Monday, 19 March 2012

Herby habits

Whilst vegetables are, in my opinion, the healthiest food group out there, herbs are surely the healthiest flavour enhancer you can get your hands on.

Forget MSG or the commercial sugar loaded spice mixes you can buy in the supermarkets, fresh herbs add flavour and valuable to nutrients to any dish with a fraction of the calories of a seasoning mix.

Herbs have also been used for centuries for their medicinal qualities, and as with anything in nature there they probably have a wealth of health benefits that we just don't know of.

Adding herbs to your food is so easy - I'm a bit of a creature of habit and like to play it safe in the kitchen, but the following rules always work:

Coriander - goes with anything asian or vegetarian
Basil - goes with anything tomato based
Parsley - goes with all native english vegetables and soups made with them
Rosemary - goes with re meat
Thyme - goes with white meat
Mint - makes a lovely garnish for most cold desserts

Fortunately hot doc is a bit more adventurous in the kitchen than I am and this weekend taught me to cook with lemon grass. This green twig had baffled me in the past, but the secret is to cut it lengthways down one side and take out the tender white insides and cook with those. It adds a wonderfully fresh taste to stir fries.

Here's the lovely recipe he cooked up for me to get you started:

Seerves 2
2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 garlic cloves - crushed

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey (or agave)

500g fresh prawns (deveined) or chicken (cut into cubes) or firm tofu (cubed)

2 fresh lemongrass stalks - tender inner white bulbs only, minced

2 shallots - thinly sliced

1 large red chilli (or 2 small ones) - diced 

1 red pepper - thinly sliced

1 bunch coriander for garnish

250g rice noodles (dry weight) or rice

In a bowl, combine the fish sauce, garlic, curry powder, salt, and 1 1/2 runny honey. Add the prawns / chicken to marinade.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering.
Add the lemongrass, shallot, and chillies and stir-fry until fragrant. 
Add the chicken / prawns and stir-fry until the prawns are pink or the chicken is cooked through. 
Add the red pepper half-way through cooking the prawns / chicken.
Season with pepper. 
If using rice noodles, add to the stir-fry (having cooked them as per the instructions on the packet) & warm through.
Alternatively, serve with steamed rice.
Garnish with coriander.


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