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My Essentials - Herbs & Spices

I love the transformative ability of herbs and spices, and in my ideal world, I'd have a thriving herb garden filled with every variety I could lay my hands on. Unfortunately, I'm the opposite of green fingered and every effort to cultivate herbs to date has been an absolute disaster!

Luckily, the dried versions don't require any special care so what I do have is a thriving herb shelf (two shelves actually!), plus a healthy selection in the freezer.

Whichever form they take, herbs and spices are an essential for any kitchen and I'm going to share with you here the ones which are most used in my own kitchen, and why I love them.

Oregano

Arguably my most used herb, I prefer dried oregano to fresh as it's more readily available and more convenient. I use this mixed with tomato puree to make pizza sauce, sprinkle it over feta before baking, chuck it into pretty much any pasta sauce, and throw over chicken and chorizo traybakes, along with grated orange zest.

 

Smoked Paprika

This mild spice adds an earthy, smoky richness to food, and is a much used ingredient in Spanish cooking. I mix it with oregano and a little oil and toss potato wedges or sweet potato in it before cooking, it also often goes into burger mixes, or casseroles and I use it in place of chilli powder as I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice! It's also really good as a seasoning for roasted chickpeas, or popcorn.

 

Rosemary

Probably my favourite herb, the smell of rosemary instantly makes my mouth water. It tastes amazing on roast potatoes, with lamb, in meatballs, and with pink grapefruit soda, or pink gin! It's also a perfect partner for brie, stick a few sprigs in a wheel before baking for a delicious starter.

 

Cinnamon

Another well used seasoning in our kitchen, and my favourite spice, a pinch of ground cinnamon in a tomato based sauce adds a little something special. It's also fantastic in baking (but a little goes a long way), and cinnamon sticks are great for adding warmth and depth to stews and hot chocolate.

 

Basil

I much prefer fresh basil to dried as it's got such a vibrant taste. I love it with slices of ripe tomato and creamy mozzarella, and in pesto (such as Basil Pesto) but it's also brilliant with strawberries. Try it in a frozen strawberry daiquiri for a twist on the classic cocktail!

 

Cumin

Overpowering when overused, but when used sparingly, it adds a lovely warmth and earthiness to savoury dishes. It's an essential ingredient of hummus, and many curries, but it's also brilliant with fish - such as in this rub for salmon: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa - Laylita's Recipes. The avocado salsa from the same recipe is well worth making too. 

 

Coriander

Probably the most divisive herb, I feel bad for people who find it soapy as I think it's the perfect garnish for Mexican or Indian dishes. But even if you really dislike coriander leaf, ground coriander (as used in the recipe linked above) has a different taste as it's made from the seeds. It brings an almost citrussy freshness to curries, and is great on roasted vegetables or in a fajita mix. It's also frequently paired with carrot, such as in soup, or in this Carrot and Coriander Relish.

 

Tarragon

Fragrant tarragon pairs perfectly with roast chicken, but is also delicious with mushrooms and a little cream. It's also divine in a Béarnaise sauce, or Tarragon Mayo, for steaks or for dipping chips into!

 

I'd love to know what your essential herbs and spices are, and get some new ideas, so please comment below!

 

 

 

1 comment

  • My favourite spice is ginger either fresh or ground. It adds a certain zinc to savory dishes and a warmth to sweet dishes. I really like to put it with plums and honey and freshly squeezed orange juice. X

    Julie Warmbold

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