This week Chef Suné Niemand shares another few tips and recipes in her herb series. With a little help from garden ghuru Sharon Walker readers are advised on how to use the herbs in their gardens.
Pick herbs early in the morning before the day’s heat begins to wilt them. Don’t just trim the tops, rather cut a branch back by at least two thirds. this will encourage the plant to grow more leaves. To strip off fresh leaves, hold the tip of the branch firmly and pull the leaves off the stem from the tip backwards.
Drying herbs is just one way to store their fresh spring flavour; another is to turn them into herbal sugars and salts, both which are natural preservatives.
Drying fresh herbs
To dry herbs, leave them on the stem. Tie stems together with a string and hang them in a cool, dry spot until the leaves are crisp. Pull the leaves off using the same methods as for fresh ones and store in airtight bottles.
Making herbal salt
It is particularly tasty with roast vegetables or chicken. It can be added during the cooking process, where the herb flavour will permeate the food, or it can be sprinkled on afterwards to add herbal zing to a finished dish. It’s also delicious with any egg and fish dishes. In fact, it can be used wherever you would usually use ordinary salt.
Gather a colander of mixed herbs such as marjoram, oreganum, rosemary, basil, parsley and thyme. Wash and dry them well using a salad spinner followed by a dishcloth. Strip off the leaves, discarding any wooden stems. Using a food processor, finely chop the herbs. Measure them and for every cup of herbs add two cups of sea salt and half a teaspoon of lemon or lime zest. Mix together well. Using a blender, finely blend one cup of mixture at a time until the salt is smooth and pale green.
Making herbal sugar
Herbs such as lemon verbena, mint and lavender are well suited to herbal sugars. These herbal sugars can be used in herbal teas, sprinkled on fruit, whipped up with cream and to flavour icing.
Make them with brown or white sugar using the same method as for the salt, but leave out the zest. Try adding some vanilla or cinnamon to create interesting flavours. To add a splash of colour to the sugar, include some edible flowers as cornflowers and pansies.
|chopped celery stalks and leaves
|Mix with handful of rocket leaves
|sultanas or black grapes
For the dressing
- Mix one tablespoon of each mayonnaise and runny plain yoghurt, 60ml orange juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Did you know?
Celery generally refers to the stalk, and celeriac to the root of the plant.