The Cook’s Herb Garden is another DK book that I’m delighted to share with you. Now is the perfect time to prepare the summer’s herb garden and this book is filled with step-by-step pictorial instructions for choosing, growing, harvesting, storing and using herbs.
Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow since they really don’t like a lot of fussing. Most grow best in a 50-50 well-draining mix of sand and soil, require regular watering and an occasional feed of liquid fertilizer in summer. That’s it, couldn’t be easier.
Images below from: The Cook’s Herb Garden – copyright 2016 Dorling Kindersley Inc – used with permission and with thanks.
The Cook’s Herb Garden – Everyday Essentials:
While basic growing, harvesting and cooking instructions are attached to each herb listed in the comprehensive herb catalogue, everyone of those topics is described in greater detail further on in the book.
One of the things I really like about the section on using herbs is the recipe section. There are some super recipes that I haven’t heard of before but can’t wait to try: Cream of Herb Soup; Watercress Butter; Chimichurri (Argentinian Meat Sauce); Black Currant Cordial; Mixed Herb Pesto, shown below; plus many more.
Suggestions for using the Everyday Essential Herbs shown in planter:
Cilantro: Use fresh, chopped leaves in salads, with coconut, citrus, avocado, fish and meat. The dried seeds are spicy, sweet and mildly orange-flavored – use them in Indian and Asian dishes.
Thyme: Add to any savory dish or use to flavor poultry, pork, and fish dishes; add to stuffings and vegetables.
Flat-Leaf Parsley: Both the stems and leaves can be added to a multitude of savory dishes; from omelets to stews to baked fish.
Sage: Chop very fine and use in small amounts. Add toward the end of cooking to risotto and pork, veal and venison dishes; pick a stem for bouquet garni; use dried leaves for stuffing, poultry, fish, potatoes and carrots; use flowers to make summer teas.
Purple Basil: Basil is best known for use with tomatoes. Basil’s flavor intensifies when cooked. For a more subtle taste use it raw or add it at the end of cooking. For more ways to use basil check out Basil does it all
Oregano: Oregano’s pungent, spicy flavor gives a unique lift to Mediterranean ingredients and dishes – pizza, pasta, fish, meat beans, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.
The Mixed Herb Pesto recipe, from The Cook’s Herb Garden, uses basil, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and garlic – all herbs that you can easily grow yourself. Toss the pesto with pasta, stir it into rice or use as salad dressing (whisk 1Tbsp. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice into 3-4 Tbsp. pesto.)
Serves 2 Prep 15 MINS Cook 20 MINS
- 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped basil
- 2 tsp. coarsely chopped oregano
- 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 garlic cloves
- Coarse sea salt
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3-3 ½ oz (90-100ml) fruity olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
10 oz (300g) dried pasta
1 Tbsp. heavy cream (optional)
- Put the herbs in a large mortar, reserving 1 Tbsp. to finish. Smash the garlic with the flat of a knife, peel and add to the mortar. Sprinkle in a little salt. Pound down onto the mixture until it is mushy.
- Add the Parmesan a little at a time and beat vigorously to blend. Slowly beat in the olive oil until you have a thick coarse paste, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the cooking water. Stir the water into the pesto to loosen it slightly. Return the pasta to the hot pan and pour in the pesto. Toss to coat thoroughly. Stir in the reserved fresh herbs. If using the cream, stir it in and serve immediately.
I find Theme Gardens fun to put together and The Cook’s Herb Garden includes designs for the following Gourmet Theme Gardens that you can grow anywhere – window-box, wall-garden, deck or patio, or wherever else your imagination takes you:
- Salad Herbs
- Mediterranean Pots
- Middle Eastern Herbs
- Hardy Herbs
- Herbal Teas
Browsing through the book I kept thinking “I’m going to try that” or “what a great idea”. Even if you aren’t the least bit creative or knowledgeable about herbs, the pictures will guide you in designing a unique herb garden that is truly to your taste, in more ways than one.
Talk to you again next week,
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