Thomas Tennant, Chef de Cuisine at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink restaurant, picks his top three herbs.
Tarragon is by far my favourite. My first encounter with this herb was with béarnaise, a classic secondary sauce from hollandaise. I find tarragon to be a simple, subtle, yet pungent herb. It goes well with fish, chicken and eggs. There are a few varieties of tarragon but the most useful is French tarragon. It has been known to be made to flavour teas in Georgia and Armenia. Avoid dried tarragon, as the oils dissipate and will lack flavour.
Thyme is universally the most used herb that I can think of. Thyme is used in France, Spain, Persia, Italy, Turkey, India, the Caribbean and so many other countries for purposes that are endless.
It is the workhorse herb. It is as common and humble as the onion and useful in so many ways. It is also easy to dry. Besides using it in stocks, it has been used for baking breads, cakes, ice creams, butters, bars of soap, incense, and marinades. My favourite use of this herb is to blend it into Za’atar – a Middle Eastern spice mixture. I also rub it into lamb shoulder and then slow roast it until super tender.
Lemon Verbena is a wonderful flowering plant that when you bruise the leaves it emits a strong lemony scent. This one brings back memories of when I visited family in Argentina as a child. My aunts and uncles would make a tea called Mate Yerba, but would add lemon verbena to give it a citrus flavour.
We would rub it between our hands rapidly to warm up the essential oils and enjoy the strong lemon scent. No special preparation required, just use the leaves to flavour almost anything, especially sorbets. It particularly goes well with fish or can be rubbed underneath the skin of a chicken before roasting.