Cooking with herbs – Savory

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog seriessavory

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Savory – satureja hortensis

Savory is native to the Mediterranean, where it is commonly referred to as the bean herb as it gives bean dishes a distinctive flavour and also helps prevent flatulence when eating beans. Crushing the fresh herb and putting it on fresh bee stings can help with the swelling.  You can use both the fresh and dried herb.

Savory tea is excellent to clear a spotty, teenage skin
Use 1 tbsp of the fresh herb and add 250ml boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes and then pour into a bowl, add cold water until the temperature is warm, but not boiling hot. Soak a clean flannel and apply to the face, leave until it has cooled down and repeat a few times. Then use a good peeling face mask and finish up with a healing day cream (you can also use nappy rash cream in small amounts, especially when the spots are very sore).

The same tea as above can also help with a chesty cough. In this case gargle the tea and spit it out again.

In the kitchen 

Savory with its peppery, aromatic taste is used for lamb dishes, hearty stews and of course it must not be missing from a bean casserole or any other cooked bean dish. Could it be the phrase ‘savoury dishes’ comes from this herb?

Here are a few recipes:

1.  Tuscan Bean soup
A wholesome soup for the winter,  serves 6

12 oz/350g dried canneloni beans, soaked overnight (or tinned), 4 ripe, well flavoured tomatoes (or use tinned), 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots, 2 leeks,
11 oz/300g kale (chopped), 2 cloves garlic, handful of winter savory, 2 sprigs fresh thyme. 6-8 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper

To serve:
6 slices of stale country bread (2-3 days old),  7 oz/200g savoy cabbage, red onion and olive oil

  • Pour off the water in which the beans have been soaking, place them in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water to a depth of 2″ above the beans. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes, drain. Cover the beans with fresh water and add a small handful of fresh savory. Bring the water back up to boiling point then reduce the heat and simmer for approx 1½ hours until the beans are tender but still whole.
  • If you use tinned beans then use the recipe from here.
  • Drain the beans and pass three-quarters of them through a sieve into a bowl with 2 pints (1.2 litres)of fresh water. Reserve the rest of the beans separately.
  • Finely chop the carrots, celery and leeks. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the vegetables until soft. Meanwhile peel, de-seed and chop the tomatoes then add them to the vegetables along with the garlic and thyme. After 5 minutes add the cabbage, salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes before adding the bean puree. Cook slowly for an hour adding tepid water if the soup becomes too solid, although it should be a very thick soup.
  • About 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking stir in the whole beans to heat them through. Finely chop the Savoy cabbage and sauté in a little oil. Serve the soup ladled over a slice of bread and topped with cooked cabbage. Offer finely sliced red onions and olive oil at the table.

2. Beans with savory and bacon
This is probably one of the easiest and tastiest recipes there is.

You will need:

400g canelloni beans (tinned is best here, as you can use the juice) 
150g of smoked bacon (vary how meaty you want this dish, vegetarians can replace it with chopped red pepper instead), 1 large onion, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp chopped savory, salt and pepper to season.

  • Chop the onion finely and brown in 1 tbsp of olive/cooking oil. Add the paprika seasoning to it, so it turns the onions slightly reddish.
  • Add the chopped bacon until brown and finally add the 2 cans of beans with the juice (canelloni preferred, but really any beans will do), chopped savory and cook covered on a low flame for 15 minutes, finally season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh sourdough bread and butter.

Word of Advice: Always cook beans with savory, as they soak up its flavour, but never add salt or pepper during the cooking process, always add at the end as particularly salt prevents the beans from softening. This is especially important when you cook raw (rather than tinned) beans.

 

 

Cooking with herbs – dill

Cooking with herbs – dill

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Dill – Anethum graveolens cooking with the herb dill

Dill is an annual herb that has feathery leaves and a distinctive aromatic smell. It grows about 2 feet tall and has feathered leaves.

Dill, like caraway and fennel, cleanses and strengthens the digestive tract. When used an herb tea dill it strengthens the bladder, combats stress and is also good for the throat.  If you feel a cold coming on and have a fury tongue, an old recipe suggests to chew dill seeds.

But it is a well loved herb for adding flavour and one of the main ingredients in Swedish cooking. The flowers and seeds are used for pickles, but the leaves as seasoning for salads, especially cucumber and potato salad, yoghurt sauces and salmon (gravad lax).

 

Here are two recipes:

1. Yoghurt-dill dip 

This is a great condiment for baked potatoes, fish and meat dishes. But you can also serve it as a starter with raw vegetables, such as carrots, celery or cucumber.

Ingredients:  250 g cream cheese or quark, 2 tbsp. creme fraiche, salt & pepper, 1 tsp lemon zest and a small bunch of finely chopped dill. 

Add all ingredients together and serve cold.

2. Potatoes with dill  

Ingredients: a handful of new potatoes, 2 tbsp of chopped dill, a dollop of butter, salt

Steam the potatoes with the peel for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove the peel and add a knob of butter, salt and the chopped dill. These potatoes are best served with fish dishes.

Cooking with herbs – lovage

Cooking with herbs – lovage

lovageWelcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

History: Pliny the older and Dioskurides already used this useful herbs to cure kidney and bladder diseases. However, in the Middle Ages this aromatic herb was seen as ‘plant of love’ and found its way into many  love potions.

How to grow and use it: Lovage is a perennial plant and grows over 2 meters tall. The leaves are large and almost triangular. Its flowers are greenish-yellow colour and they show up in late spring. These days lovage is a bit of a forgotten kitchen herb, but that is very undeserved, as its leaves add
a lot of flavour to soups, stews and dishes, making it easier to reduce the salt need to make the dish palatable.

In Germany it is called the ‘Maggi’ herb, named after the famous soup flavouring sauce, as it is one of its main ingredients. But it is not only the leaves that are so useful, the seeds can be used as a spice and the roots as a vegetable.

Recipes: 

Lovage root tea:
This tea is wonderful for everybody who suffers from gout, rheumatism, hot flushes and production of sweat. 
Chop up dried or fresh root (1 tsp) and add to a cup of hot water. Drink up to 2 teas a day, one in the morning and one in the evening,

Lovage bath essence:
Take 10 leaves and some roots add to one litre of cold water, slowly bring to the boil. Then add it to your full bath. Lovage as bath essence helps with female genial problems, reduces the production of sweat, soothes the nerves and helps to lose weight. 

Top tip: Freeze the leaves in summer and add a tsp of frozen lovage to soups and sauces over the winter time. 

Lovage and pumpkin pesto

This is a very seasonal dish and makes a great starter dip.  Chop up a handful of lovage leaves, add 50g of pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp of ground parmesan and 120ml pumpkin seed oil (or virgin olive oil). It tastes great on toasted rye bread or with vegetables such as celery or raw carrots. 

 

 

Cooking with herbs – basil

Cooking with herbs – basil

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being.  To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Cooking with herbs - basilHistory:  Basil originates from India, where it was cultivated for cooking over 5000 years ago. Nowadays there are over 60 different types of basil. The word ‘basileus’ means ‘king’ and Basil is often referred to as ‘king of all herbs’. Its first ceremonial use was connected with the ancient festival ‘ the feast of the cross’, that commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, the mother of the emperor St. Constantine.

How to grow and use it:  Basil is one of those herbs that grows easily on every window sill, providing it is not all day in direct sunlight. The rounded leaves have a waxy texture and are very aromatic. But should always used fresh as its taste is lost once it is cooked. The leaves are very delicate, so it is best to  cut them into a salad, etc.,  with kitchen scissors.

TIP: Did you know that Basil grown on your window sill does not only look good, but it will also ward off flying insects  as they don’t like its aromatic smell.
Once you have been bitten by an insect, an old remedy is to rub a fresh basil leave straight onto the bit, it will help with the itching sensation and sometimes can even help with the swelling.

