Tie up a mixture of herbs from your garden and throw them in something that you’re cooking. Call it a bouquet garni and you not only have a delicious, aromatic dish, but a classic one too.
The wonderful thing about a bouquet garni is that you can make the most of the herbs you’re using, including the woody, flavourful goodness from the stalks. So you end up with a depth of herby flavour, not just the top ‘notes’ from the leaves.
There are 2 main ways of making your herb bundle:
1. Gather a mix of herbs and tie them securely with some natural string. Add them to your dish then remove the bundle before eating
Or 2. Roughly bend or cut your herb mixture and place in a little muslin bag. Tie up and then add to your dish as it cooks. Again, remove before eating. This method is particularly good if you want to add otheringredients such as juniper berries, star anise or cloves, which can’t be just tied with other herbs.
And there are 2 main ways of using your herb bundle:
If your bundle contains mostly woody herbs with hardy stems and leaves (such as rosemary, sage and thyme), then add at the beginning of cooking to allow all the flavours to develop.
If your bundle contains delicate, thin stemmed herbs (such as coriander, basil and dill), add towards the end of cooking, as the flavours can be lost if you add the herbs too early.
Experiment with different combinations of herbs (and spices), to complement your dish – I’ve put together some combinations that work particularly well – see below – but this is of course by no means definitive!
These make small bouquets – just double up on the quantities if you’re making a bigger dish or want a bolder flavour.
For Beef: 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig hyssop
For Pork: 1 sprig sage, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme
For Lamb: 1 sprig rosemary, 2 sprigs oregano, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme
For Chicken or Turkey: 3 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig tarragon, 1 sprig oregano
For Game: 1 sprig parsley, 4 juniper berries, 1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf
For Fish: 2 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs dill / fennel, 1 sprig lemon balm, 2 stalks chives
For Vegetables: 2 sprigs oregano, 1 sprig thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig sage
For Fruit: 2 sprigs sweet cicely, 1 sprig mint, 1 sprig lemon balm
As a guideline, robust herbs like rosemary, sage and hyssop are great with strong meats like beef, lamb, game and pork.
Delicate dishes benefit from fragrant and subtle herbs like dill, citrusy lemon balm and delicate onion-flavoured chives.
If you’re cooking vegetables such as peppers, aubergine, tomato and courgettes, then make a bouquet garni of Mediterranean herbs like oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary for a delicious Southern European flavour.
And please let me know if you have any favourite combinations to try…