Herbed gnocchi. Picture: Supplied
Herbed gnocchi. Picture: Supplied

Spice it up! A guide to using herbs for cooking

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Mar 3, 2021

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Cooking with herbs is an easy way to infuse a recipe with flavour.

Many people have herbs in their gardens or on their kitchen ledge but don’t use them to their full potential. They are sometimes forgotten about and not much is done with their herb garden. So get picking, learn about drying herbs, and of course, get cooking.

Head culinary artist from Granny Mouse Country House & Spar Theo Mannie, has shared below delicious recipes on how you can use herbs in cooking.

Thyme infused panna cotta with gin berries

Serves: 6

Ingredients

200ml cream

200ml milk

7g gelatine powder

3tbsp water

50g honey

1tsp vanilla extract

2tbsp thyme sprigs

Gin berries

50ml Bombay Sapphire Gin

300g frozen raspberries

50g sugar

1tsp thyme

50g cucumber skin and seeds removed & cut into cubes

Method

Combine the milk, cream, honey, vanilla extract, and thyme in a saucepan.

Place this over medium heat.

Cook until the mixture begins to boil gently and the honey has dissolved.

In the meantime, dissolve the gelatine in the water then add this to the milk and cream.

Remove from the heat and add the gelatine.

Pour into a mould and chill until they are set.

For the berries, pour the gin, frozen berries, sugar, and thyme into a pan. Cook on medium-high heat stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce resembles syrup. Remove from the heat, add the cucumber and allow cooling down.

To plate, remove the mould from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.

Shake gently to loosen up the sides before tipping onto the plate. It should come out easily. Arrange the berries and serve.

Herbed gnocchi

Serves: 4

Ingredients

400g mash potato

300g flour

½tsp dried mixed herbs

¼tsp fresh thyme sprigs

2 eggs beaten

2 cloves garlic crushed

¼ onions diced

30g butter

300ml cream

50g Parmesan cheese grated

1tbsp chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Method

Combine the mash, flour, eggs, mixed herbs, thyme, and season to taste.

Use a teaspoon measure to scoop the mixture and squeeze them till they are flat and flat in shape.

Place on a tray and freeze.

Once frozen, cook the gnocchi into salted boiling water for about 3 minutes or until they just begin to float.

In the meantime make the sauce by sautéing the onions, the onions, and garlic in the butter on medium heat.

Add the cream and turn the heat up to max.

Once the cream begins to simmer, pour in the gnocchi.

Reduce the heat to a medium-low temperature.

Sprinkle the cheese and allow the sauce to thicken stirring from time to time.

Just before the sauce is ready, sprinkle generously with chopped parsley.

Season to taste.

Basil pesto linguine with tomato

Serves: 3

Ingredients

1 onion diced

60ml vegetable oil

1tbsp garlic chopped

500g linguine

100ml white wine

3tbsp basil pesto

300g cherry tomatoes cut in half

60g parmesan cheese grated

30g rocket

Salt & pepper

Method

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling water.

The pasta should take between 4 and 8 minutes depending on the type of pasta you are using.

In the meantime, place a large frying pan on medium-high heat with half the oil.

Add the onions and sauté for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic.

Fry for a further 1 minute before pouring the wine, tomato, and pesto.

Allow the wine to reduce by half before adding the cooked pasta.

Pour in the remaining oil and reduce the heat to low.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To plate, divide the pasta into a pasta bowl.

Sprinkle with the cheese before layering with the fresh rocket.

In a recent interview with IOL Lifestyle on which herbs to grow, and how to cook with them, Renshia Manuel’s who is the founder of Growbox also suggested the below.

Parsley

Chefs prefer flat-leaved parsley over curly since it has more flavour. Parsley does best in moist, well-drained soil and can grow in partially shaded areas.

Use: Can be used in marinades, as a garnish, or in soups and salads.

Mint

With an aggressive growth rate, mint is best in its container, and above ground. It can handle shade, but it is better suited to strong sunlight.

Use: It can be added to smoothies, salads, and infused in teas.

Oregano (Greek)

This herb, not to be confused with marjoram, has small and flavourful leaves. It requires full sunshine and lots of drainage. Greek Oregano is also a tender perennial that you will have to bring inside during the winter months. The leaves can be dried and stored to be used at a later stage.

Use: Can be used in bolognaise, tomato, or chilli sauces.

Thyme

This herb has heavily scented leaves and prefers less water. You do need to give thyme exposure to full sunlight and well-drained soil.

Use: Can be used as a seasoning over seafood dishes.

Basil

Relatively easy to grow, basil prefers sunny locations. It also does best in rich soil that is well watered.

Use: Can be sprinkled fresh over the top of your pizza, added to tomato-based pasta sauces just before serving, or added to soups.

Rosemary

The resinous leaves of rosemary are highly aromatic. The herb requires cool climates with plenty of sun and moist (not wet) soil. It is also best to bring rosemary indoors for the winter.

Use: Can be infused in oils or as a seasoning over the meat, and fish dishes.

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