Basil is a herb most associated with Italian cuisine. Dishes such as pizza, Bolognese sauce, ratatouille, pesto, are all defined by the flavour of basil: pungent, a slight taste of aniseed & smell of cloves, a little sweetness.
Basil has warm flavours which come out beautifully when cooking food slowly. Dried basil goes well with poultry when used as a stuffing. Pates, terrines, fish dishes all come alive when basil is used. And then there is pesto with pasta…a meal in itself!
A Little Guide to Herb Flavours
Here’s a little list of herbs and their general uses:
Basil – A deeply flavoured herb, suited to sweeter ingredients and subtler meats: Potatoes, peas, green beans, tomatoes, salad dressings, chicken.
Bay Leaves: With a depth to its flavour, the pungent bay suits to cook with grains, sauces and stews with beans or lentils.
Chives – These have a delicate onion flavour (for those who cannot eat onion use asafoetida as a substitute). Use when cooking eggs, with salads, potato dishes, poultry and sauces.
Coriander leaf – This zingy ingredient is the distinctive flavour of Mexican and Chinese cookery. Use in salsas, chutneys, chicken dishes, the worlds best guacamole…and salads.
Dill leaf – Another pungent herb that can dominate a dish if overused. Dill flavours are married to seafood, cucumber yogurt sauces, salads, pickling, cabbage, aubergine and Mediterranean cooking.
Marjoram – From the oregano family, marjoram is slightly sweeter and suits fish stews, stuffings, carrots, leafy greens, beans and bean stews; egg dishes.
Mint – There are lots of different varieties. Garden or spearmint is often used in cooking and goes well in Thai, Indian and other Asian cuisines. Desserts, lamb, fish and salads are other good pairings.
Oregano – Seems to be the most universally used dried herb as it goes well with all meats, vegetable, great with seafood seafood, lemons and sauces.
Parsley – It has a clean and bright savoury flavour that suits sea-foods especially. Try dried parsley with potatoes, soups and salad dressings.
Rosemary – A strongly flavoured piney and pungent Mediterranean herb. It goes well with roasted vegetables. It is used lightly with white beans, breads and cooked meats.
Sage – Can be slightly bitter and it can overpower, but it suits soups, cooked meats, stuffings and sauces.
Savory – With its thyme-like flavour savory is good used with beans, tomatoes, strong meats and stuffings.
Tarragon – Has a strong liquorice and lemon flavour. Use alone in potato, chicken, mushrooms, tomato and egg dishes and vinegrettes.
Thyme – An earthy, bright flavour that enhances soups, stews, roasting vegetables and meats, slow-cooked tomato dishes and breads.