Herbs for Sunday Lunch
What is the meal that brings us all together?
Sunday lunch, of course! It is the ultimate family meal and it is all about comfort food. With the Easter holidays coming up, there’s another opportunity for a family get-together, so why not have Sunday roast on the menu, followed by a rich pudding to set everyone up for an afternoon nap. Where do herbs for Sunday lunch come in? In everything, because herbs picked from the garden add a personal touch. Savoury herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary and bay have herbaceous, piney or spicy undertones that pair perfectly with meat and chicken. For desserts use fruity or floral-flavoured herbs like pineapple sage, lemon verbena, basil and lemon grass.
Hero Herbs for Sunday Lunch Roasts
Italian parsley is a big plant with deep green flat leaves that stand up to long cooking better than moss curled parsley. Grow it in composted, fertile soil in sun or partial shade, and don’t let the plant dry out. Fertilise once a month because parsley is a heavy feeder.
French thyme is one of the best culinary varieties, used in herb vinegars, breads and butters. It is a low-growing, bushy thyme with narrow grey leaves. Once established it tolerates drought very well and requires little care. Honey bees love the white flowers.
Ginger rosemary is a neat, vigorous perennial shrub with a noticeable ginger flavour and fragrance. Keep it compact with regular pruning. Besides flavouring roast meats, use it to make energising cold or hot drinks.
No herb garden? Start one now… Of all the edibles, herbs are the easiest to grow and are always available. You don’t have to worry about sowing seasons, pests or lack of water. They just like sun, some water now and then, and lots of picking. A herb garden can be as simple as five or six pots of your favourite herbs, or even one or two on your kitchen’s windowsill.
The main course – herbs for Sunday Lunch Roasts
Take a poll of favourite meals and roast chicken will probably head the list. But for special days, a leg of lamb is always a treat, as is roast pork or beef. Some herb pairings for memorable roasts are:
Lamb roasted with garlic, rosemary, parsley and mint crust
To make the herb crust combine 2 tablespoons each of chopped mint and parsley and 1 tablespoon of rosemary with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the grated rind of one lemon, 2 dessertspoons of chopped ginger root, and 2 cloves of garlic. Chop or blend all the ingredients to produce a bright green mixture. Thirty minutes before the meat has finished cooking, spread the herb mixture over the joint, then pop it back in the oven for the remaining 30 minutes. It not only flavours the lamb but also makes a rich, tasty sauce.
Aromatic roast beef with a kick: basil, parsley, mint, rosemary and thyme
If you like flavours that are bright and aromatic, this is a novel way to use herbs with roast beef. Chop up a mix of fresh basil, parsley, mint, rosemary and thyme (in proportions that suit your taste buds) with 2 garlic cloves. Once the roast is done, roll it in the herb and garlic mix, cover with a ‘tent’ of aluminium foil and let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes. Serve with horseradish and mustard.
Jamie Oliver’s perfect roast chicken ~ thyme, bay leaf and rosemary
Jamie Oliver has always been a campaigner for herbs. In typical Jamie style he specifies ‘a bunch’ of fresh herbs, probably what’s available. For his ‘Perfect Chicken’ he combines carrots, celery and a bulb of garlic with thyme, bay leaf and rosemary, all in a roasting pan drizzled with olive oil. Place the chicken on top of the veggies. For extra flavour Jamie stuffs the chicken with more herbs and a lemon, pricked and microwaved for 40 seconds to bring out the flavour. At the end of cooking the veggies and herbs make a yummy gravy.
Pork with sage, parsley and thyme
Whether it’s fillet or any other lean cut of pork, combine mustard, fresh herbs and bacon (or prosciutto) to flavour it. Spread mustard over the meat then sprinkle 2 tablespoons each of chopped parsley and thyme and one teaspoon of chopped sage (it has a much stronger flavour) over that. Place the bacon/prosciutto slices on top of the pork to protect the meat where the fat has been removed, and roast. All the flavours will mingle with the meat juices. For a slightly fruity gravy add a chopped apple and some apple mint to the pan juices, and thicken.
Herbs for Sunday Lunch: Desserts to die for
No Sunday lunch is complete without a pudding that’s gooey, sticky, sweet and calorific. Since 2015 it has been a trend to incorporate herbs into sweet dishes, but keep it simple so as not to be overpowering.
For pudding with a twist, take family favourites like apple crumble, Malva pudding and custard, ice cream and chocolate sauce or any other favourite and slip in some herbs.
Herbal castor sugar made from lavender or rose geranium can be used instead of regular castor sugar in apple pies, crumbles or fruit tarts. To make: Slightly bruise dried lavender flowers or rose-scented geranium leaves before adding them to castor sugar or icing sugar. Store in an airtight jar until needed, then sieve out the herbs. They will have left their flavour behind!
Herb-infused syrup is a delicious variation for Malva pudding or any other baked pudding that calls for syrup to be poured over it as it comes out of the oven. Try pineapple sage, lemon verbena, rose-scented geranium or rosemary. To make: Start by making a strong infusion, using double the amount of herb material that you would normally use for making herbal tea (about 50:50). Bring the required amount of water to the boil, take it off the heat and then add the herb. Leave it to steep for about 15 minutes and then strain. It is the amount of herb used and not the length of steeping time that produces the strong infusion. Boil the herb infusion with sugar to make a syrup.
Herb-infused cream goes with anything, the more lavish the better. Use fresh lavender flowers, rose-scented geranium, pineapple sage, apple or pineapple mint. To make: Whisk cream until thick, add flowers or very finely chopped leaves and castor sugar.
Chocolate mint sauce for ice cream or baked chocolate pudding uses chocolate mint or peppermint, used sparingly because of its strong taste. Mint also eases digestion. To make: Whisk together ½ cup cocoa powder and ¾ cup cold water. When the mixture is smooth, add ¾ cup sugar and 30 chocolate mint leaves torn into pieces. Pour into a pot and stir over a medium heat, bringing it to the boil. When it starts boiling reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter. Cool slightly and strain the mixture to remove the leaves.
Did you know? Lavender tastes and smells best in chocolate cakes and brownies, thyme’s spicy, minty edge can neutralise overpowering ingredients or heighten their sweetness, and sweet basil’s mildly peppery flavour with hints of mint and cloves comes to the fore when infused in custard. (https://pregelamerica.com)
- Rose-scented geranium is a fast-growing perennial with strongly rose-scented leaves bearing small mauve flowers in summer. Plants grow in full sun or semi-shade. Use the leaves in a strong infusion to flavour sauces, custards, jellies and water ices.
- Pineapple sage is a perennial shrub, 1m high and 60cm wide, with fiery red flowers and a pineapple aroma. The leaves and flowers can be used in fruit punches, fruit salads and syrups.
- Chocolate mint has dark green-brown, pointed oval leaves, and grows 45cm high. Cutting back often produces a healthier, bushy plant. It likes full sun to partial shade and well-composted soil. It is great added to puddings, ice cream and drinks.