As Indians we are used to some of the world's best spices as a part of our cuisine and their aromas are not new to us. What we don't use much of are herbs. Though coriander and mint both feature predominantly in regional foods, other herbs are less conspicuous and some are not used in Indian food at all. Yet the aroma and flavour of herbs is undeniable. Herbs are used in food to enhance flavor and fragrance and can be used either fresh or dried but the flavor changes for each form.
Herbs are ingredients that imbibe any dish with a special flavour making it deliciously exquisite to our taste buds. The different types of herbs also play an important part in healing and medicine and some of those values extend to the food they are used in. Here is a brief overview of some of the more common herbs available in Indian markets and an idea of how they can be used.
|Name of the Herb/ Spices||Description||Uses|
|Basil||Basil also known as French Basil or Sweet Basil||This is a herb that tastes like a cross between mint and cilantro. It is used in Italian dishes like soups and sauces, pizzas, salads, vegetables and pastas. It is used fresh in most dishes but the dried form can be used to cook.|
|Parsley||Parsley is an aromatic leaf. Its seeds are used as a spice. The aroma of the herb is milder than coriander but the taste is very similar.||This is used in soups, broths, salads, cocktails, hamburgers and in lot of vegetarian dishes too. Parsley is very close to coriander in taste and character and is best enjoyed fresh.|
|Bay leaf||Usually used in dried form, bay leaves are very fragrant and akin to cinnamon in character||Bay leaves go very well with rice and pasta preparations. It can be added at the time of cooking since it is used in dried form. Bay leaves have a very potent aroma and should not be over used.|
|Celery||This is a Mediterranean herb and very common in French cooking. It has a sharp, green flavour.||Celery is used in soups, salads, stuffings, cocktails, Indian curries, white sauce, hamburgers, sandwiches and creamy potatoes. It’s stalk and leaves have separate uses since the flavour is sharpest in the stalk.|
|Chives||It grows in the form of tender green shoots with a faint onion flavour. ||It is used in soups and stews, soups and salads as a garnish. Though fresh chives are preferred for salads and raw preparations, usually dried chives are used for bakes and casseroles. |
|Lemon Grass||It is sturdy, pale green and has a mild lemony flavor. It is a classic Asian herb. ||It is used in stir fries, soups, and Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian curries. It has a very potent aroma and should be used sparingly.|
|Rosemary||These are narrow needle like leaves with fragrant evergreen scent. It is very common in French cooking.||Rosemary is used for soups, salads, and potato based casseroles and dishes. It has a distinct aroma that is lightly floral. Dried rosemary is easily available and best used to finish a dish.|