By Francesca Klottrup @francescaklottrup
Chef – Nutritional Therapist
Herbs are an essential cookery ingredient and the cornerstone of all international cuisines. It doesn’t take a second for basils heady aroma to transport you to Italy or the cooling taste of coriander to anticipate the flavours of Asia or Mexico.
Dried herbs are, perhaps unfairly, considered the inferior choice. Generally thought of as woody, flat and stale which is often because we are guilty of hanging on to them far beyond their recommended best before dates (dried herbs loose most of their potency after a year).
Good quality dried herbs have a rightful place in the kitchen.
Dried bay, curry and kefir lime leaves add unmistakeable base notes to stews and broths, comparable to their fresh counterparts. Dried tarragon is sweeter and less hard hitting in aniseed complimenting any meat-based stew, and dried oregano can penetrate and smooth the acidity of a tomato sauce perhaps even more so than fresh. Plus using dried herbs allows for greater culinary variety, how often do you see fresh marjoram?
Of course, there are many herbs that will always be better fresh. Delicate leafy herbs like parsley, dill and chives add freshness and lift to bold flavours, but only when added at the end of cooking. Unlike dried herbs, which need to time to soften and infuse, fresh herbs lose flavour and vibrancy when heated for longer than a few minutes. This also helps to protect herbs valuable therapeutic properties.
Herbs have been used in traditional and herbal medicine for centuries. Along with spices, herbs are the most potent plant food in terms of bioactive compounds. Their rich phytochemical content boasts a wide range of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other metabolic, nervous, and general health supporting components. They are also a source of dietary vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, K, calcium and magnesium, to name a few).
So next time you’re adding a sprinkling of herbs to your finished recipes, rest assured you are not only elevating the look and taste but taking the nutritional profile up a notch too.
Egg & Asparagus Caesar Salad with Watercress & Dill
A slight twist on an old classic. The watercress and dill dressing is much lighter and packed full of antioxidants. Watercress contains a sulphur-based compound thought to play a prominent role in the reduce the risk of hormone dependent cancers and detoxification mechanisms. Whilst the anchovies are a great way sneaking in those anti-inflammatory omega fats.
4 Large eggs
200g Sourdough, ideally a day old
15g Extra virgin olive oil
200g Asparagus, woody stalks trimmed
4 x Baby gem lettuce, cut lengthways into quarters 60g Anchovies
90g Pecorino, peeled to create shavings
30g Watercress, to garnish
5g Dill, to garnish
Watercress Mayonnaise – makes 400g
45g Dijon mustard
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
Pinch salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven the 200C (Gas 6, 400F). Cut the sourdough into cubes, lightly coat in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool.
Steam the asparagus over a pan of hot water for 2-3 minutes (they always takes less time than you think).
Then, using the same pan of water, bring it back up to the boil, carefully submerge the eggs and time for 8 minutes. Drain and plunge the eggs into a bowl of iced cold water to stop them cooking. Once cooled, remove the shells, quarter the eggs and leave to one side.
Whilst the eggs are cooking, place all the dressing ingredients into a blender/food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
To make the salad place arrange the salad ingredients in a bowl, pour over the dressings and top with the sourdough croutons.
Allergens: gluten, egg, fish.
Tip: Not a fan of anchovies? Try adding strips of nori to give that mineral taste of the sea, plus it is rich in iodine supporting thyroid health.
Full of fibre to support digestion, compounds from five different herbs, plus the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties from the lemon and garlic make this a deeply nourishing dish.
8 Chicken thighs, skin on 15ml Olive oil
Salt and pepperPesto – makes 800g
350g Kale leaves (large stalks removed) 60g Fresh basil
1 large garlic clove
2 Lemons, zest & juice
200g Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
250g Cashew nuts, lightly toasted
15g Olive oil
1 tsp Dried thyme
3 tsp Dried Oregano
2tsp Dried tarragon
3 x 400g tins Haricot beans
1 x 400g tin Butterbeans
1 x Large onion, finely sliced
2 x Garlic cloves, crushed
500g Chicken stock
2 x Bay leaves (dried or fresh)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Make the pesto by blending or processing all the ingredients together.
Heat a large frying pan on a moderate heat, add the olive oil and place the chicken thighs (skin side down) and cook until crisp and golden (about 6-8 minutes). Turn them over and cook on the other side for 2 minutes, then place on an oven tray and leave to one side.
