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How to cook with herbs

by Sarah Randell

My garden is finally starting to fill out with leafy greenery – the combination of sunshine and rainy spells has woken everything up, including the herb patch. My mint and rosemary clung on during the long cold winter and are now flourishing, although I've had to plant new sage varieties, chives, borage and flat-leaf parsley.

The delicate herbs of summer are just right for pairing with salads to accompany barbecue feasts, and fruity puds. This week happens to be National Herb Week, which seemed the perfect time to share a few ideas for cooking with your favourite herbs.

What are your favourite herby recipes? Tell us in the comments box below.

Its mild aniseed flavour is great with chicken, fish and eggs. Mash chopped tarragon into butter and use it to top barbecued chicken thighs or add to fish parcels (wrap the fish in foil before putting it on the grill). Try tarragon in a beetroot and goats' cheese salad, too, or toss with strawberries, lemon zest and sugar.

Another delicately anise-flavoured herb. Chop with chives and add to an omelette or sprinkle over green beans with a garlic and mustard vinaigrette.

These add a gentle savoury lift to salads and are brilliant with tangy cheeses like Cheshire and Caerphilly. Chop a mix of chives, parsley and mint to sprinkle over sliced tomatoes with a good drizzle of olive oil. The purple flowers are edible, too, and are beautiful in a salad.

You don't need much of its lemony acidity to make an impact. Sorrel makes a lovely soup, mixed with peas, spinach or beans. Cook with shallots and purée with cream for a great sauce for fish and fishcakes, or use in salads.

The leaves go particularly well with lime and chilli and are key in Indian, Thai, Moroccan and Mexican food. It's a herb that divides opinion; some find it unpleasantly soapy. I love it.

Brilliant with Mediterranean vegetables, such as tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes and peppers. Add at the end of cooking for maximum flavour. If you have a good crop, make your own pesto for a real treat.

Bay leaves
Most often used to add depth to savoury dishes, from stews to béchamel sauce; it's also good in custards, panna cotta and ice creams – add a leaf to infuse the milk or cream.

Teams well with most meat, particularly lamb, pork and chicken. Infuse with sugar and use sparingly with cooked apricots and peaches or in a honey-based ice cream.

A classic with lamb, but try it in salads, too, or in an oil-based sauce for grilled veg and mozzarella or fish. Whiz mint, basil and parsley in a blender with some finely chopped chilli, capers and olive oil for a simple sauce to go with griddled meats and fish. Mint also works well in Asian salads with lime, particularly Vietnamese salads and rice paper rolls.

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