Winter is all about comfort food and that means slow cooking; simmering soups and stews for hours until the meat drops off bone.
Make your own bouquet garni
The traditional way of flavouring winter soups, stews and hearty pasta sauces is with a bouquet garni. A bouquet garni generally consists of three or more herb sprigs tied together with some string (or use a stainless steel strainer), and added at the beginning of cooking.
The flavour of the herbs slowly infuses into the sauce and just before serving the bouquet garni is removed. The classic bouquet garni is a sprig of thyme and parsley, and a bay leaf. Rosemary is sometimes added. But you can create your own by combining two or three herbs that work together.
Use one strongly flavoured herb and two milder herbs. The milder herbs help the flavours to mingle. Strong or robust flavoured herbs include garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage, sorrel, tarragon and thyme. They stand up well to cooking, and the flavours either become more subtle or more intense.
Mild flavoured herbs include bay leaf, chervil, marjoram and parsley. These are classified as mild because they combine well with most other herbs and their flavours often become milder in cooking. They can also be used in larger quantities, and with more variation than robust herbs.
Healthy herbs for stews
Thyme is a hardy winter standby and excellent home first-aid herb. The variety of different thymes (11 at last count) make it an interesting herb to grow.
Chives grow throughout winter and the leaves have a mild onion flavour. When snipped off at the base they quickly re-sprout, and in spring they produce purple flowers. Grow them as a perennial in full sun and fertile soil.
Parsley is one of the most useful health-promoting herbs that grows through winter. It is a good source of vitamins (especially C), and minerals. It’s super easy to grow, pick and use on a daily basis. Plant it in rich, fertile soil in full sun to partial shade and fertilise every two weeks with a liquid feed because it devours nutrients.
Coriander’s bright green feathery leaves look like Italian parsley and it has similar growth, with a height of 50cm and spread of 30cm. Preferring cooler growing conditions, it does best in autumn and spring, tending to bolt into flower in midsummer.