Category Archives: Using Herbs

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My Green Kitchen

my-green-kitchen-1My Green Kitchen by  Neena Truscott and Belinda Macdonald

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My-Green-Kitchen by Neena-Truscott-Belinda-Macdonald – NZ$39

My lovely friends have just released a wonderful book that is full of inspirational recipes integrating the healing power of foods in easy-to-make family recipes. These recipes have a focus on restoring gut health, utilising leftovers and seasonal abundance and foraging for superfoods.

Also included are herbal recipes for stimulating vibrant health and innovative ideas for meals which feature ancient grains, and how to indulge in sweet treats without the ‘nasties’. The book features an article on ‘ancestral eating’ from Ben Warren of BePure, one of NZ’s leading nutrition and holistic health experts.

Written by the winners of the first My Kitchen Rules NZ, Neena Truscott and Belinda Macdonalnd I love their work. This book reflects their love and comitment to good, healthy foods and take you on a journey in your own kitchen.

 Two Thumbs Up, well worth getting.

Juicy Cheery Tomato Bites

Classic-Tomato-webI have mentioned many times before that Italian and Sicilian food is based in simple flavours that work well together and don’t need any complication with unnecessary additions just to bulk dishes as we see in so many western countries. 

This side is a classic that has not changed in generations and can be made in a few minutes. Resting in the fridge will allow this wonderful tomato dish develop its full depth of flavour. 

There are two main flavour tastes that I cover in this recipe. 

As a side for 4-6 

Ingredients 

600g (20oz) Cheery tomatoes

1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves removed from the stalks

1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

Balsamic vinegar to drizzle

Olive oil to drizzle

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste 

Method. 

Slice the cheery tomatoes in half and place them in a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the tomatoes with fresh thyme leaves and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Mix together, cover and rest in the fridge for 1 hour for added flavour. 

Pre-heat oven to 200 C (400 F). 

On a lined flat baking tray place the tomatoes flesh side up. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for 5-8 minutes to soften them. Do not over cook. 

Remove from the oven and place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the diced basil leaves. Serve warm or cool.

Real Food Real Fun eBook

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Cooking With Garlic

garlicIn a follow-up post to Garlic, I want to chat a little about cooking garlic. 

Garlic is an allium in the same family as onions, chives, shallots and leeks. It’s cultivated for the distinct flavour of its bulb. Garlic is high in vitamins B6 and C, and contains several minerals including magnesium, potassium and calcium. Garlic also contains essential oils, glucose and fructose. 

Selecting Garlic 

When selecting garlic, choose plump, firm bulbs with tight cloves. Bulbs that appear drier, where the skin easily falls off, are likely old. If you slice open your garlic clove and notice that there is a green stem inside, this indicates that your garlic is sprouting and past its prime. It is still okay to use the clove, but some find this green stem to be bitter and pungent. Simply remove the green stem prior to cooking. 

Using Garlic In Your Cooking 

One raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed releases more flavor than a dozen cooked whole cloves. When garlic cloves are cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. This nutty flavor makes a surprisingly nice addition to desserts, such as brownies or even ice cream. I also bake whole heads of garlic when I am making pumpkin soups. 

You can increase the health benefits you receive from garlic by letting it sit after you’ve chopped it or crushed it. If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit before changing its temperature (through cooking) it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to become active and this offers great health benefits, let it rest for about 8 minutes. 

Garlic-CookingGarlic and Heat 

When sautéing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavour turns intensely bitter, and you’ll have to start over. Never put garlic into very hot oil. Oil heated over a medium heat will let the garlic release its wonderful taste infusing the oil. 

The smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavour. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavour. This is even more so when you have fresh garlic at the beginning of the harvest season.

If you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel garlic cloves before pressing, which can be a wonderful time-saver. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity. 

Using Herbs

herbsOutlined below are some suggestions of what herbs to use with what meats or vegetables. Herbs are a great option when you are living a seasonal fresh to bring full flavour to your dishes. If you are not big on the use of herbs in your cooking start with some of the suggested matched below and play around with tastes.

You will find out what you like and this will open the door to even greater tasting foods.

I use both fresh and dried.

You can download this post as a pdf by clicking here

Herbs with meat.

