Not sure when to reach for basil and when to choose coriander? Follow our guide for everything you need to know about when to use our top 10 versatile herbs and totally transform your cooking.
Sage’s soft leaves and punchy flavour make it an ideal partner for other robust ingredients. Finely chop and add to a batch of cheese scones or blitz with Parmesan and sprinkle over potatoes before roasting. Larger leaves are great for frying, as they go crispy – try frying in butter and spooning over creamed swede or pumpkin gnocchi.
Thyme’s floral, savoury flavour and tiny leaves make it super-versatile – it can stand up to slow-cooking, marinating and baking. Add a few leaves to the batter of a lemon cake for a floral twist or bake a batch of thyme oatcakes to go with cheese and chutney.
Often used in Scandinavian and Eastern European cuisines, dill is soft and delicate with notes of anise and fennel. Use in a marinade for barbecued dill and buttermilk chicken legs, or chop generously into herby tzatziki topped with beetroot.
Tarragon has a strong anise flavour so should be used sparingly. Strip the leaves from the stalks and chop finely before adding to sauces or dressings – add to mayonnaise and toss with shredded roast chicken to upgrade your sandwich. Alternatively, mash into butter for a spring chicken stew.
There are two main varieties of parsley: flat-leaf and curly-leaf. Flat-leaf is softer and can be used in salads – chop with a sharp knife to avoid bruising the leaves. Try plaice with a lemon, garlic and parsley crust for a quick and healthy midweek meal.
A hardy winter herb, rosemary’s distinctive needle-like leaves have a strong fragrance and flavour. It partners well with most meats (especially lamb) and a little goes a long way. It also works in sweet recipes – bake buttery rosemary shortbreads or an unusual almond, rosemary and courgette cake.
Fresh mint is used around the world and complements many ingredients – blitz with pecorino and pistachios for a fresh pesto, or add a few leaves to the water when cooking new potatoes in spring. Make your own mint sauce to go with your next roast lamb, ready in just 10 minutes.
The ultimate ‘Marmite’ herb, coriander is unmistakably sharp, aromatic, fresh and citrussy. Used widely in South East Asian and South American cuisines, it cuts through rich oily fish, complements spice and offsets heat. Add quick coriander flatbreads to your next barbecue or blitz into a fragrant paste with garlic, ginger and chilli for a coriander chicken pilaf.
The classic summer herb, basil is most at home with tomatoes and summery veg. Delicate basil is best torn rather than chopped and used at the end of cooking or as a garnish. Scatter over a tomato salad, make a herby basil butter for sweetcorn or toss with sliced strawberries and leave to macerate before serving with ice cream.
A mild member of the allium family, chives have a subtle onion taste. Delicious with fish (especially smoked), chives add a fresh element to a fish pie, or snip a few into hollandaise sauce for a special brunch. For an indulgent dinner for two, cook juicy steaks with cheese and chive polenta.
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