Herbs are among the most characteristic ingredients to add to your shopping list. They’re incredibly versatile. You can use them as garnishes, to make fresh pesto or to add a serious flavour kick to salad dressings, sandwiches, soups, stews, oven-baked chips and just about any meal you can think of. There are so many things you can do with herbs, and utilising these flavour bombs in the kitchen will eliminate the need for just about every additive-ridden sauce and seasoning mix you can tip from the supermarket shelf.
Rather than opt for a pre-made salad dressing made with cheap vegetable oils, preservatives and artificial colours and flavours, why not make your own salad dressing with immune-boosting lemon juice, antioxidant-rich cold-pressed olive oil and your own choice of healing herbs? It’s simple switches like this that’ll really maximise your health and wellbeing. By replacing toxic, lifeless ingredients with fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich foods you will take a huge burden off your detoxification systems while also boosting your immune system and supplying your body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Fresh and dried herbs are like nature’s form of delicious-tasting medicine. Unlike other vegetables, herbs are known for their particularly dense concentration of medicinal and nutritional properties. Eating more herbs will make you feel awesome from the inside out as they supply a surprising array of health benefits, ranging from calming your nerves through to settling your stomach.
When setting up your own herb medicine cabinet, sage must take centre stage. Out of all the culinary herbs, it’s perhaps the one offering the broadest range of medicinal uses. Sage has been recognised as being anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial; plus, it helps to detoxify and cleanse the blood and offers protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
The primary medicinal components of sage are its volatile oils, flavonoids and rosmarinic acid. The oils found in sage have been shown in studies to act as an effective agent against salmonella and candida, and the presence of rosmarinic acid has been recorded as offering powerful anti-inflammatory effects, fighting conditions such as gingivitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Long used as a digestive aid, sage works well when combined with fattier meats, such as poultry and pork, and is scrumptious paired with other strongly flavoured herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme.
I’ve got plenty of time for thyme, not only because of its uplifting, earthy aroma but also due to its numerous healing benefits. Thyme has been noted as being a powerful antiseptic, digestive aid, immune system strengthener, parasite fighter, internal skin purifier and bacterial and fungal infection buster.
Thymol, the primary volatile oil constituent of thyme, contains well-documented health-supporting effects. One of the most exciting observations made by scientists reveals the capacity of thymol to significantly increase the presence of healthy fats in cell membranes of the brain, kidneys and heart.
Thyme is also exceptionally high in vitamin K. This makes it a brilliant herb for expectant mothers, as the presence of vitamin K helps to promote normal blood clotting in a newborn. Vitamin K is also necessary for building strong bones and preventing heart disease, and is a highly important adjunct to vitamin D. Thyme provides a delicious flavour and aromatic quality when added to pasta sauces, scrambled eggs, stocks and roast chicken, and as a freshly sprinkled garnish on fish and meat dishes.
Rosemary is possibly one of the most delicious of the everyday kitchen herbs. A handful in a glass of water on the kitchen bench sends off the most comforting, warming scent, and its pungent, pine-like fragrance offers a priceless complement to chicken, lamb, pork, salmon and tuna dishes, as well as beautifully flavouring omelettes, soups and sauces.
Rosemary contains properties that stimulate the immune system, increase circulation and improve digestion. It’s highly anti-inflammatory and is a wonderful concentration improver, having been shown in studies to increase blood flow to the head and brain. Rosemary is a good source of vitamin E and is bursting with antioxidants. It also contains significant amounts of folates, vitamins A and C, copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron, which increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
Parsley shouldn’t be underestimated as merely a garnish. It carries a cartload of detoxifying and cleansing chlorophyll, vitamins K, C and A, plus folate and iron. This common kitchen ingredient contains significant amounts of a property known as apigenin, which has been revealed in studies to block the formation of new blood vessels in tumours, thereby cutting off the supply of blood and nutrients and slowing or stopping their development. To up your intake of these wow-worthy health benefits, include parsley in fresh vegie juices, finely chopped in salads, soups and sauces, and as an ingredient in homemade rubs for chicken, beef or lamb.
Say goodbye to cheap flavour mimickers in the form of packaged seasonings — the real thing’s right here. Healing herbs are the bee’s knees when it comes to adding another level of deliciousness to your meal. And not only will they tantalise your tastebuds but they’ll revolutionise your health.
Don’t limit herbs to lunch or dinner — sneak them in at breakfast, too. To really ramp up the nutrition of your brekkie, combine some of these everyday medicinal herbs with omelettes or scrambled eggs, or give these scrummy homemade baked beans a try. They’re full of immune- and circulation-boosting spices, as well as rosemary to get that blood flowing to your brain for the big day ahead.
Homemade Baked Beans on Toast
Cooking time: 45 mins
250g Great Northern beans (or bean of your choice)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup passata
¼ tsp powdered stevia
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Place beans in a bowl of filtered water overnight to soak. In the morning, place beans, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and turmeric in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and cook on low for 35 mins.
In a separate saucepan, place olive oil and sauté garlic on low heat. Drain beans and place in saucepan with garlic. Stir in passata, stevia and season to taste. Add rosemary and heat through for 10 mins to meld flavours.
Serve on top of gluten-free bread.
You don’t always have to buy your herbs fresh. In fact, drying your own oregano, thyme and rosemary by hanging them upside down from some string is a great way to keep your seasonal herbs going and will keep you supplied with all those unique medicinal properties throughout the year. This zucchini and celery nut loaf uses dried herbs to improve flavour and nutritional profile and is a perfect way to incorporate the health benefits of herbs into your lunch or snack bread, minus any pesky additives.
Zucchini & Celery Nutloaf
Makes: 1 loaf
Cooking time: 45 mins
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, diced
2 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp ground cumin
1½ cups almond meal
½ tsp stevia powder
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp almond milk
3 zucchinis, grated & drained
1½ cups chopped mixed walnuts, Brazil nuts, raw cashews
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp sugar-free tomato paste
1 tbsp wheat-free tamari (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease a 21cm × 11cm loaf tin.
Heat half the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the onion, garlic, celery, herbs and cumin and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the almond flour, stevia, salt and baking powder. Add the egg, remaining oil, almond milk, zucchini, nuts, lemon zest, tomato paste and tamari and mix well. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30 mins until crispy, browned on top and set in the middle.
Cool for 10 mins in the tin to allow the loaf to firm up, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Carve into slices to serve.
Healing herbs are the perfect addition to slow-cooked meals as they really intermingle and infiltrate the dish, giving it a mouth-watering aromatic quality. The smell of this slow-cooked lamb hotpot will make your neighbourhood drool as it wafts out the front door.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Hotpot
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: Slow cooking through the day
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg diced lamb
1 tbsp almond or brown rice flour
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
1½ cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 turnips, quartered
1 carrot, sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
400g tin diced tomatoes (no additives)
1 tbsp lemon rind
Pinch Celtic sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Sauté onions, celery and garlic in olive oil. Dust the lamb with flour and place in a slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Leave to cook for 8–10 hours on a low setting.
Serve with brown rice or quinoa pilaf.