Having herbs to hand in the garden is such a great way of transforming all your home cooked meals even by simply sprinkling fresh chopped oregano or basil leaves over your pasta dishes or salads or adding a sprig of rosemary in the roasting pan with lamb or beef before you put it in to the oven. Use them at will. But there will be times when your herb plants needs a little trim and you find you’ve got quite a lot of herbs to use up. These ideas will help you do just that…
Chimichurri Style Sauces
We’re not experts in making chimichurri, so please, if you’re from Argentina and you’re reading this with exasperation in your eyes, forgive us. But we are experts in herbs, and we know that you can use the fundamentals of a chimichurri sauce to make all sorts of delicious sauces that will go beautifully with BBQd meat during the summer. Chimichurri is a classic Argentinean sauce that is basically made up of olive oil, parsley, oregano and quite a lot of garlic. This is our take on it…
3-4 cloves garlic, very finely crushed
2 cups fresh herbs, chopped (parsley and oregano are the traditional ones, but you can be inventive and mix it up depending on what you’re cooking)
6 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin is best)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
A good pinch of sea salt (and chilli flakes if you fancy a little heat)
Put all the ingredients in a glass jar and give it a jolly good shake up, with the lid on of course. If it’s too thick and gloopy you can add a little water to loosen it. It’s best to make this the day before so that the flavours really come together. You can keep it for 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Make sure you remember to take it out of the fridge half an hour before you serve to give the mixture time to loosen up again.
This is really straightforward, but it’s such a good tip for using up herbs if you’ve got plenty that you want to harvest but won’t be able to eat quickly enough. Simply chop up a good handful or two of any leafy herb, mix it with butter (softened by leaving at room temperature for an hour) and then, using greaseproof paper, roll it up into a sausage shape. Pop it in the fridge to firm up before cutting into discs and freezing. You can bring a bit out whenever you fancy to melt over steaks, steamed veg etc.
This is such a great one if you enjoy eating white fish, chicken or lamb. Put some slices of bread in a blender and whizz them up with lemon zest, a pinch of sea salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and two or three handfuls of fresh herbs (leaves only – use whatever combination you like…mint, thyme, oregano, parsley all work well). You’re looking for a nice vibrant green colour once it’s blended, so if it just looks like breadcrumbs, add more herbs. For chicken or fish, rub the fillet with olive oil and pack the herb crust on top so that you have a nice layer on top of the fillet, then put it in the oven to cook as normal. If you’re cooking a lamb rack, brown the lamb first in a frying pan, and then add the crust before putting it in to the oven to cook.
If you want to make a herb crust for freezing, it’s best to omit the olive oil. You can add this later when you’ve defrosted it ready to use.
This is an obvious one but it is so useful. We’ve made all sorts of pesto sauces from all sorts of herbs, from Thai style coriander pestos using coconut oil and chilli to wild garlic pesto and beyond. It’s amazing how many herbs a couple of jars of pesto will use up, and it keeps for a week or so in the fridge.
At its most simple, just pop the following ingredients through a food processor, drizzling in olive oil (or other oil) until you reach the right consistency:
2-3 big bunches herb leaves (basil, coriander, oregano and mint all work well)
A handful of nuts (pine nuts, cashews or chopped mixed)
A handful grated cheese (parmesan is traditional, but you get an amazing texture using hard goats cheese)
Pinch sea salt and pepper
This works well for the more woody herbs like rosemary, lavender and thyme. Simply hang in bunches upside down until they dry out. Once dried you can store the leaves for later use.