinkled over the cooked dish.

 

Finely chopping fresh herbs will give more flavour to a dish, for best results, use a hachoir for this task.  The Cole & Mason hachoir and board is designed with safety and comfort in mind.  With its folding handles which flex as you chop and curved beech board, achieving fine results is quick and easy. 

 

If herbs shed excess moisture, i.e. like parsley and basil, sit them on a paper towel for a few minutes to dry them which will make them easier to sprinkle

 

Purchase fresh cut herbs, close to the time you plan to use them, or store them in the Cole & Mason Fresh Herb Keeper to prolong their life.   This ensures the best flavour.

 

A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3-4 times as much as you would use of a dried herb.

 

Fresh herbs can be used in sweet dishes and baking for example: Roasted peas with spices and bay leaves. Basil sorbet with strawberry pannacotta. Plum cheesecake with orange and mint. 

 

“Fresh herbs are wonderful in cocktails like Rosemary gin fizz”

 

Fresh Herbs and dried herbs can be used together to produce great flavours, for example cooking a tomato ragu sauce; start it off with oil, garlic and dried oregano and then add fresh basil in at the end.

 

Fresh herbs make great pesto’s, salsas and condiments.  Crush the herbs with a pestle and mortar, as opposed to a food processor as the pestle and mortar extracts more of their flavours without bruising them, this results in deep green flavoursome sauces.  The Cole & Mason pestle and mortars are ideal for this task, with their deep bowls which are engineered to maximize the surface contact with the pestle for efficiency.

Fresh herbs are wonderful in cocktails like Rosemary gin fizz

Dried vs Fresh Herbs

There is the impression that a good cook will use only fresh herbs and not dried ones.  This is simply untrue; there is a place for both in the kitchen.

 

For example in a slow cooked casserole, use dried herbs over fresh, because the more you cook fresh herbs, the weaker the volatile oils and flavour becomes, dried herbs keep their intensity. However, it is advisable not to sprinkle dried basil on a tomato salad, always use fresh basil leaves. 

 

Dried herbs are best used in dishes where the herbs are easily re-constituted in liquid, teas, breads and baking and where the cooking is over 30 minutes.  They are always a great way of adding several flavours to a recipe in one go in the form of herb blend, for example herbs du Provence and Italian blend.

 

Fresh herbs are great both as a flavouring and a garnish for a wide range of dishes, for example; salads, ice creams, fish, vegetables, meat, pasta, sauces and baking.  Fresh herbs have purity of flavour and take every day dishes to another level.  For the chef there is nothing more exciting to flavour your dish.

Dried herbs are convenient, but they don’t generally have the same purity of flavour as fresh herbs.

Quick Tips for Using Herbs

Add dried herbs at the beginning of your cooking, and fresh herbs at the end.

 

Add herb flowers to your salads – they are edible and have a unique flavour.

 

If a recipe tells you to use fresh herbs, but you only have dried, use three quarters of the amount specified, as drying concentrates the flavour.

 

Never use two strong herbs together.

 

When you add dried herbs to your dish, crush them with the palm of your hand, and rub gently with your fingers to release the aromatic oils, giving you a stronger flavour.

 

You can use herbs pretty well anywhere; in butters, oils, baking, breads, soups, salads, fish and meat dishes.

 

Experiment with herb teas, herb sugars, herb syrups, ice cream, custards, conserves, marmalades and vinegars.

Different flavourings can enhance particular tastes. Certain herbs are considered sweet, because their aroma enhances the sweetness of a dish, such as mint in a lemon posset. Equally, others can emphasise bitterness, such as juniper berries in game dishes.

 

Dry rubs are simply combinations of dry ground spices, sometimes with chopped herbs. When you apply them liberally to a good piece of meat, they add a lot of flavour – and when you cook the meat at high heat, the rub creates a crust of flavour that locks in the juices. You can apply spice rubs generously, as the intense flavour is mellowed by cooking.

 

Just like dry rubs, wet rubs contain mainly dry ground spices, but they’re made into a loose paste by adding small amounts of liquid – often water, wine or stock. Wet rubs are best cooked slowly, at lower heat.

 

 

Add dried herbs at the beginning of your cooking, and fresh herbs at the end

Why would you need a pestle and mortar?

A pestle and mortar is great for crushing and grinding ingredients into both wet and dry mixes. It’s the workhorse of the kitchen, withstanding the most vigorous pounding of spices and herbs. Pounding or rubbing dried herbs releases more flavour and aroma.

The difference between Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices both come from plants, but from different parts. Herbs come from the leafy green part of the plant, whereas spices come from other parts, such as the root, stem, bulb, bark, seeds, flower buds or fruits.

 

Spices are usually dried before being used in cooking, and you can use herbs fresh or dried. In some cases, both the herb and the spice come from the same plant – for example, coriander gives us both fresh leaves and dried seeds.

 

Some flavours come through most strongly in their fresh form, like ginger. Other spices change and develop their true flavour on drying. For example, peppercorns are picked green and the enzyme reaction that occurs as they dry turns them black, and creates the pepper flavour we know.

Herb Varieties

Italian Seasoning

A blend of basil, oregano, salvia, dill, paprika, rosemary, thyme and parsley, created to help you achieve the real flavours of Italy in your own kitchen. It works with all Italian-style dishes such as lasagne, meatballs and tomato or meat sauces with pasta. Sprinkle it on pizzas, but use it sparingly as it has a strong flavour and could overpower the natural flavour of the food.

Thyme

Thyme is highly versatile. With its warm, aromatic flavour, it’s one of the best herbs to use in cooking. There are many varieties, and you can use it in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Dill

Another member of the parsley family, dill grows in most temperature zones. It’s used in the cuisines of Germany and Scandinavia, and works well in fish recipes.

Mint

Mint is a very popular and familiar herb with many varieties. It makes great tea and has a cooling effect. It’s also used in both savoury and sweet dishes, and throughout the Middle East in salads.

Oregano

Oregano is great in Mediterranean dishes, and the dishes of Mexico and Central America. It’s best to use it at the beginning of the cooking process. Don’t confuse it with marjoram – it’s a different plant.

Parsley

Parsley has a distinct, rich flavour. It complements other herbs and spices, and is used also as a garnish. There are two types of parsley in regular use – curly leaf (English) and flat leaf (Continental).

Rosemary

When you dry rosemary, it becomes very fragrant. It complements lamb, beef, chicken, fish and breads, and is lovely in a shortbread biscuit. It’s often used in Italian dishes and breads – it’s also good with parsnips.

Basil

Basil is a member of the mint family. One of the main Mediterranean herbs, it’s the tomato’s best friend. Its flavour also works well with salads, chicken, fish and vegetables – and in ice cream and on strawberries. Dried basil is excellent for cooking. If you’re using the fresh leaves, add them at the end.

Bay

Bay is a member of the laurel family. It has a strong, slightly spicy flavour, and is one of the main herbs in a bouquet garni. You can use bay leaves in casseroles, custards or roast dishes. Turkish bay leaves are considered to be the best.

Marjoram

Marjoram is part of the mint family and has a sweet peppery flavour – closely related to oregano. You can use marjoram instead of basil or oregano in French, Italian and Polish dishes.

Savory

Savory is a versatile herb, best used with poultry and pork. It’s commonly used in poultry seasoning, but also works well with cod or Boston bluefish in a baked dish. It has a powerful flavour, and can dominate a dish if you use too much, so add small amounts and taste as you cook.

.