Herbs - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:29 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013

Bouquet garni

Bouquet garni

Herbs are a magical ingredient that can lift a dish and add a sprinkle of health benefits. Annie Stirk chooses some of her favourites and demonstrates how to use them

There is no excuse these days not to use fresh herbs as they are available in supermarkets all year round. And you can't help feeling good about picking your own home grown aromatic herbs from a jumble of pots around the kitchen door.

I like to keep it simple, with just a few varieties of lovely old favourites such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Bay trees with their glossy leaves sit well beside chives with their nodding purple pom poms and I am never without mint and tarragon.

Chives are one of the first herbs to poke their heads up in the herb garden. Cut and sprinkle them generously over leafy salads, cucumber, tomatoes, new potatoes, potato salad, beetroot or stir into buttery mash.

Chopped mint and chives stirred into Greek yoghurt makes a wonderful fresh dip. Stir chives into scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, or you might like to rustle up the ultimate fast food, Omelette Fines Herbes.

Basil just loves the sun like a lazy cat, and teams up with tomatoes as one of the greatest culinary double acts and a key flavour in Italian cooking.

Thyme has a soft warmth and spiciness. It is essential in a bouquet garni, stuffings, soups and stews, particularly those using red wine, onions and garlic. Pick thyme just before it comes into flower. Try marinating chicken breasts in lemon juice, a good handful of thyme leaves and a splash of olive oil before roasting.

Parsley could be described as the godfather of the herb garden and there are two camps here - you are either a curly or a flat leaf fan. My preference is for the flat leaf variety, but either way parsley is really good for you, being rich in vitamins A and C and enhances almost any dish. There is nothing better for supper than a vibrant homemade parsley sauce served simply with fish.

Sage and onion stuffing is part of our culinary heritage. And a flourishing sage plant is thought to indicate a strong woman in the house! Sage aids digestion and this is why traditionally it is used with fatty meats like pork, goose and duck.

It's also great with cheese - try adding some chopped sage under the cheese on toast. A bouquet garni is just a little bunch of selected herbs tied with string and popped into a soup, stew or sauce. A classic trio of herbs used in a bouquet garni would be parsley, bay and thyme. For pork dishes add some sage leaves.

For lamb add a sprig or two of rosemary, and for fish dishes and sauces strips of lemon rind and some fronds of fennel or dill. If you want to add some aromatics such as peppercorns or juniper berries, just wrap everything in a washed leek leaf.

FILLET OF VENISON WITH SALSA VERDE

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 fillets venison, approx 125g each

For the salsa verde

This is a lovely herb relish to add to your summer repertoire for chicken, fish, beef or venison - serve as an accompaniment like chutney. It also works well stirred into a bowl of steaming hot pasta. If you haven't got a food processor, don't worry, just use one of those nifty hand blitzers. Failing that you might need to use bit of elbow grease with a pestle and mortar.

2 garlic cloves, peeled

50g capers - drained

50g gherkins - drained

6 anchovy fillets

1 bunch parsley, flat leaf or curly

1 bunch basil, leaves only

1 bunch mint, leaves only

1 tbs Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper

6-8 tbs olive oil

Method

Place all the ingredients for the salsa verde into a food processor, except the olive oil.

Give the mixture a whiz and then gradually add the olive oil until you have a fairly thick, smooth texture. You may not need all the oil; it depends on the volume of herbs.

Heat a large frying pan, add a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the venison fillets into the hot pan and cook for approximately 4-5 minutes.

Turn the venison steaks over.

At this point you could spread a little of the salsa verde on each fillet.

Continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes depending on whether you like your venison medium or well done.

Serve the venison on a bed of buttered wilted spinach.

Spoon the remaining salsa verde into a bowl and let everyone help themselves - it will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days.

GREMOLATA

This is a fabulous simple herb sprinkle of parsley, garlic and finely grated lemon zest. It works miracles, lifting any dish out of the doldrums and looks fabulous too. Throw it generously over stews, griddled or pan fried fish, steaks and vegetables.

Ingredients 1 bunch of finely chopped parsley, flat leaf or curly

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Zest of 3 lemons

Simply mix together and sprinkle!

CHICKEN IN TARRAGON SAUCE

Serves 4

Ingredients

2-3 tbs vegetable oil

4 chicken breasts

1 tbs runny honey

Seasoning

75ml Vermouth or Noilly Prat or white wine

75ml chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbs tarragon leaves

150ml double or whipping cream

2 tbs chopped tarragon leaves

Method

Pre-heat the oven to gas 5/190oC and add the oil to a roasting tray.

Brush the chicken with the runny honey and season.

Roast for 25 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Pour the Vermouth/wine into a small saucepan.

Add the stock and the first lot of tarragon.

Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer until reduced and syrupy.

Fish out the tarragon leaves.

Next, add the cream and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the second lot of chopped tarragon.

Season. Spoon the tarragon sauce over the chicken.

Serve with seasonal vegetables and new potatoes.


RECIPES

There are so many recipes including herbs that I was spoilt for choice for this master class so I have chosen three of my favourites - Salsa Verde; Gremolata; and Chicken in Tarragon Sauce. Try them all for a tantalizing taste of summer and tell me what you think by emailing me at annie.stirk@yorkshirelife.co.uk

Check out farm shops, garden centres and farmers markets for wide selections of herbs. Also, these two specialist growers/suppliers - Herbs Unlimited, Nr Thirsk 01845 587694 www.herbsunlimited.co.uk Green Garden Herbs, Nr Selby 01405 860708 www.greengardenherbs.co.uk



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