Cooking is true joy. Transforming a handful of ingredients into a delicious experience is a form of art and eating that food is a privilege indeed! So, those of us who know our way around the kitchen and cooking, know the importance of herbs – even a small change in the quantity can change the entire essence of a dish. Unlike spices, herbs are more subtle in flavour, but when misused or unused, make a whole world of difference. In some cuisines, like Italian, herbs are not just a suggestion in cooking but a hard and fast rule. In other cuisines, like Chinese, herbs are accompaniments and embellishments for other flavours such as meat or dairy products. Herbs aren’t just for cooking though, they’re also a major staple in cakes, dips and sauces. So, for those of us who want to know about the herbs used in cooking, or want to re-acquaint ourselves with what is out there, here is a list of herbs used as taste enhancers that you need to have in your kitchen:
Basil has a sweet and pungent taste and is heavily used in salads, sandwiches, soups and sauces. It is commonly paired with tomato and mozzarella, usually with some bread. However, in cooking, dried basil is usually added at the beginning to develop its flavour. If you’re cooking Italian or French, this herb is an absolute must-add.
There is a reason behind Italian restaurants serving oregano with their pizza: it is one of the best taste enhancers that improve the flavour of the toppings and adds a zing for those who are looking for it. However, it isn’t just the Italians that use it extensively- it is also a major herb in Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. Its citric flavour with a slightly bitter aftertaste makes it a great ingredient for pasta sauces, salads and vinaigrettes. You could also use it in stir-frys and poultry dishes to bring out the right flavour.
Parsley has a mild and earthy flavour that lets other flavours become stars of the show while giving background support. It has a pungent flavour, so it is best to use it in moderation. It is generally used as a garnish when the leaves are fresh and dried leaves are used in cooking. Parsley sauteed in butter makes a great bed to grill fish or chicken and cut-up fresh parsley work amazingly well as a salad garnish.
Mint is one of the key ingredients in Indian cuisine, put in kebabs and flavoured, layered rice dishes such as biriyani. It has a fresh taste, leaving your taste buds craving for more. It also makes a huge difference when it is absent, especially in biryani and curry. Mint isn’t just used in cooking but also with ice cream, tea, mojitos and mint juleps. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
What jeera is to Indian cuisine, sage is to Italian cuisine. Stews and other slow-cooked dishes borrow heavily from sage’s flavour, especially pairing well with fatty meats. It also works well in pasta sauces and butter sauces. However, when used too much, it can lead to a bitter aftertaste that can ruin the whole dish. Use with caution and follow the recipes to the T if you want to successfully use sage in your cooking.
6. Kasoori Methi
Dried fenugreek leaves are used mostly in Indian cooking. They give a dish its full essence, such as with aloo methi and butter chicken, but also work as a flavour enhancer when cooking dal. It can also be kneaded into the dough to make delicious parathas or chapatis. If you’re feeling extra decadent, use a spoonful in everyday curries to add a uniquely great taste.
In Latin, rosemary means “dew of the ocean”, a poetic name for a truly gorgeous herb. If you can find fresh sprigs, it brings a new dimension to cooking with lamb and pork. On the vegetarian side, sprinkle fresh rosemary with olive oil on potatoes and roast for a truly comforting dish. Rosemary has a fresh, citric and earthy flavour and is especially used in Mediterranean cooking. However, much like other herbs, its strong taste calls for a light hand when used in cooking.
Now that you know about the herbs used in cooking, all you have to do is to invest in quality kitchen products and herbs and cook up a storm for your family! For any quality kitchen appliance, check out Wonderchef!