Herb-a-licious: add buckets of flavour to every meal

7 October 2015 by
First published: 15 May 2014

Bland food is boring. Spice up your life, keep your healthy regime on track and boost your favourite dishes with our guide to giving your everyday meals a tasty makeover with herbs. Check out these tops tips from the founder of The Pure Package and Balance Box, Jennifer Irvine, and get herb-a-licious to add buckets of flavour to every meal.

Pack a punch
Kick boring food to the kerb to keep healthy intentions on course with a little sprinkle of this and that.It’s difficult to stick to a diet unless the food tastes really wonderful. Herbs pack the punch with flavour, which means you don’t have as serious cravings. A handful of herbs can turn a head of plain lettuce into a gourmet salad and they’re jam packed with nutrients too. Some herbs are the most nutritious greens you can find, containing unique antioxidants, which are necessary for helping to reduce cellular damage,’ says Jennifer. ‘The essential oils in herbs have anti-inflammatory properties and lots of herbs contain antimicrobial substances helping our body to fight against germs, toxins and to boost immunity levels. There are plenty of options out there to indulge in!’

Pick your favourites
It doesn’t really matter which herbs you go for, it’s just important to pick the flavours you enjoy.A pot of each of your favourites can be picked up from the supermarket and if kept on the windowsill, can keep for months,’ says Jennifer. ‘I always have basil, parsley and rosemary in pots in my home kitchen and usually thyme, mint and coriander.’

Grow your own
Dried herbs can be convenient, and might be a good option for those flavours you don’t use often, but fresh is best. ‘For me, it has to be fresh live plants for home and giant boxes of fresh for work,’ says Jennifer. ‘We use so many at Pure Package that we would need acres of land to grow them, so we source many of them from a farm in Surrey. I do have some pots of dried around the place. I do grow my own at home as I use so much, and like to be able to mix and match when I create a new dish.’ But the fresh pots from your local shop will work just as well. ‘There is nothing wrong with the live supermarket pots. If I see a deal on something like basil, especially in the winter I pick up a few pots,’ says Jennifer.

Waste not, want not
Worried that buying fresh will see your precious herbs go to waste? Worry no more. ‘I turn them into pesto and freeze in ice cube trays, which is very handy later,’ says Jennifer. ‘It’s also easier to make pesto in big batches, if you try to make a portion for two people it is harder to whizz. Pesto is one of my lifesavers, especially when I am time poor. It can quickly transform basic ingredients in an instant.’ And it’s good to think outside the box. ‘I make pesto out of not just basil in the Italian style, but Asian pesto from coriander and cashew nuts, and my mint pesto goes really well with fish,’ says Jennifer. ‘Pesto can be full of calcium-dense cheeses and nuts packed with vitamin E, making it a real guilt free go-to as it also adds a flavour punch.’

Give old favourites a makeover
Herbs can give practically any dish a lift. ‘I really do feel that cooking without fresh herbs is like a painter trying to paint without colour,’ says Jennifer. ‘I use herbs to transform regular meat and fish into something far more exciting and nutritious.’ And it’s ok to stick with just one or two herbs you really love.  ‘I have to say, my all-time favourite herb has to be rosemary, simply because it’s so robust and compliments a wide variety of dishes and I can use it all year round,’ says Jennifer. ‘I throw rosemary with my Sunday roast lamb in the winter and use it as skewers on my BBQ in the summer.’