One of the easiest ways to improve your health by reducing the amount of sugar and salt in your diet, but at the same time give your food a whopping flavour boost , is to add some fresh herbs (preferably from your own garden) to your cooking.
Instead of using store bought sauces and flavour bases which add no goodness to our diets (other than extra kilos) think fresh herbs instead. Fresh herbs are little nutrient bombs; they are well known for their healing and detoxification properties and they help boost your immune system so try and add some to your diet every day.
Herbs are highly nutritious supplements; just like a small dose of medicine. They provide many powerful health benefits as well as some of the most important nutrients and antioxidants required for a healthy body and diet.
There are so many different healthy herbs to choose from, all of which offer very low calorie ways to add flavour and vitality to your meals.
Cooking with herbs can sometimes seem overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Learning how to buy, prepare, store and cook fresh herbs seems like a lot of work, not to mention figuring out what herbs go with which dish. But don’t despair; cooking with fresh herbs is not reserved for gourmet chefs. You should be experimenting and using them too.
Here’s 5 tips and tricks to have you elevating your dishes to the next level in no time.
1. Which Is Better – Fresh Herbs or Dried Herbs?
For the most part, choosing between fresh and dried herbs is a matter of choice and convenience. That being said, there are times when one is better than the other. Dried herbs have the best flavor when they are added during cooking. This gives enough time for their flavor to infuse into the dish.
A good time to use dried herbs would be in a homemade soup or sauce that is going to be simmering for at least 45 minutes after you add the dried herbs. If you add the herbs too soon, to when you are going to be serving the dish, the herbs tend to taste dusty.
Fresh herbs are best when they are used at the end of cooking. A good example of this would be adding ribbons of basil to a pizza just before serving it, or using fresh herbs in a sauce if you are not going to be letting it simmer for a long time.
Fresh herbs are also a great addition to any salad dish. In fact, I would never make a salad without the addition of some fresh herbs.
2. How to Buy Fresh Herbs
If you are going to purchase your herbs from the supermarket, wait until as close to when you are going to be cooking with them as possible. Choose bunches of herbs that have a vibrant color and aroma. If you can’t smell the herb, you aren’t likely going to be able to taste it either. Avoid any herbs that are limp, or have any sort of discoloration.
If you aren’t going to be using your herbs immediately, there are some steps you can take to extend their longevity and flavour. First, remove any fastening there may be on the herbs. Next cut the root ends off as they will draw moisture away from the leaves which will cause wilting. The only exception here is Coriander………keep the cut-off root ends as they are very useful additions to many dishes.
3. How to Store Fresh Herbs
I have had the most success with wrapping the root end of the bunch of herbs in a damp paper towel and then storing them in the fridge in a plastic zip lock bag. Make sure you leave a little bit of air in the bag and store it in the warmest part of your fridge, which is typically the door, or the top shelf.
Fresh herbs don’t have a long shelf life so buy ones that are new stock on the shelves and follow the tips above and you will get the maximum life out of them.
Use them as soon as possible and cut away any wilted or discoloured leaves.
4. How to Chop Fresh Herbs
The first thing you need to ensure when you are cutting your herbs is to use a sharp blade.
You can use a knife, food processor or even scissors, as long as they are sharp. To maximize the flavor of your herbs, cut them as finely as possible.
Done correctly and you will maximize the flavor and aroma of your dish.
5. Dried Herbs – Make Sure You Are Using the Best Quality Herbs
If you choose to use dried herbs, make sure you are adding the best quality herbs to your dishes. Dried herbs lose their flavour over time so buy them in smaller quantities and use them up before the use by date.
It is also a good idea to store your herbs in an air tight container to help maintain their flavour. If you open the container and cannot smell the aroma of the herb then there won’t be very much flavour left in the herb either.
Cooking with herbs doesn’t need to be confusing. They are a great addition to any dish so be prepared to experiment and soon you will be serving up dishes just like you would get in your favourite restaurant.