Friday, 10 August 2012

Herbacious Help

Sometimes in life (well a lot of the time) we all need a helping hand and especially when it comes to ensuring domestic goddess status in the kitchenette. In an ideal world we'd all be sweeping around looking like 20's film stars while still managing to maintain an abundant veg patch, cupcakes in the oven and various pots and pans on the hob bubbling away with numerous dishes for the week ahead.

Catapult me into the real world (no, please don't!) and what we're really dealing with is full time work, mundane chores, offspring, studying, eyebrow maintenance, boring admin, exercise, searching for THE red lipstick and the list goes on and on. So I'm all about reducing farce and time when it comes to cooking.

A while ago I was knocking up one of my fave dishes from Mr Oliver's 30 minute meals - Piri Piri chicken. It's the bomb try it. (I serve it with rice or tortilla wraps though as it's much quicker) The sauce requires fresh basil and Mr Victory was sent out with his spear to go and hunt for some. Alas he returned initially to my horror with not fresh basil but a tube of basil. Our local supermarche was a fresh basil free zone hence his purchase. Inside I held an element of disdain as nothing beats a fresh herb. But Mr V did his best for me so I had to give him props for innovation so I was quickly over it and moved on.
GG saved the day! (And Mr V)
A good ole dollop of this stuff produced top results with the PP sauce so now I ensure it's a regular in Vivi's fridge. This one is by Gourmet Garden but I'm sure there's other brands equally as effective. I do prefer fresh and dried herbs but there are times that fresh herbs can be pricey if you're not going to use them much or if you're away for weekends etc and they're wilted and unusable thus not effective use of one's finances. In the tubular format they're really flexible for other meals and I've used the basil as a fake pesto mixed with pasta and also spread on some toasted baguette with a bit of mozzarella. Divine! I've also added the odd spoonful into sauces and soups. Winner.Yes the ingredients list mentions a bit of sugar etc but for the small quantities you use it ain't going to cause death and disease.
O Thyme tell me what you need!

Another way around herbs is obviously to try and grow them yourself. I grew basil on my but as it's not something I use all of the time it grew to the size of a massive tree and my windowsill couldn't cope. Conversely my thyme which I grew from seed is stunted and I'm obviously doing something wrong so I need to build in research time to look into this. Please give me some tips if you have any!

However my Rosemary is thriving. It might have something to do with her funky retro 60's frock I lovingly made her and maybe that's why Thyme has beef with me. Hmmm I'll address that issue later.
Rosemary rocking Mary Quant-esque threads

People always tell me they don't use herbs as they don't know what goes with what. To get your confidence levels up and for cost effectiveness start with dried herbs as they keep for ages. Fresh herbs are a lot stronger too so just bear that in mind when experimenting. To hell with rules - experiment to your hearts content as there are all sorts of possibilities. But as a basic rough guide I find the following is a good start:

Basil: A good all-rounder and great in Italian dishes, nice in salads, dressings, soups, cheese ie mozzarella.

Oregano: Basil's BF and used as above. Together they rock da house!

Coriander: One of my faves. Lovely in curries, Thai, chinese, Asian dishes and salads.

Dill: Beautiful herb fresh or dried and lovely with fish and eggs.

Rosemary: She truly shines in the company of beef, lamb and roast potatoes.

Thyme: Very versatile and goes with most meats and veg. Especially oozes star quality when she's roasted with chicken.

Happy Friday and enjoy le weekend.
Vivi. x

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