Recipes:

Basil Oil

Ingredients: a handful of basil leaves, 250ml virgin olive oil 

It could not be simpler. Put the leaves into a dark glass bottle and add the olive oil. Leave overnight and use on salads or fresh tomatoes

Basil tea:
Use as tea for bloating and problem with digestion 

Ingredients:  put a handful of fresh basil leaves into a tea pot and infuse with 250ml of boiling water

Leave to steep for 10 minutes and drink in small sips. It helps with  bloating and helps with the digestion if you have eaten too much or too heavy food.

Pasta with home-made pesto and ‘Insalta Caprese’

Basil is probably best known for Italian cooking, with ‘Insalata Caprese’ and pesto being some of the all-time Italian classic dishes.

Home-made Pesto: 10 garlic cloves, 200g pine kennels, 40-50 fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches), 1 tsp of sea salt, 6 tbsp of grated pecorino cheese or parmesan, 250ml olive oil

1)Peel garlic gloves and put together with pine kennels into a food processor

2) Add basil leaves and blend the mixture quickly together. But make sure that the mixture is not too fine, as pesto is not a mash, but a coarse mixture of herbs. Then remove the herb mixture from the blender into a side dish.

3) Put the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and blend them all together until they form a smooth paste. Finally add the smooth paste to the coarse herb mixture and seal in pots and jars.

These jars should last for a while, especially when you keep them cool. Then cook fresh pasta of your choice and add the pesto to it.

Insalata Caprese :  This is the typical Italian starter
6 medium tomatoes, rich and ripe, 300g fresh mozzarella, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 6 large basil leaves, 4 tbsp extra virgin oil, 1 tbsp. capers, salt and ground pepper

1) Wash and dry the tomatoes and slice them into 0.5cm (1/4 inch) slices. Then slice the mozzarella the same way.
2) Arrange on a platter one slice of tomato/mozzarella/tomato and so on, always slightly overlapping.
3) Sprinkle the oregano and capers on top. Then tear up the basil and scatter them on the platter and finally season with olive oil, salt and ground pepper

It is a very easy dish to prepare, but the secret is to make it fresh and to buy the best produce possible !

 

Cooking with herbs – chives

Cooking with herbs – chives

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being.  To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

History:  Chives are part of the leek family and related to onions and garlic. It has been grown in Europe for over 2000 years. The Ancient Greeks already used in in cooking and the Romans said to have used it to relieve sunburn, sore throat and to regulate blood pressure.

In Romania people hung bunches of chives from window sills and doors to ward off evil spirits and disease. Nowadays this tradition is still alive is still in popular culture where in films garlic is used to fight off vampires.

Chives contain essential oils that stimulate the digestion and help with the elimination process.

How to grow and use it: Chives are very easy to grow and can be cultivated in a small pot on a reasonably sunny window sill. It grows to about 30-45cm tall (12-20 inches). The stems are tubular and hollow and it is these that are mostly used in the kitchen. Chives produce pale purple flowers which attract bees, but interestingly due to its sulphur content is helps to keep most other insects out.

In the kitchen chives are used as seasoning in salad dressing and sauces or the raw herb can be chopped and sprinkled on cooked vegetables, especially potatoes and as topping on bread spreads.

cooking with herbs - chives

cooking with herbs – chives

Recipes:

Cream sauce with chives

This sauce works well as a compliment to steaks and fish dishes.

Ingredients: 2 pieces of white bread (crust removed), 250ml milk, 2 eggs (hard-boiled), 250ml creme fraiche or Greek Yoghurt, 100ml sunflower or rapeseed oil, 3 tbsp of chopped chives, salt & pepper

  • Boil the eggs until hard-boiled
  • Then put all the ingredients (except the chopped chives and seasoning) into a blender or food processor and mix until you get the consistency of a thick sauce
  • Finally add the chopped chives and salt and pepper and serve cold.

 

Salad with chive & yoghurt dressing

Ingredients:  For the salad (you can vary these according to your taste) : a small lettuce (washed), 1/2 cucumber (sliced), a handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 red/yellow or green pepper (cut into strips)

For the dressing: 250ml 1 % yoghurt, 2 tbsp creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey, a bunch of fresh chives (chopped), salt and pepper to season. 