Beef –
Basil, Bay leaf, Caraway, Chervil, Lovage seed, Cumin, Garlic Fenugreek, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme and Peppermint.

Lamb –
Basil, Bay leaf, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Chervil, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Lovage seed, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Saffron, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme and Savory.

Ham –
Lovage, Marjoram, Mint, Mustard, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary and Savory.

Pork –
Anise, Caraway, Cardamom, Coriander, Chervil, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Tarragon, Fennel, Lovage seed, Marjoram, Savory and Thyme.

Veal –
Basil, Bay leaf, Chervil, Chives, Ginger, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory and Thyme.

Venison –
Bay, Lovage seed, Rosemary, Sage, Savory and Sweet Marjoram.

Rabbit –
Basil, Bay, Marjoram, Lovage seed, Rosemary and Sage.

Liver –
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Sage, Savory and Thyme.

Turkey –
Basil, Garlic, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme, Parsley and Sweet Marjoram.

Chicken –
Thyme, Anise, Basil, Bay leaf, Borage, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Cumin, Dill, Fenugreek, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Lovage, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Mint Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory and Tarragon.

Duck –
Bay, Rosemary, Sage, Sweet Marjoram and Tarragon.

Goose – Fennel, Sage and Sweet Marjoram.

Fish – Anise, Basil, Borage, Caraway, Chevil, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon and Thyme.

Baked or Grilled Fish –
Basil, Bay, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Lemon Thyme, Lovage, Marjoram, Mints, Parsley, Savory, Tarragon and Thyme.

Salmon –
Dill seed and Rosemary.

Fish Soups – Bay, Lovage, Sage, Savory, Tarragon and Thyme.

Oily Fish – Fennel and Dill.

Seafood – Basil, Bay, Chervil, Chives, Dill, Fennel Seed, Marjoram, Rosemary, Tarragon and Thyme.

Herbs with vegetables

Artichokes –
Bay, Savory and Tarragon.

Asparagus –
Chives, Lemon Balm, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme, Chervil, Dill and Tarragon.

Avocado –
Dill, Marjoram and Tarragon.

Beans Dried –
Savory, Cumin, Garlic, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, and Thyme.

Beans, Green –
Savory, Basil, Caraway, Cloves, Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Sage and Thyme.

Broccoli –
Basil, Dill, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Oregano, Tarragon and Thyme.

Brussel Sprouts –
Dill, Sage and Savory.

Cabbage –
Basil, Caraway, Cayenne, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Sage, Savory, Borage, Dill seed, Mint, Oregano and Savory.

Carrots –
Anise, Basil, Chervil, Chives, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Dill, Sage, Ginger, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme and Chervil.

Cauliflower –
Basil, Caraway, Chives, Cumin, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon and Fennel.

Corn –
Chevil, Chives, Lemon Balm, Saffron, Sage and, Thyme.

Eggplant –
Basil, Cinnamon, Dill, Garlic, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Savory and Thyme.

Lentils –
Garlic, Mint , Parsley, Savory and Sorrel.

Mushrooms –
Coriander, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme, Basil, Dill, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Rosemary and Savory.

Onions –
Basil, Marjoram, Oregano, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme.

Parsnips –
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Parsley, Savory and Thyme.

Peas –
Caraway, Chevil, Chives, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme, Basil, Chervil, Marjoram, Mint, Parsley and Sage.

Potatoes –
Parsley, Basil, Caraway, Chives, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Tarragon and Thyme.

Spinach –
Anise, Basil, Caraway, Chevil, Chives, Cinnamon, Dill, Rosemary, Thyme, Borage, Marjoram, Mint, Sage, Sorrel and Tarragon.

Squash –
Basil, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory and Dill.

Tomatoes –
Basil, Bay leaf, Chives, Chervil, Coriander, Dill, Garlic, Lovage, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon and Thyme.

Turnips –
Dill seed, Marjoram and Savory.

Zucchini –
Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Rosemary and Tarragon.

Garlic

Garlic-KitchenI have been asked many times why garlic is so good for us. In this blog I offer up reasons as well as some tips to get the best from garlic. 

Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive. Garlic has a history of human use of over 7,000 years and is native to central Asia. 

