Make the most of fresh herbs this summer

Posted on: 15 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

The sun is shining, the barbecue is cranked up. All you need now for perfect summer dining is a selection of fresh herbs to add freshness, flavour and the most wonderful aroma to your cuisine.

Now is an ideal time to stock up on all your favourite herbs, as there are plenty of uses for them throughout the summer.  From vibrant salsas and cool creamy dips to flavoursome, aromatic salads and mouth-watering marinades, fresh herbs can transform any dish.

Make the most of fresh herbs throughout summer with these ideas which you’ll be able to use across a range of meals throughout the week, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

Rosemary

  • Throw some fresh rosemary on the barbecue.  It creates a wonderful aroma which will make your mouth water.
  • Chicken is a perfect partner for Rosemary, so lay a sprig on your chicken pieces on the barbecue.
  • Jazz up a tub of fresh olives by combining them with fresh chopped rosemary (discarding the woody stem first), finely chopped sundried tomatoes and a little olive oil.

Coriander

  • To make a tasty marinade for the barbecue, combine two tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander with the juice of one lime, one tablespoon olive oil and crushed garlic clove with freshly ground black pepper.  Use to marinade chicken or mushroom and halloumi kebabs either as a vegetarian option or side dish.
  • Add a taste of the Mediterranean to your summer dishes by making a vibrant salsa.  Take four large ripe chopped tomatoes, add two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, half a red onion, two de-seeded and chopped green chillies, the juice of one lime and a pinch of sugar and season.
  • Add a taste of Mexico to your  summer barbecue by combining coriander with green chillies, garlic and lime juice to make a dressing for vegetables.

Chives

  • For a tasty and indulgent side dish, bake your potatoes and when cooked, cut in half and carefully scoop out the insides without damaging the skins.  Mix in a bowl with a dash of cream, butter, a handful of chopped chives and some grated cheese.  Scoop back into the shells and place under a hot grill for a few minutes until browned.
  • To add a personal touch to your summer salads, just add a handful of chopped fresh herbs.  In addition to making your salad look spectacular, chopped chives, parsley, coriander and basil all add wonderful taste and texture.
  • Snip chives into sour cream to create a home-made sour cream and chive dip.

Mint

  • Fresh mint is the staple of the British summer.  Keep it to hand to add to Pimms, decorate sorbets and desserts and to make refreshing mint tea by simply steeping a handful in hot water.
  • Mint is also delicious in a mint, lime and yogurt marinade, using two tablespoons low fat plain yogurt, half a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint and the finely grated zest and juice of half a lime.  The marinade is delicious with lean lamb leg steaks cut into cubes as a kebab.
  • Pop some sprigs of mint on the saucepan when you’re boiling new potatoes.  It gives them a fresh but subtle flavour.  Discard the leaves when you drain the potatoes, but garnish with more mint just before serving.

Basil

  • The refreshing flavours of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil are a classic combination which make the perfect accompaniment to barbecued meat. Simply slice beef tomatoes and mozzarella lay them on a plate, each disc overlapping and garnish with lots of torn basil leaves. The vibrant colours are sure to impress your guests and brighten up the table.
  • Liven up garlic bread by adding some basil.  Chop a handful of basil leaves and combine with two tablespoons butter and two garlic cloves.  Spread the butter mixture on ciabatta (sliced lengthways) and grill for 2-3 minutes.
  • Make the most of summer flavours by roasting tomatoes in a little olive oil and garlic.  Add a few handfuls of torn basil and serve with crusty bread.

Parsley

There are two varieties of parsley – curly or flat leafed.  Flat leaf is used widely in Mediterranean cooking and has a stronger, sweeter flavour than curly.

  • Fresh chopped parsley is delicious stirred through pasta with a little olive oil, for a simple, but tasty dish. 
  • For a light summer lunch, add chopped fresh parsley to a cheese omelette
  • Add chopped fresh parsley to homemade croutons.

Fresh herbs are available in all major supermarkets nationwide. Look out for them in bags or pots.  Log on to www.fresh-herbs.co.uk for further recipe ideas.

The best way to store cut herbs is to either place the bag in the salad drawer of the refrigerator or for maximum freshness, cut 2cm off the stalks and put in a cup of water in the refrigerator. Try to avoid submerging the leaves in the water.

Many herbs originate from hot countries, therefore pot herbs like to be kept on the dry side. The more light and heat they are exposed to, the more frequently they will need watering. Take the pot herb out of its sleeve and place on a saucer and water sparingly but often, on to the top of the compost, as if it were a houseplant. Do not allow the pots to sit in water for long periods of time. If the pot herb becomes overly dry, place the pot in the sink with a little water and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. During the winter months, you will probably find that the pot herb will not need to be watered very often at all.

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