Start the cassoulet using the same frying pan. Heat the olive oil and add the onions, thyme, oregano, tarragon and gently cook until the onions have softened.
Add the garlic, bay leaves and beans and cook for further 2 minutes. Add the stock and gently simmer for 20 minutes (you don’t want the stock to completely boil away, add a splash of water and reduce the heat if it starts to look dry).
Stir in a few generous spoons of the pesto and add the chicken (skin side up) and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes (until the chicken has cooked all the way through).
Serve with the remaining pesto.
Tip: Make this vegan but swapping for vegetable stock and replace the chicken with cauliflower steaks or tempeh.
Cod with Gremolata, New Potato Hazelnut & Bacon Rocket Salad
Parsley is rich in chlorophyll, the compound that gives all herbs and leafy greens their vibrant hue. Chlorophyll is something of a superfood. It supports our detoxification mechanisms, its antioxidant properties help clear dietary carcinogens, it reduces inflammation and its rich magnesium content helps the body produce energy. Here avocado oil has been used to not only give the gremolata more vibrancy but a dose of those key essential fatty acids.
Chlorophyll is something of a superfood. It supports our detoxification mechanisms, its antioxidant properties help clear dietary carcinogens, it reduces inflammation and its rich magnesium content helps the body produce energy.
4 x Cod loin (approx. 150g each) 750g New potatoes
60g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped 60g Capers, roughly chopped
8 Rashers of nitrate-free bacon
Gremolata – makes 280ml
90g Fresh parsley, roughly chopped 2 Garlic cloves, crushed
200ml Avocado oil
2 Lemons, zest & juice
Make the gremolata buy placing all the ingredients in a blender/processor and pulse until just combined.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 (Gas 6, 400F).
Place the bacon rashers on a lined baking tray and cook until crisp (approximately 15 minutes). Then leave to cool and chop into small pieces.
Then turn the oven down to 180 (Gas 3, 350F).
Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, fill with cold salted water and bring to the boil until the potatoes and soft in the centre but still with a bite (approximately 15-20 minutes). Heat a large saucepan with olive oil, season the fish and sear on each side for 2-4 minutes until lightly golden. Place onto a lined baking tray and bake for 5 minutes (time will vary on how thick the fillets are).
Drain the potatoes and whilst they are still hot place them back into the empty saucepan adding the butter, hazelnuts, capers, bacon and season with salt and pepper.
Take the fish out the oven, plate adding the potato medley, a side garnish of rocket and a generous helping of gremolata
Allergens: nuts, dairy, fish.
Tip: Pork loin, chicken or steak are great substitution for the cod and gnocchi or pasta for the potato.
Mixed Herb Tabbouleh with Sumac & Halloumi
Tabbouleh is commonly thought of as a grain dish, it’s actually a parsley salad. Traditionally curly parsley is used as its curly fronds give lift and volume contrasting to the crunchier ingredients used. Here sumac has been added as its wonderful citrus notes complements the clean earthy tastes of the herbs and spring onions whilst cutting through the creaminess of the halloumi.
250g Bulgur wheat
120g Fresh curly parsley 20g Fresh mint leaves
6 Spring onions, finely chopped
250g Cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 Large cucumber, diced
2 Lemons, juice and zest
35g Cold pressed rapeseed oil 15g Sumac
100g Pine nuts, lightly toasted 450g Halloumi, cut into thick slices
Place the bulgur wheat in a large saucepan and fill with 650ml boiling water and a pinch of salt. Heat on a medium heat, cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the grain is light and fluffy, decant into a large bowl and allow to completely cool. Then mix the rapeseed oil, sumac, lemon juice and zest together and pour over the bulgur and mix with a spoon.
Mix all the remaining ingredients (apart from the halloumi and olive oil) into the bulgur wheat.
Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil and sear the halloumi for approximately 2-3 minutes each side until golden and the centre is soft.
Plate up the tabbouleh, top with halloumi and enjoy.
Allergens: nuts, dairy, gluten. Tip: Tabbouleh is a wonderfully versatile base. Change the halloumi for falafel and hummus for a plant-based meal. If you are after something more substantial serve it alongside a tagine or stew. Opt for quinoa or brown rice to make this gluten free.