Garlic is a wonderful seasoning to add aroma, taste, and added nutrition to your dishes. I recommend using raw chopped or pressed garlic in many of your dishes to take advantage of the benefits derived from garlic. 

You can increase the health benefits you receive from garlic by letting it sit after you’ve chopped it or crushed it. If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit before changing its temperature (through cooking) it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to become active and this offers great health benefits. 

What this means is that the Allicin that is present in garlic has time to form properly. I let garlic rest for 8-10 minutes before I start to cook with it. This resting vastly improves the health benefits of garlic. 

For more on the health benefits of garlic follow this link to an article from Dr Mercola 

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/23/garlic-health-benefits.aspx 

Garlic-Braid-WebGrowing Garlic 

Garlic is a very easy plant to grow. It takes up very little room and if you prepare the soil you are planting into all it should need is to keep the soil moist. 

In general, the best times for planting are mid-autumn or early spring. Garlic needs a lot of full sun, but it might tolerate partial shade provided it’s not for very long during the day or growing season. The soil must be well dug over and crumbly. Sandy loam is best. 

Break up each bulb into cloves (little segments), it is these segments which you plant not the whole bulb. 

Bury each clove (segment) finger depth, at least 5 cm (2 inches) below the ground (twice as deep as the length of the clove). Space the cloves you are planting 20cm (8 inches) apart. 

Garlic is happy growing in pots and containers, in a pot the size of a kitchen bucket you can plant about 6 cloves of garlic. All that is required is good drainage, a position in full sun and good potting mix. 

Harvesting and Storage 

Loosen the area around each bulb with a shovel. Pull the bulbs out of the ground. Be careful with the digging process, since garlic tends to bruise easily.  

Wash them and leave to dry in a well-ventilated space or in the sun for a few days if rain is guaranteed not to fall. Garlic can get sunburned, so don’t leave them outside for too long. 

Store garlic in a cool, dry place in your home. Dried bulbs can be kept in a garlic keeper (usually made from pottery), and individual cloves can be pulled off as needed. 

Is Eating Seasonal and Local Expensive Part One Getting Started

Chicken-Lemon_Honey_Ch-SkewAs a seasonal fresh chef I get told all the time that “we can’t eat local and seasonal fresh, it costs too much”. 

I have to say, this is not true and it can be made a reality with a little understanding on how to buy in season. Seasonal food is better for you and the planet , plenty of nutrients and flavour ! 

Eating locally supports the economy you live in or are close to. It also supports local and smaller farms who are farming sustainably 

Eating seasonally also reduces food costs because when we buy what is abundant and in season, the supply is higher and this means the cost of the food is lower. This enables you to buy better quality items while stretching your food dollars. Often they will have specials and you can buy up on, blanch vegetables and freeze for later use. 

When I say local I don’t mean at the supermarket, I mean from your local farmers markets or green grocer. The benefit of buying from these two is that either they have grown the produce themselves or they have sourced from local suppliers and can tell you where it has come from. 

When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive.  It’s the basic law of supply and demand, and when crops are in season you’ll be rewarded financially by purchasing what’s growing now. 

Ok, How Do I Start? 

Planning Your Weeks Meals 

The first thing I suggest is to start a meal plan for the coming week. I do these late in the week in the evening so I can take advantage of the farmers markets and green grocers. 

You can download a A4 weekly meal planning chart here…. 

www.jimmyboswell.com/GFS_Meal_Planning.pdf   

When you are starting chat with family and find out what they want over the next week and make a list of the meal suggestions. 

Spend time each week looking for recipes. The internet is great for this. Remember to bookmark sites you like to you can get back to them quickly. 

Decide what to prepare. I find it helpful to think in terms of categories, for example: 

Soup or Salad

Ethnic styled meals like Italian meatballs, curries etc

Pasta

Casserole

Quick & Easy. 

Ethnic – you could divide it into cooking styles 

grilling & BBQ’s

crock-pot

stir-fry

roast

If I pick one from each category, there’s sufficient variety that my family won’t complain, and by putting the Quick & Easy meals (tacos, hamburgers, spaghetti) on harried days, dinner will get done on time. 

