Thoroughly wash the tarragon and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a suitably sized sterilized jar and using the back of a wooden spoon, gently bruise the tarragon leaves and stems. Heat the vinegar to just under the boil and pour into the jar. Leave to cool for a few minutes then seal the jar. Store in a cool dark place for at least two weeks to allow the flavours to develop. Strain the vinegar through some fine muslin and transfer to a suitable sterilised bottle and add a further couple of washed tarragon sprigs. Seal and store for up to six months.
Fines herbes is a mix of parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil used to flavour chicken, fish, and egg dishes, in sauces and in herb salads. Perhaps the most famous dish is ‘Omelette aux fines herbes’ a classic of French cuisine. Dishes using Fines herbes should always be cooked quickly as not to spoil the herbs flavour and appearance.
Fines herbes is one of three classic herb blends used in classic French cuisine alongside the more strongly flavoured mix of herbs in ‘Bouquet Garni’ and ‘Herbes de Provence’.
“I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around”
Gently crushing the leaves of tarragon releases a sweet aroma of liquorice, and anise is the predominant flavour with lemon, basil and a sweet aftertaste. Tarragon is a popular ingredient in French cooking as a key flavour Béarnaise sauce and one of the ingredients of ‘fines herbes’, along with chives, parsley and chervil. Tarragon marries well with fish dishes, chicken and eggs, as well as being perfect with mushrooms and tomatoes. Tarragon can be used both fresh or dried however the flavour and aroma often disappear when dried so it’s better to preserve fresh leaves in oil or vinegar.
Tarragon is a perennial herb it grows best in a sunny spot with rich, dry soil. It grows better in colder climates, however, it does need protection from sharp frosts. Tarragon is said to be an appetite stimulant and to assist with stomach upsets, heartburn, insomnia and headaches, the Romans chewed tarragon leaves to ease toothaches.
In cooking, we can use all of the coriander plant, its leaves and stems, the seeds and the roots and each has its own distinct flavour. Coriander is native to the Mediterranean but is used in cuisines throughout the world and is an essential ingredient in Thai, Mexican, Moroccan and Indian cuisine and is found as the fresh leaves, roots or the spice from the ground down seeds in classic curries, salsas, stir-fries, tagines, and fajitas. Coriander pairs well with chicken, beef, chilli, lemongrass, garlic, mint, fish sauce and soy sauce.
Coriander is an annual plant grown from its seeds. There are references to coriander in the Old Testament of the bible and they were found in the tomb of the legendary Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. In the past coriander has been used to treat migraines and indigestion to help purify the blood and to relieve nausea, pain in joints and rheumatism. The dried seeds have a sweet and spicy flavour while the leaves of coriander are zesty, with a strong citrus and peppery flavours. Coriander leaves are best added at the end of cooking or as a garnish on dish as high heat can quickly discolour them and kills the fresh flavours.
Chives are a member of the same plant family as onions, leeks, garlic, and spring onions and grow wild all over Europe and North America. The flowers are edible, but it is the stems that are popular in a variety of national cuisines most especially in French cooking. Chives taste and smell mildly of onion and are delicious in potato, cheese, and egg dishes. Chives are a hardy plant that can survive cold winters and will cope with drought and wet weather. They are a perennial that will regrow after cuttings. Chives will grow in early spring, sprouting a slightly mauve coloured flower.
Chives can be used to make a wonderfully vibrant, flavoured oil with which you can decorate soup and fish dishes and make delicious herby salad dressings. You may think the amount of chives in the recipe seems to be quite a lot but it makes for a really impressive colour.
120 g Chives
300 ml Vegetable Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Bring a large pan of very lightly salted water to the boil. Blanch chives in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a spider and plunge into a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. When the chives have chilled, drain and remove any excess moisture by patting gently with kitchen paper.Place the blanched chives, seasoning, and oil into a high-speed food processor and blitz to a fine purée. Careful—over-blending can turn the chives brown, then pass through a fine-mesh strainer or muslin cloth. Reserve in the fridge and shake well before serving.
Rosemary has a complex mix of flavours; mint, sage, peppery, with a slightly bitter aftertaste and a woodland aroma it is perfect in many Mediterranean dishes and partners well with grilled or roasted meats such as lamb and chicken and roasted vegetables and potatoes. Rosemary is great in herb stuffing with dried apricots and nuts for turkey or pork and makes great skewers for meat or fish on a barbeque imparting a slight mustard flavour. Rosemary has small blue flowers the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the “Rose of Mary”.
Rosemary is a perennial herb that grows to roughly a metre and a half in height and thrives in warm, dry environments. Rosemary can be used as a deterrent from insects so you can add it to a fire if you are camping. It includes moths, so you can place some rosemary in your cupboards and drawers as an organic repellent. In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary around their heads to stimulate memory and recent studies have shown that sniffing rosemary can, in fact, help a person improve their ability to remember events and complex tasks. So, Shakespeare was right in Hamlet when he referenced rosemary “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray you, love, remember.”
When Dill is growing it looks very similar to Fennel, and they share a similar aniseed flavour, however, Dill’s is sweeter and gentler. Dill grows annually and is best planted in cool, sunny sheltered locations. After flowering, the dill plant will die. Plant new seeds before the next season. Dill pairs beautifully with seafood, smoked salmon, potatoes, eggs, fish, and carrots and is used extensively in Scandinavian cuisine.
Dill was used by the ancient Greeks and Roman and is mentioned in St Matthew’s Gospel, and by medieval times, dill was commonly used as a culinary herb as well as a pickling spice. Dill or dill oil is a major ingredient in Gripe water used to calm infant digestive systems and reduce wind. The word dill originates from a Saxon word meaning to lull, as dill has a calming effect.