Can’t tell your coriander from your parsley? Here are my recommended herbs to pair with different chicken dishes so that you’ve got the know-how to make meals that are as delicious as they are healthy. To make these dishes even yummier – I’ll also share a how-to on three infused oils I always have on hand to make food explode with flavour.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: cooking delicious food isn’t hard. You don’t need to perfect your knife skills or master molecular gastronomy to be able to make meals for yourself, friends and family. All you need is the confidence to pack plenty of flavour into your dishes. And for that, choosing the right herbs is key.
Along with spices, it’s herbs that can take a meal from bland to beautiful. And even better, it’ll help keep your cooking clean and healthy by removing the need to add extra salt.
If you’re still a little uncertain, or can’t tell one bunch of greenery from another, read on. This guide will help you pick the right herbs for a range of simple dishes so that you always know what to reach for.
My go-to herbs: sage, lemon thyme, tarragon.
This classic meal needs no introduction, but there are a few tricks to make your favourite winter warmer even better. Load up your stuffing with lemon thyme—along with garlic, onion, and some citrus zest—and then chop a handful of either sage or tarragon and stir it through some butter. Rub your herbed butter all over the chicken before it goes into the oven—and, if you can, get some under the skin too—and then brush it with more every twenty minutes or so as it cooks.
My go-to herbs: coriander, Thai basil, garlic shoots.
The humble stir-fry is a go-to meal for the busy person. Throw some sliced chicken breast or thigh into a wok, add mountains of vegetables, and you’ve got a healthy dinner within fifteen minutes. But how can you take your stir-fry game to the next level?
If it’s a Thai or Vietnamese flavour you’re going for, add plenty of fresh coriander or Thai basil at the end. If you’re making a Chinese-inspired stir-fry, go for garlic shoots. But forget the concept of a garnish; garlic shoots should instead be used like a vegetable—so load up those woks!
My go-to herbs: flat-leaf parsley, coriander.
Really, a one-pot dish can be any number of things, but when I think of it, I think of Middle-Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean cooking. Hearty stews and tagines can be made even better by adding some finely sliced preserved lemon peel at the very end, and then topping with mountains of roughly chopped coriander and parsley.
My go-to herbs: basil, flat-leaf parsley, chives.
Like one-pot dishes, topping your soups with herbs before serving can lend a delightful lightness to an otherwise hearty dish. Finish your soup with a dollop of crème fraiche or coconut cream, then sprinkle with roughly chopped basil, parsley, or chives.
My go-to herbs: basil, mint, dill, flat-leaf parsley, coriander
When summer comes around, salads become a staple for so many of us here in warm and sunny Australia. Add some chicken for protein, then work through plenty of light-flavoured, tender herbs. This is an area you can experiment with, as it’s pretty hard to get it wrong. I like to use herbs more like a salad green by adding loads of them, and even combining them. Dill and mint together are magical with chicken, or pair mint with coriander instead for Asian-inspired salads. Even fruit salads can be made better with a few herbs—think watermelon and mint, or strawberries and finely shredded basil.
No herbs on hand?
Even if you find your fridge empty, and your herb garden never really took off, your food can still pack a punch with these three infused oils.
To make basil oil…
- Blanch two cups of loosely-packed basil leaves in boiling water for thirty seconds, then strain and place them in an ice bath to cool.
- Remove them and gently squeeze them dry, then transfer to a blender or food processor with one cup of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of good-quality sea salt. Process for 30-60 seconds, or until basil is broken down into very small pieces, then pour into a clean glass jar and refrigerate. The flavour of the oil will develop significantly overnight.
- The next day, strain the mix through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and pour the oil into a new clean glass jar or bottle. Alternatively, you can simply leave it as it is, with the basil leaves still in it. Either way, store it in the fridge and use within a week.
To make garlic oil…
- Peel and thinly slice the cloves from one full head of garlic.
- Place in a small, heavy-based pot and pour over one cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Heat over a low-medium heat.
- Once you see small bubbles form around the garlic, cook for a further 5-6 minutes and then remove from heat. Don’t let the garlic brown or burn.
- Leave it to cool to room temperature, then strain off the oil store in a clean glass jar or bottle for two weeks.
To make chilli oil…
- Place two tablespoons of dried chilli flakes in a pot with one cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Heat over a low-medium heat just until the chilli begins to sizzle a little, but don’t let it cook or burn. We just want to release a little flavour and colour, and this should only take 2-3 minutes once the oil is bubbling.
- Leave to cool, then pour into a clean glass jar, chilli included, and store in the fridge. Use within two weeks.