Save one day a week for a new dish from a cookbook or a food blog if you like to try new things. If it’s from a blog, make sure you print out the recipe and keep it with your menu plan or in a notebook just for that purpose. 

To help with herbs and seasonings have a look at my blog on herb and spice blends that makes cooking a lot easier. 

http://www.tasteofhome.co.nz/everyday-dried-herb-blends/ 

Start a Meal Calendar.

Now that you’re getting inspired in what to eat, start a calendar of what you’d like to cook over the next few days or few weeks and mix and match meal requests from family and friends. 

Kids-in-KitchenThis is also a great way of getting kids in the kitchen helping meals that they love. They can start with washing vegetables, mixing things together, cracking eggs and loads more. This gives them pride in what has been cook and what they are eating. 

Choose a shopping day and make a shopping list. 

This makes it easier to plan where you need to go and this can save a lot of time and money. 

Check what’s on sale. 

This works in with meal planning and your shopping. When you are making the shopping list check your pantry and add to the list anything that needs to be re-stocked. 

Plan for leftovers.

This is a very good way to eat fresh and save money through buying when things are on special. I regularly cook one or two big healthy casseroles or ragus at the beginning of the week and eat off them all week long for lunch. 

Some people can only eat leftovers for a single night. There are many ways that we can have the leftovers in different ways. I will delve into this in another post. 

Be strategic about freezing.

The freezer is your friend. Actually, it’s the friend of future you. Make a double batch of that sauce you love, some stocks half or all for later. Make a double batch of soup, stew, chicken cacciatore — throw it in the freezer. Let a month go by, and those leftovers will look fresh and tasty! 

Don’t overstuff the refrigerator.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your fridge is over-full. Also, things get hidden in the back. Don’t let things go bad. Keep your fridge airy and light, with a sensible, realistic amount of food in it. 

Keep a well-stocked pantry.

Meals are easier and quicker to prepare if you keep your pantry well-stocked. Don’t run out of olive oil at inconvenient moments. Have spices and herbs ready to season and flavour dishes you are cooking.

Everyday Dried Herb Blends

Seasonings and Herbs-5Growing and drying your own herbs guarantees that the herbs you use are always pungent and flavourful  Try a few of the combinations I’ve listed below, and I’m sure you’ll agree. And throw out all those old bottles in the spice cabinet soon! 

Italian Seasoning 

Use this blend to impart an Italian flavour to tomato meat sauces or with vegetables like eggplant.

2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried sage 

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Bouquet Garni

The idea behind the bouquet garni is to add flavor without little flecks of herbs in the dish. Usually, these are dried herbs or a combination of dried and fresh. They are made into little bundles tied with a string long enough to be tied to the handle of the pot for easy removal. You can use cheesecloth, muslin, or even a tea ball to hold the herbs.

For a muslin bag, cut a 100mm x 100mm (4″x 4″) piece. Place the herbs in the middle and tie up the corners. You can also tucked herbs between two pieces of celery stalk, tied them together, and dropped them into the soup or stew. It is nice to have these bundles all made up and stored in an air-tight jar, or to mix a favorite blend and bundle it when needed. The traditional herbs used in a bouquet garni are a tablespoon each of parsley and thyme and one crumbled bay leaf. I always try to use fresh Italian parsley because I find the dried has little flavor. Here are some other combinations that I like to have on hand:

Stew Bouquet Garni
for stews, soups, meats, and other robust dishes.

1 part rosemary 
1 part thyme 
1 part sage 
1 bay leaf, crumbled 
10 peppercorns

Savory Bouquet Garni

for light soups, stews, stocks, and vegetable dishes.

2 parts marjoram 
1 part savory 
1 part thyme 
1 bay leaf, crumbled 
a few peppercorns

Herb Shaker Blend

This combo can be ground fine and used in a salt shaker. It’s good rubbed on roasts and in hearty stews. Forget the salt.

