Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking

As a keen cook with greenish fingers, aside from my daffodils and begonias, I have a little herb garden in-situ of rosemary, bay, oregano and mint amongst others.  Whilst I use it frequently, I know that I could make more of it and get educated on how to maximise their use in the kitchen.

When I received a copy of 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cookery'  I knew it was exactly what I needed.

The Herb Guide acts as aid memoir to utilising garden herbs when cooking.  It comes as a handy A4 spiralbound book with a little hanger attached, perfect for hanging on the kitchen wall or noticeboard for easy access and reference.  

Written by Michael Littlewood, a landscape architect turned herb gardener, he has used his knowledge and experience to produce this and other guides.  With acknowledgements to Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons, chef Sophie Grigson and herb expert/author Jekka McVicar, this book has been written with authority and expertise.

History of Herbs
The book explains the history of herbs, with usage recorded back to the 4th/5th century AD when honey, oils, pepper and fennel were used to flavour and preserve foods.  As time rolled on and in the dawn of the industrial revolution, as people moved from the countryside into towns, the art of herb growing declined.  In recent years, herb advocaters such as Jamie Oliver, have brought herb gardening back to life and back into vogue.

A selection of herbs

18 Different Herbs
The book focuses on 18 different herbs and there are sections on:

  • Why they should be used.
  • How to maximise their benefits by eating them raw or by adding them at the end of the cooking process.  
  • Advice how to select  herbs to add depth to dishes like sauces or stews.  
  • How to recognise the differences between hardy and soft/fresh and dried herbs.
  • Which vegetables complement which herbs.  
  • Plus tips on how to store herbs including putting them in water and freezing them within ice cubes for later use.

Herb Reference Charts
A really useful guide are the pictorial charts in the book which act as a quick reference tool for all kinds of occasions when you may need a helping hand to decipher which herbs are suitable for when.  

One chart outlines a herb's compatibility with different food types.  Using the example of tarragon - run your finger along the chart and you'll see it works well with condiments, preserves, biscuits, stews, sauces, lentils, vegetables, salads and soups.

Another great reference chart denotes which herbs suit what vegetables.  It is an automatic assumption that all herbs will work perfectly with all vegetables just because they're plant based.  But this isn't necessarily so.  From the chart you'll see what works well and how to enhance your recipes/dishes.  For instance basil works beautifully with broccoli, sprouts, spinach, swiss chard, beetroot, carrots, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes, swede and brown onions.

As well as pairing herbs with vegetables, there's an informative chart that helps users to marry up which herbs would work well together.  Again not to be assumed that all herbs will work together just because they're herbs.  For instance, tarragon works well with:  chervil, chives, fennel, garlic, parsley, savory and thyme.

Chart denoting which herbs work well together

Eating Herbs and Fruit Together
Fruits also work in harmony with herbs, again, proving their versatility and bringing whole new possibilities into the kitchen.  Strawberries for examples, work fabulously with sage, bay and mint.

An example of pairing fruit and herbs together


'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking' has certainly helped me to understand how to get the best from my herb garden and how pairing herbs together with a little knowledge will enhance my dishes and give me a wealth of new options to try.  

A wholehearted recommendation for anyone wishing to cook with herbs - a handy guide for any kitchen and also a lovely idea for anyone looking for a culinary inspired gift.


For more details about Michael Littlewood, 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking' and his other publications, visit:  www.ecodesignscape.co.uk


Disclosure:  This post was written following receipt of a copy of:   - 'Herb Guide for Vegetarian Cooking'.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

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