In her monthly blog, Sara brings us cooking inspiration centred on a selected herb. This month we’re treated to tips for cooking with not one but eight different herbs as we experiment with flavours from South America and South East Asia. You’ll likely have to visit your local herb grower, nursery, or garden centre to get your hands on these herbs, however, that extra chase can only make the rewards taste that bit better.
Herb of the Month: August, written by Sara Dixon
I know, you probably were just getting used to cooking with herbs (as opposed to thinking they were either just to look pretty or for use in ‘lotions and potions’). Then I told you about the wide variety of flavours in just one type of herb (last month’s Mint for example). Now I am going to tell you to really go wild and use some herbs that I know many will never have heard of! Their flavours are great though and they are well worth growing – and they are easy to grow. (Tip: treat them as annuals, keep them warm and dry.)
Each of these herbs brings the taste of foreign climes right to our kitchens! They are each used fairly widely in either South America or South East Asia, but often with more of a focus in certain countries.
For those of you who are very used to cooking with herbs, cooking with the range of flavours of one herb type, or who already are familiar with these herbs of the month, hopefully some of these cooking ideas will be new to you! If you prefer to watch, you can watch me, and my friend Kirsty, cooking with a few of these herbs or keep reading for more.
Papalo and Quillquina – very similar tasting. Both have a citrussy flavour although you may find that Papalo is a tad more ‘musty’. Both are well loved in Mexican and Bolivian cooking – particularly for making salsa – (mix chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, chillies if you like them, the Papalo or Quillquina, some lime or lemon juice, salt and pepper – very refreshing!). I like them during the cooler months added to buttery mashed potatoes. Or to beans (used a lot in Mexican refried beans).
The difference between the two in terms of shape is that the Papalo has a slightly rounder shape. Whereas Quillquina is more ‘oval’.
Pipiche – the ‘curly wurly’ as I call it! Again, quite a citrussy taste. It is a bit like Tarragon in terms of the shape of the leaves. Absolutely wonderful chopped up on top of cheese dishes – try it on top of a fish pie which is covered in cheese and mash. Also try it with lamb. Sounds a bit odd – citrussy lamb but actually very nice. And with chicken too of course.
Pipiche, Papalo and Quillqiuna are great replacements for Coriander which easily bolts as it is not a Summer herb… Using these 3 as alternatives means that you can still get that wonderful citrussy flavour during Summer.
Huacatay – also known as ‘Black Mint’, this is a Peruvian herb. It has a really nice taste, not so much mint as lemony/limey/orangey flavours.
It tends to be used as an oil. I use it by chopping it, and then grinding it with a pestle and mortar, adding a bit of oil (try a nut oil if you are not allergic), and then I pour it over chicken when I am roasting or grilling it.
It is also really tasty just chopped and sprinkled on top of of a grilled cheese sandwich!
Thai Mint – Use Thai Mint if you are making a spicy dish because it is a very strong flavoured mint. I like it in a Thai Beef Curry; chop your beef into very small pieces so that it will cook quickly. Pour some coconut milk into a pan along with some curry paste (red or green curry paste depending on your taste buds). Next add the beef and some crushed nuts (optional). Bring everything almost to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop a small amount of Thai Mint and sprinkle it into the pan. Then squeeze some lemon juice (or add chopped lemon balm). Another 5 minutes of simmering and it’s ready to serve with rice.
Vietnamese Coriander – take some thick fish (salmon, for example), cook it carefully (I cook it in the oven) and then leave to rest. Fry some chopped garlic, shallots and some fish sauce (a tiny amount) in a pan with oil. Then add some chopped Vietnamese Coriander to the mix. Place the cooked fish on top. Leave to ‘infuse’ for about 5 minutes.
Lemon Grass – Leave the lemon grass to grow big enough to have nice thick white parts within the outer stem. You can use the bulb and the thick parts. Chop or slice them and add to pork, ginger, and chillies. Serve with rice.
Korean Mint – A sweet liquorice taste, wonderful as a tea OR use it instead of sugar when making sorbet!
Finally, the most important ingredient to pair with your herbs? Experimentation!
Sara runs Hawkwell Herbs, selling herbs that she grows herself and teaching cooking courses. Visit hawkwellherbs.co.uk to discover more and find Sara on instagram @hawkwellherbs
Edits: this post was edited on 11/08/2020 to include ‘local herb grower, nursery’ in the introductory sentences and to include more information about Hawkwell Herbs.