When it comes to cooking on a weekday we want it to be fast, tasty and healthy. On the weekends we might take a bit longer to prepare the food but during the week in needs to be quick.
Cooking fast doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t taste good or is unhealthy for you, it’s all about the hacks you use during cooking.
Today I’m going to show you one of the simplest but most effective hacks when it comes to taste: Using fresh herbs.
I have hypothesis (and although there other factors at play here, bear with me) about food at the restaurant: The main reason why it tastes so good is because they use fresh herbs almost all the time.
We’re so used in our own kitchen to use a seasoning mixture (chicken mix, beef mix, salad mix, whatevermix) that we forgot how good and tasty certain herbs smell like when we integrate them into our food.
That’s why I think we should have an overview about some of the most important herbs and spices we can use in the kitchen. Obviously you won’t have everything fresh on hand (I don’t know one person who has fresh curcumin at hand), but it makes sense that we go through some of the important fresh ones as well.
Let’s get started.
A staple in the Italian kitchen and very often used in salads, dressings, pasta or meatball sauces. Basil is one of the most known and used fresh herbs in the Western kitchen. Its benefits include anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s high in Vitamin A and K and a great source of manganese.
It’s super easy to cultivate at home and grows year-round if it’s warm enough (I usually take it into the apartment in winter).
I wouldn’t want to miss Basil in my kitchen anymore, it goes with almost everything.
Pro-tip: Never cut Basil, but use your hands instead, the flavors are way more powerful like this.
I’d say Rosemary is a meat-staple, but you can use it for a lot of other things as well. It goes beautifully with lamb, meat or chicken and also is a perfect match for any kind of potatoes (especially roasted).
The great thing about it is that it grows year-round and can even survive a winter outside.
It is associated with stimulating the immune system, increase circulation and improving digestion, so you could also use it as a tea!
- If you want to prepare Rosemary, do it like this: VIDEO
- When you’re cooking steak, take a sprig of rosemary and sweep over the steak after you’ve turned it. Together with garlic, that makes for a beautiful taste
Thyme is another meat-classic and also goes very well in any kind of dressing for salads. It can also survive a winter, but usually it has very little leaves, compared to Rosemary.
It used to be known as a helpful herb when it comes to coughing and other breathing-related illnesses but nowadays its oil is known as a powerful anti-oxidant, which increases the percentages of healthy fats in the cell membranes. Besides that it’s also antimicrobial.
Pro-tip: Use it when you’re cooking chicken, together with paprika, salt and pepper, that’s all you need! 🙂
This one is actually used in the Turkish kitchen a lot, we put Parsley into almost everything. I really like it in salads too, as it gives the salad a fresh taste.
It’s a great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, as well as a great source of folic acid which helps with cardiovascular health.
The main issue with Parsley is, that it’s kind of difficult to grow or rather maintain, once it’s grown. I’ll write a separate post on the specifics of growing your own herbs for the ktichen.
Pro-tip: Parlsey is a perfect companion for roasted artichokes. A bit of lemon juice and a bit of Parsley make it super tasty!
Cilantro aka Coriander
Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs when it comes to Asian or Latin American cooking. It looks very similar to Parsley but tastes very different.
It can help with diabetes and is known to control blood sugar, cholesterol and free radical production.
It’s super easy to grow and I recommend growing it from seeds. It grows super quick, but normally has to be inside in winter.
Pro-tip: Use it to spice up your guacamole!
I love me some Peppermint in my tea, whether it’s in winter or in summer, in an iced tea form – always tasty.
Peppermint has shown to be very helpful when it comes to digestion and stomach issues. It has antimicrobial oils which helps with certain bacteria and it can be beneficial in cases of asthma (because it helps breathing).
It can be a tricky herb when you’re cooking, because too much and it might overflavour the taste of the dish and too little and you might not taste anything at all. My suggestion is: less is more, when it comes to cooking.
Pro-tip: Put some crushed garlic and some fresh mint into a yoghurt and eat it with a meat or chicken dish – tastes heavenly!
I just recently became a big Sage fan, mostly because it was so easy to grow and I use it a lot in my teas. It helps a lot when you have a bad cough or if your lungs are sensitive. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it is known to be a memory enhancer (hence the name?).
Pro-tip: Cut it with Thyme and Rosemary and put it onto your Sunday roast, tastes beautiful!
Conclusion and others
As you can see there are not a lot of herbs you absolutely need to have in your kitchen, so it makes sense to buy and grow them yourself! Of course this is just a list of all the essentials and I’m sure there are tons of other herbs that are super healthy and tasty at the same time. I do think however that even stepping your game up with these few herbs will bring great changes into your cooking and I definitely recommend trying it out. Also: A lot of these can be used in forms of tea, so don’t just think about putting these into your food but also consider drinking them, if you like the taste!
Here’s a video of how to plant and grow them easily at home, for you to get started: