Saturday, 16 March 2013

Cooking with Basil

Which herb should I use?

The more people I talk to the more I realise that knowing which herbs are great with which dishes or meats isn't as common as I thought. I think the more recipes you try, the more of an idea you have because you know from experience what herbs work well. However, if you are like me and nine times out of ten you don't use a recipe (especially not for mid-week meals) then it's a case of grabbing something out of the spice rack that you know is safe.

I thought it may be an idea to look into my favourite herbs over the next few weeks, look at what they go great with and some recipes I recommend trying them with.

Basil Bruschetta
Basil Bruschetta makes the best
snack or lunch!


Basil is one of my favourite herbs to cook with, mainly because my Mum had such a love of Italian flavours that I grew up with it. It has a nice sweet flavour that seems to go amazingly as a rule with anything tomato. My favourite recipe to use basil in is spaghetti Bolognese, followed by bruschetta (re - which is amazing with fresh basil. However having dried basil in the pantry is especially as good. The only rule to remember cooking with dried herbs over fresh is dried herbs need time to cook off slightly to release the full flavour. So if throwing in dried basil in your Bolognese sauce make sure you add it in with your garlic - before your tomatoes - and you'll taste the difference. Where as with fresh basil in a sauce, adding it with your liquid before simmering is better.

If you want to grow basil I would recommend Thai Basil which has such an intense flavour! However, if you live in an area which experiences seasons (South-east Australia) then just keep in mind that it will die off in winter.

For me - I love basil with chicken the best. And I absolutely love basil with creamy sauces, such as a garlic sauce to go over chicken or a pasta.

Recipes I would recommend trying using basil:
  • Basil Pesto - great to add to pasta, gnocchi or even pop some under the skin of a chicken breast before baking (so, so good!)
  • Bruschetta - There are so many recipes for this, but I like my own (a little basis I guess!) I love doing it with cherry tomatoes, halved, feta cheese, fresh roughly chopped basil leaves, and diced red onion. Put everything together and then drizzle over olive oil and balsamic vinegar, adding a little bit of pepper. I think it's best to add it on top of fresh bread, grilled slightly with garlic and butter until golden ... honestly - the best lunch or snack in the world! Depending on my mood I also like to throw in black olives (I'm hungry now!)

Do you have any herb you would like me to look into next time?

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