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.