Herbs are often neglected in the everyday kitchen. Herbs offer a variety of flavours and can go a long way to flavour almost any dish. Some herbs grow easily in the garden, making them readily available. Some fresh herbs are more delicate than others and therefore need to be treated more carefully. These herbs are often used fresh in salads or can be added at the end of the cooking time. Hardier, more robust herbs, such as rosemary are better when cooked and can be added earlier in the cooking process. Dried herbs are just as flavourful, but are stronger than their fresh counterparts therefor should be used more sparingly. Don’t be afraid to try new flavour combinations and experiment with herbs.
These are the most commonly available herbs. Of course there are more, like chervil (kerwel) and tarragon (dragon), but they are difficult to find and rarely part of recipes. The Afrikaans herb names are given in brackets.
Also known as sweet basil, this delicate herb is synonymous with Italian cooking. Nothing goes together more beautifully than juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and a good quality mozzarella. The leaves are bright green and shiny and should be cut with scissors or a very sharp knife as the leaves turn black when bruised. Try basil in a fresh summer salad, with brinjals, cheese, on pasta or pizza or with any meat. It is also delicious with Thai cooking.
Bay leaves (lourierblare)
These dark green leaves are often used dried. It is normally used in curries in combination with other spices and especially typical in bobotie. They have a strong aromatic flavour and are delicious in soups or stews, meat or seafood dishes.
These long, thin leaves are a mild member of the onion and garlic family. Garlic chives are quite potent, so use them sparingly. Add chives at the end of the cooking time to retain flavour. They are ideal with egg or potato dishes and delicious with fish. Add them to your favourite potato salad recipe or stir into your eggs before scrambling.
Has a strong, slightly spicy flavour. The soft leaves, stems, roots and seeds are used in various ways. The flavour of the leaves pair particularly well with Thai, Indian and Mexican food. Add chopped fresh coriander to curries, salsas, stir-fries and sauces at the end of the cooking time. It is excellent in a fresh salad or with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian dishes. Also known as dhania or Chinese parsley.
Often confused with fennel. The leaves are very thin and feathery and dark in colour. The delicate flavour is almost a combination of fennel, anise and celery with slightly bitter undertones. Dill is delicious with delicate fish dishes, potato or egg dishes and sauces. Use leaves in salads for a different flavour or use to pickle cucumbers.
The bulbs, seeds and leaves of fennel can be used. It has a strong liquorice or anise flavour. The bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked, in salads or stews and the seeds are used as a spice to flavour sausages. The leaves are also thin and feathery, but more green in colour than dill. This herb is delicious with eggs, fish, chicken or meat dishes and fresh in salads.
Probably one of the most versatile herbs. It is also known as flat leaf parsley and has a larger flatter leaf than the curly variety. It is delicious with mushrooms or in salads. Use in any sauce, stew or soup on its own or in combination with other herbs. As it is a delicate herb, add at the end of the cooking time, or sprinkle over the dish before serving.
Is available in many different varieties. It is known for its fresh flavour and is delicious in salads, with fruit or desserts, in teas and sauces, casseroles and soups. When cooking, add at the end of the cooking time to retain the flavour. Mint pairs particularly well with peas, cucumber, watermelon or plain yoghurt. It also combines beautifully with lamb, lentils and even carrots.
Origanum’s small leaves has a distinct flavour and is delicious with Italian food such as pasta and pizza. Use with tomato, meat, poultry and seafood dishes. It can also be used to flavour stuffing, rice and veggie dishes. Make sure you don’t add it too early, as the flavour may be lost in the cooking process.
Marjoram, a herb in the origanum family, can be green, yellow or variegated depending on the variety. This herb isn’t very common here, but can be used in any dish where origanum is used. It is delicious with poultry or meat dishes.
This herb has a woody stem and dark green, thin leaves. The strong flavour combines beautifully with tomatoes, lamb, chicken, beef and even seafood dishes. It is delicious in any pasta sauce, especially Italian-style sauces or try it with pork or veggies such as potatoes and pumpkin. As it is a hardier herb it can be added to the roasting pan with chicken, beef or veggies. Use sparingly as it can be overpowering. A sprig can be used as a brush to baste meat or strip the stems and use as skewers.
A savoury, sweet herb with long, green-grey leaves. It combines well with pork and veal as well as poultry and cheese. Try it with roasted butternut or in a stuffing with dried fruit. A sage butter is often served over fresh pasta or fish and popular in Italian cooking. Sage is often used on its own as it has a very distinct flavour.
A very versatile herb, which is delicate in summer and hardier in winter. It has very small green leaves and pairs well with a large variety of dishes in combination with many other herbs. It is a popular ingredient in stuffing for poultry and delicious with pork, red meat, fish, eggs, soups and stews and most veggies. Thyme is delicious in vinegars and salad dressings. It is also ideal for roasting as it will retain most of its flavour. It can be overpowering, so use sparingly. Try lemon thyme with any of the above dishes.