Fresh herbs greatly enhance the taste, appearance and nutritional value of the food we eat. A simple dish can be transformed into a gourmet one, in a matter of minutes, by adding some fresh herbs to compliment the main ingredients.
By growing a small selection of herbs, even in pots or a window box, they will always be on hand when you need them.
When cooking with herbs, there are no hard and fast rules. The most important ingredient is enthusiasm. Be prepared to experiment. If you are new to herb cookery, you need to learn the individual tastes and flavours first. The simplest way to do this is to add one herb at a time to your ordinary, everyday cooking – mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs/omelettes, pasta dishes, salads and sandwiches. You will very quickly discover the tastes you like and dislike. As your confidence increases, you will learn to combine herbs that work well with each other.


Wash the herbs in cold water and pat dry in a clean tea towel. Generally, the leaves are removed from the stem.
If the plants have soft, lush leaves, add the chopped herb at the end of cooking, in order to retain full flavour, colour and nutritional content – eg. parsley, chervil, chives, basil, mint, coriander, dill, salad rocket.
Herbs with tougher leaves, generally have a stronger flavour and are usually added at the start of cooking – eg. sage, rosemary, thyme, winter savory. These herbs can also be added towards the end of cooking, but in this case they need to be very finely chopped and used sparingly. Whole sprigs can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, roasts and marinades. They are removed before serving.
Very tough herbs are added to dishes that require long, slow cooking, such as soups, stews, casseroles and roasts. They are then removed before serving – eg. bay.
Herbs with a delicate flavour enhance mildly flavoured foods. The more strongly flavoured herbs combine well with robust, strongly flavoured food types.


For maximum flavour, use whole seed and grind it before use. Roasting seed further intensifies the flavour. Heat a heavy-based pan, ideally cast iron, add the seeds and toss or stir over gentle heat, until they begin to brown lightly and release their aroma. Use whole, or allow to cool before grinding.



We all have tried and tested dishes that we cook regularly. By using different herbs, we can subtly change the flavour of our standard dishes and add to our culinary repertoire. The following list suggests herbs that combine particularly well with base ingredients. Use the list as a guide and discover the versatility that herbs can add to your culinary skills. Remember there are no rules. The more you experiment, the more you will learn.

STOCKS bay, chervil, chives, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
SOUPS bay, chervil, coriander, chives, dill, fennel, lovage, mint, parsley, sorrel, oregano, marjoram, nettle, tarragon, thyme
GENERAL bay, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon balm, lemon thyme, sorrel, parsley
SALMON & TROUT basil, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, lemon balm, marjoram, sorrel, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
OILY FISH chives, dill, fennel, lemon thyme, rosemary, savory, thyme
SHELLFISH basil, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
CHICKEN/TURKEY basil, bay, chervil, chives, coriander, fennel, horseradish, lemon balm, lemon thyme, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
DUCK basil, bay, hyssop, juniper, lemon thyme, lovage, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
PIGEON bay, chervil, chives, lemon thyme, marjoram, mustard, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
RABBIT/HARE bay, chervil, chives, dill, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
PHEASANT bay, chervil, chives, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
BEEF bay, chervil, chives, horseradish, lovage, marjoram, mustard, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
LAMB bay, chervil, chives, coriander, cumin, lovage, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
PORK bay, chervil, chives, coriander, cumin, lovage, marjoram, mustard, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
HAM bay, chervil, chives, juniper, lovage, marjoram, mustard, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
LIVER/OFFAL bay, chervil, chives, dill, juniper, lovage, marjoram, mustard, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
ARTICHOKES basil, bay, chervil, coriander, dill, parsley, tarragon, thyme
ASPARAGUS basil, chervil, dill, parsley, tarragon
AVOCADO basil, chives, coriander, dill, parsley, tarragon
AUBERGINE basil, chervil, dill, oregano, parsley, tarragon, thyme
BEANS basil, bay, caraway, cumin, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, thyme
BEETROOT chives, dill, horseradish, mustard, parsley, tarragon
BROCCOLI chervil, cumin, mint, mustard
CABBAGE bay, caraway, cumin, juniper, mustard, sage, thyme
CARROTS basil, chervil, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
CAULIFLOWER bay, caraway, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley
CELERY chervil, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
COURGETTE basil, chervil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary
CUCUMBER borage, dill, mint, oregano, parsley
FENNEL chervil, dill, mustard, oregano, parsley, tarragon
FRENCH BEANS basil, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley, savory, tarragon
LEEKS chervil, chives, dill, parsley, rosemary
LENTILS chives, coriander, cumin, mint, oregano, parsley
MUSHROOMS basil, chervil, chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley, savory, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
ONION chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
PARSNIP coriander, cumin, parsley, rosemary, savory, thyme
PEAS basil, chervil, coriander, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, savory, sorrel,  tarragon
PEPPERS basil, chervil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme
POTATOES basil, chervil, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, horseradish, lovage, mint, mustard, nettle, parsley, rosemary, savory, sorrel, thyme
PUMPKIN coriander, cumin, parsley, rosemary, savory, thyme
SPINACH borage, chervil, cumin, coriander, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, parsley, sorrel
TOMATOES basil, chervil, chives, dill, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, sorrel, thyme
TURNIPS coriander, cumin, parsley, rosemary, savory, thyme
RICE basil, bay, chives, cumin, coriander, dill, lemon thyme, marigold petals, parsley, rosemary, saffron, thyme
EGGS basil, chervil, chives, dill, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sorrel, tarragon
CHEESE basil, chervil, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sorrel, tarragon, thyme
STUFFINGS all – apart from very tough herbs
SALADS all – apart from very tough herbs
FRUIT angelica, anise hyssop, basil, borage, lavender, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, mint, sweet cicely
BREADS anise, caraway, cumin, coriander, dill, fennel, poppy seed, rosemary, saffron, thyme
BISCUITS anise, caraway, lavender, poppy seed, rosemary
EDIBLE FLOWERS borage, chives, clove pinks, elder, heartsease, muskmallow, nasturtium, rose, salad rocket, sweet rocket