2 parts rosemary 
2 parts summer savory 
1 part thyme 
1 part marjoram

Curry powder 

Curry leaves are leaves of the kari plant, used to flavour southern Indian cooking. You can find fresh leaves in an Indian speciality food store. Toast in a heated skillet over medium heat until a shade darker and fragrant, about 4 minutes:

6 tbsp whole coriander seeds 
4 tbsp whole cumin seeds 
3 tbsp chana dal or yellow split peas 
1 tbsp black peppercorns 
1 tbsp black mustard seeds 
5 dried red chili peppers 
10 fresh or dried curry leaves (optional)

Combine the toasted spices with 2 tbsp fenugreek seeds. Grind the mixture to a powder in batches in a spice mill or electric coffee grinder. Mix well with 3 tbsp turmeric. 

Herbes de Provence 

2 Tablespoons dried basil

1 Tablespoon dried marjoram

½ Tablespoon dried rosemary

1 Tablespoon dried summer savory

2 Tablespoon dried thyme

2 teaspoon lavender flowers

1 bay leaf 

Country Blend
Perfect for salads, soups, on steamed vegetables, and blended into butter for bread and biscuits. 

This blend makes a terrific substitute for table salt. Spoon onto hot baked potatoes (forget the butter and salt). 

5 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 5 teaspoons dried

4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 4 teaspoons dried

4 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil or 4 teaspoons dried

4 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 4 teaspoons dried 

Combine the herbs and store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

Fish and Seafood Herbs

Sprinkle onto fish or seafood before baking or grilling.

Add the blend to fish soup and sauce; use for making fish stock for poaching fish and shellfish. 

5 teaspoons dried basil

5 teaspoons crushed fennel seed

4 teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried lemon peel 

Combine all herbs and store in a tightly closed glass jar at room temperature. 

Cajun Blend

Excellent with fish or poultry. Sprinkle it into a baked sweet potato or over steamed vegetables. 

2 tablespoons paprika

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried thyme 

Combine the herbs and spices. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. 

Fines Herbs

Season fish or poultry before cooking. Use in omelets and scrambled eggs.

Sprinkle over hot vegetables. 

3 tablespoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons dried chervil

2 teaspoons dried chives

1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon 

Combine the herbs. Store in a tightly covered jar at room temperature. 

Barbecue Blend

Excellent for beef, lamb, or pork. 

Sprinkle over eggplant or zucchini before grilling. 

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried oregano

2 bay leaves, finely crumbled

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried savory 

Combine the herbs. Stir in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

Storing Herbs

mixing herbsAt a cooking demo I was doing the other day at Palm Beach Plaza, Papamoa I was asked about storing of herbs. Here are a few tips for getting the best out of the herbs you grow this year.

Mixing and Storing Herbs and Spices

Dried herbs are stronger in flavour than fresh leaf herbs. To convert dry to fresh measurements, use approximately 3 tablespoons fresh to each tablespoon dry. In most cases use 1/3 to ¼ the amount of dried herbs as is called for fresh. In general ¼ teaspoon of spice is enough for 4 servings.

Mixing Herbs – when seasoning with herbs and spices try to complement your dish by not overwhelming the flavour of the food. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavours.

For long-cooking dishes, such as soups and stews add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. For best results try crushing the herbs before adding to your dish. For shorter cooking-dishes try adding dry spices earlier in cooking. Fresh spices and herbs should be added towards the end of cooking.

Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, don’t use more than three herbs and spices in any one dish. The exception to this rule is East Indian cooking, which often calls for 10 or more different spices in one curry dish.

Try replacing herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different – such as Marjoram instead of Oregano, Savory instead of Thyme, Cilantro instead of Parsley, Anise seed instead of Fennel. Mixing herbs and spices will provide you with greater creativity in food preparation by allowing you to create a variety of exciting and uniquely seasoned dishes. You may just create a recipe that will be one of a kind, beloved by everyone.
Drying Herbs – try drying herbs on racks, slats or upside down by their stems. For best drying, place your herbs in a well ventilated, dry, cool environment. Ensure that you have plenty of air space and turn every few days. Another alternative to drying is using the microwave by laying the herbs out on absorbent paper and cooking on low for 3 minutes. A dehydrator is also another excellent option.

Harvesting Herbs – the best time to pick the leaves or flower buds is when they start to unfurl. Try to harvest your herbs early in the day and before noon at the latest, as the herbs are most potent then. Seeds must be collected when they turn brown and brittle. Never pick herbs in wet or humid conditions.

