There is so much talk these days about healthy eating and home cooking. We are told to guard against waste and to use what we have to hand. Food should be our most important purchase but we don’t want to throw money away. So what to do?
It’s all about flavour. A sprinkle of a particular herb can make all the difference to a dish and can even be the primary ingredient. Consider Lebanese Tabouleh with its pile of fresh parsley, or even the humble mint sauce. Take away that mint and what have you got? Nothing you would want to eat with that roast lamb.
We are less adventurous when we don’t have herbs to hand. We can’t be spontaneous when our spontaneity has to be put on hold while we trudge off to the supermarket. A recipe might demand a generous handful of chives but that translates to a couple of pots of pricy herbs. Even worse is a dish that calls for a tablespoon’s-worth of dill. You hang on to the remaining wilting fronds and then they head for the bin.
Why not grow your own herbs? They are always fresh. Cutting bunches will often help to keep the plant in shape. Collect just a sprig to add savour and a floret for garnish. This is a hobby not just for the cottage garden fanatic, nor for those who are looking for a horticultural challenge. Growing herbs is easy and The Cooks Herb Garden is a book to give you all the advice and hand-holding you’ll need.
This book is a photographic catalogue of more than 120 herbs and a cookbook of 60 recipes. There is a raft of information on growing your herbs and improving your harvest. You’ll want to store your produce so there is a section devoted to drying and freezing. There are great tips, including one for chopping and freezing your fresh garlic that will save your cash and effort.
You don’t need a smallholding to grow a worthwhile collection of herbs. Just a window-box or a container will supply you with some money-saving aromatics. The authors have included some planting suggestions for those with little space but the love of taste. There are six container gardens that each have a different focus. Everyday Essentials gives you basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage and coriander. Salad Herbs offers those light fresh summer flavours of chives, rocket, tarragon and the like. The Mediterranean Pot will transport you to those southern climes with basil and lavender. There are planters for every culinary persuasion.
The Cook’s Herb Garden is an impressive book which gives you all you’ll need to grow those leaves and flowers that so enhance our foods. It’s a step-by-step guide to selecting the herbs best suited to your particular growing conditions and to your style of cooking, be it traditional northern European or exotic Asian; this could be the book for you. An attractive volume and great value for money.
The Cook’s Herb Garden
Authors: Jeff Cox and Marie-Pierre Moine
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018