As garlic and black pepper combine well with almost any savoury dish, I have not included them in the list.



The following simple and very basic menu gives an idea of how the food/herb list can be used to adapt any dish.

Smoked Trout with Dill Mayonnaise

Arrange the trout on serving plates. Mix some finely chopped dill with the mayonnaise, either home made or good quality bought. Put a dollop of mayo on each plate, or serve separately in ramekins. Garnish with lemon slices and dill sprigs. Serve with brown bread. Creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt can be used instead of mayonnaise.
Parma Ham with Lovage and Mustard
Smoked Chicken with Tarragon and Horseradish
Asparagus with Chervil

Potato and Nettle Soup
Sauté some finely chopped leeks or onions in a little butter or oil. Add the peeled and diced potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the potatoes and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add a large handful of nettle leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and puree with a hand blender. Garnish with a drizzle of cream or pesto.
Pumpkin Soup with Coriander
Chicken Soup with Chervil
Mushroom Soup with Dill

Chicken with Tarragon Sauce
Sauté some chicken fillets in a little butter. When they are cooked, remove from the pan and keep warm. Add some cream to the pan & stir until the sauce has thickened. Add some finely chopped tarragon and black pepper. Pour over the chicken and garnish with a sprig of tarragon. Creme fraiche or yoghurt can be used instead of cream. Whiskey or brandy can be added to the pan before the cream, for a richer sauce.
Salmon Cutlet with Dill
Fillet Steak with Horseradish
Mushrooms with Marjoram.

Potato Cakes with Herbs
Add plenty of finely chopped herbs to basic mashed potatoes. Form into cakes and fry in a mixture of butter and olive oil, until crisp and golden. For best results use a cast iron pan.
This basic recipe can be adapted in numerous ways. All of the Allium family (ie. onions, garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, etc.) combine well with potatoes, so I would usually include at least one. Spinach is also good. Other ideas – finely diced smoked ham or fish, tomatoes, peas, peppers, chillies, mushrooms, olives, sun dried tomatoes, grated cheese, spices, etc.

Steamed Vegetables with Herbs
Lightly steam the vegetables. Toss in melted butter and mix through some finely chopped herbs.
Carrots with Mint
French Beans with Summer Savory
Broccoli with Marjoram

Roast Vegetables with Herbs
Place the vegetables in a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Seeds, whole or ground, and sprigs of tough leafed herbs can be added at this stage. Roasting time depends on the choice and size of the vegetables. Soft leafed herbs should be added at the end of cooking.
Carrots, Parsnips and Turnips with Cumin, Coriander and Rosemary
Aubergines, Peppers and Tomatoes, with Oregano and Thyme
Potatoes with Coriander and Cumin

Mango and Raspberry with Mint and Basil
Puree the mango with some mint. Puree the raspberries with cinnamon basil. Pour the coulis onto serving plates. Top with ice-cream and chocolate sauce. Garnish with mint leaves and borage flowers.
Kiwi with Applemint
Strawberry with Basil
Blackberry with Lemon Verbena