Storing Herbs – store spices in a cool, dark, dry place. Heat, humidity, and excessive light will result in the dry herbs and spices losing their flavour more quickly. A good way to store herbs and spices is in small, airtight glass containers. If stored properly, dried herbs and ground spices will retain their flavour for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. To keep larger quantities of herbs and spices fresh, store them in tightly sealed containers in the freezer.

Do not store dry herbs and spices near any humid source, such as sinks, dishwashers, kettles, coffee makers, on counter tops, stoves or microwaves. Avoid storing dry herbs and spices inside the refrigerator due to the high humid environment. 

Avoid storing near heat sources such as stoves, top of microwaves and refrigerators. For best results grind whole spices in a grinder or mortar & pestle. If you want to enhance the whole spice flavour, try roasting the whole spice in a dry skillet over a medium heat, being careful not to burn them.
 

Bay Leaf in my Cooking

I love using bay in my cooking. Given the Southern Italian (Sicilian) influence that is expressed in my cooking style the

Bay Leaves

use of bay in my stocks, soups and tomato sauces is a traditional herb for me to use. Bay leaf is also called bay laurel, sweet bay, sweet laurel and laurel leaf. Bay is probably the one herb that most cooks prefer using dried than fresh, which is that I do.

The bay laurel tree is native to Asia Minor but is now grown all over the Mediterraneanas it is well suited to warm climates of the region. There are two main types of bay leaf, Mediterranean bay leaf and the Californian bay leaf. The Californian bay leaf is much stronger in flavour and the Mediterranean bay.

The best place to store your Bay leaves is in a cool, dry place, away from bright light, heat and moisture. Bay is available fresh, dried whole leaves or ground dried leaves.

Add a bay leaf or two to marinades, stock, pâtés, stews, stuffing’s and curries. When poaching fish, add a bay leaf to the water.

Store and leaf or two with rice in a tight fitting jar and the leaf will impart its flavor to the rice when cooked. Don’t over use bay in dishes as it can make whatever you are cooking bitter if too much is used. In general, 1-2 good sized leaves will suffice. If they are medium to small I would use 4 in a stock due to the volume of water they are in.

Bay leaves greatly improve flavour if you are cutting down on salt. Try adding a bay leaf or two when you boil potatoes to replace salt. Always remember to remove the whole bay leaf after cooking in any dish.

Home-made chicken stock or soup in my view would not be homemade without a bay leaf or two. Don’t worry about using the fresh herb, the dried version is usually all that is needed.

Chicken Stock

You will often find chicken carcasses in the meat section at your supermarket. I usually purchase 3-4 at a time and if I am not going to make stock that day I will freeze them so I have them at hand for when I do need to make it. You can take the carcasses straight from the freezer and place in simmering water.

I quite often make chicken stock after roasting a chicken. I will use the carcasses that I have roasted and add 1 kg of fresh chicken wings which I usually purchase when on special and freeze them for this occasion. On special you can usually pick-op the chicken wings for about $4.00 per/kg.

Ingredients

2-3     chicken carcasses
6        garlic cloves cut in half
1        teaspoon whole pepper corns (about 6-8)
1        large onion cut in half
4        celery sticks cut into chunky pieces
2        large carrots chopped into chunky pieces
2        large or 4 medium to small dried bay leaves (you can use fresh if you have them
3        sprigs of fresh rosemary
4        sprigs of fresh parsley
3        sprigs of fresh thyme
3-6lts  cold water
salt to taste
Directions

Place the chicken carcasses, garlic, vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large soup or stock saucepan. Add the cold water and bring to the boil. Once it is boiling turn down to a simmer and skim any oil that have risen to the top.

Continue to simmer gentle heat for 3-4 hours, skimming the oils off the top as necessary. When the stock has been simmering for 3-4 hours turn off the heat then pass the stock through a fine sieve or several layers of mutton cloth to remove the ingredients.

Allow to cool for about an hour, then refrigerate. Once the stock is cold it should look clear with a slightly amber in colour. I usually divide it into small plastic containers at this point and freeze it, 500mlfits well in a sandwich zip-lock bag . It will keep in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days and in the freezer for 2-3 months.

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