  •   Prepare the salad in a big bowl
  • put all the ingredients for the dressing into one small bowl, mix together, season with salt and pepper and add to the salad just before serving.

 

Cooking with herbs-mint

Cooking with herbs-mint

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being.  To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Mint ( Mentha) 

Cooking with herbs - the mint

Cooking with herbs – the mint

The name ‘mint’ comes from the Greek nymph ‘Minthe’, who was transformed into a mint plant.

The mint plant has aromatic, oblong leaves and prefers to grow in a moist soil. There are many mint varieties, the majority have dark to pale green leaves, but some plants have purple, greyish  and even pale yellow leaves and white/purple flowers. Mint will grow 10 to 120 cm tall and has a tendency to spread. If you grow it at home, it is best to grow it in pots to avoid spreading too far.

The best-known varieties for cooking are peppermint, spearmint and apple mint and they are best used as freshly plucked leaves.
If you have more mint than you can use, you can store it for a few days in the fridge. Another option is to chop it up into small pieces and freeze it together with water as ice-cubes. These can be added to drinks.

In hot countries, a refreshing mint tea is served at most occasions, but particularly to seal a business deal or to welcome guests. But mint is also used in cold drinks and soups such as mojito (please find a recipe below) and pea & mint soup.

Here are a few summery recipes with mint, perfect for a BBQ or as outdoors meal.

Tzatziki Dip:
This is one of my all time favourite dips. I love it with pitta bread and particularly with grilled fish, meat and sea food (it works particularly well with grilled squid!). All these recipes below serve 4 people.

Ingredients: 3 tbsp extra virgin oil, 1/2 cucumber (i like it with peel, but you can also peel it) – diced, 115g (40z) plain yogurt – Greek style whole-milk works best, but you can also do it with less fatty varieties,
3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh mint, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2-3 crushed garlic gloves, salt and pepper to taste.

1. It could not be simpler. Start with the yoghurt and add all the ingredients in and stir it all together, it takes only a few minutes! This dip will keep in the fridge for a few days.

If you want to find out more about the benefits of yoghurt, please read this post. 

Smoked aubergine and pepper salad:
This salad (together with the tzatziki) is a good mezze dish, best served on a hot summer’s day. It can be
prepared as main course or side dish. 

Ingredients for the salad: 2 medium aubergines (sliced into 1cm thick), round pieces, 2 red peppers (deseeded and halved), 6 tbsp extra olive oil, 2 pitta breads, 1 tbsp. freshly cracked or ground coriander – this is optional
Ingredients for the dressing: 4-5 garlic cloves, Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tbsp), 5 tsp extra virgin oil, 4 tbsp of roughly chopped mint, 2 tbsp of treacle or honey, 1 tsp ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the aubergine, red peppers, 4 tbsp. oil, salt and pepper. Either grill or cook them until soft (around 4-5 minutes on each side). Then put them back into the bowl.
2. Meanwhile chop the garlic into small pieces and brown in a separate pan.
3. Rub the pitta bread with the remaining 2 tbsp. oil and sprinkle the coriander on it. Then grill it until it is slightly charred and cut it into wedges.
4. Combine the browned garlic with all the other ingredients from the dressing section.
5. Finally pour the dressing over the grilled vegetables and serve together with the toasted pitta bread.

Watermelon mojito

This is a most refreshing summer drink. This version is with alcohol, but you can also change it into a non-alcoholic drink. In this case replace the rum by either more lemon/lime juice or replace it with elderflower juice.

Ingredients: 20 fresh min leaves (chop most of them, but leave a few for garnish),
2 tbsp chopped fresh watermelon (without seeds)
Juice of 1 lime (2 tbsp), 1 tbsp. granulated sugar, 60ml (2 fl oz) light rum, 90 ml (3fl oz) soda water

1. Put the watermelon, crushed mint leaves, lime juice and sugar in a tall glass and mass them together (or even better blend them shortly in a food processor) – until everything is well crushed. Fill a glass with ice cubes, pour in the rum and mashed mixture and top up with soda water. Finally garnish with a watermelon wedge and some mint leaves.