For the past few weeks I've had mint on my mind, just as I emerge from my long-standing sage phase.
When it comes to herbs mixing and mingling and adding a sprig or two into your diet both culinarily and medicinally can enhance not only your meals but also your health. Herbs really are a dream come true in the kitchen.
You’ll frequently find me fraternizing with fennel due to its fragrant flavourings and anti-inflammatory and digestive capabilities, the oils stimulating secretion of digestive and gastric juices in the stomach and intestines, reducing inflammation and helping to fast-track the absorption of nutrients from your food.
Hob knobbing with a highly fragrant herb like basil can be a wholly wholesome experience. Anti-bacterial basil is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb because of the eugenol component of its oils which can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase. If you’ve ever taken non-steriodal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, they work in a similar way by inhibiting this enzyme. Basil is a wonderful herb for symptomatic relief of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
Harmonising with fresh herbs will offer you an insight into their prowess, releasing their beautiful perfumed flavours readily into your dishes. The golden rule when cooking with herbs is fat first then herbs last. If you’re known for getting your coriander confused with cumin alleviate your herbal haze with this wonderful reference guide includes all of the most common (and some uncommon) herbs and spices.
Quite often it’s easy to buy a bunch of herbs and use only a couple of leaves in a recipe, then shove them into the back of the fridge, forgetting about them and finding them weeks later all limp and bedraggled.
When storing herbs, hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage can stay aromatic for up to two weeks if you place them in the fridge, but do remember to keep them as dry as possible. The warmest part of the fridge is generally the top shelf.
More delicate herbs such as parsley, coriander and basil can be trimmed at the bottom of the stem and placed in a jar with a little water, then all you need to do is change the water every couple of days. To store fragile herbs in the fridge trim them and then cover them loosely with a plastic bag to avoid wilting and the leaves freezing or blackening.
Herbs are becoming more readily available in supermarkets with many larger stores offering herbs such as tarragon and marjoram alongside more popular varieties like thyme, rosemary and basil. You can also find exotic herbs such as lemon grass, Thai Basil, Fenugreek and curry leaves in Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian markets at affordable prices.
I recently visited the happy high herb shop in Nimbin, NSW, where I found a lot of interesting herbs some edible and some not so, but that’s a whole other story!
Including herbs into your refreshments is a fun and easy way to enjoy their benefits. I’m starting with a Mint Choc Chip Smoothie recipe from my brand new book Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian. This delicious treat can be made in no time and enjoyed throughout the day- whether as a snack on the go, yummy afternoon tea or a decadent dessert on a warm summer’s night. Not only does this drink taste better than choc mint ice-cream- it’s a lot healthier too.
If you’re one of the growing number of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, congested sinuses, constant sneezing and puffy eyes or hay fever this smoothie, packed with mint will help in relieving symptoms through its aromatic refreshing decongesting qualities.
Mint has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb to help the human body digest foods. Mint is also thought to be high in antioxidants, improving the flow of bile in the stomach leading to increased digestion.
The mint combined with the delicious creamy texture and essential good fats for healthy cognitive functioning that both nuts and the avocado provide, make this smoothie a crowd favourite for all ages.
My Mint Choc Chip Smoothie is refreshing and packed with flavour. Feel free to get creative and add some extra ingredients if they’re leftover in the fridge too.
If you find it easier to learn recipes visually here's a video of how to make it.
Mint Choc Chip Smoothie
- 1 peeled and frozen banana
- 1 bunch of English spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup organic nut butter
- 1/2 avocado, peeled and stone removed
- Generous handful of mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) almond milk
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) coconut water
- handful of ice (optional)
- 3 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
- Place all the ingredients except the cacao nibs in a powerful blender and blend until smooth. Add the cacao nibs and blend for another 5–10 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and serve.
- Note: You can substitute frozen spinach for the fresh.
I haven’t forgotten our friends in the Northern Hemisphere and have concocted a warm smoothie for those chilly mornings and evenings using peppermint essence. My Minty Hot Chocolate is invigorating and comforting and far removed from instant hot cocoa mix. It’s the real deal.
Minty Hot Chocolate
- 2 tsp raw cacao powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp peppermint essence (no alcohol)
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 7 drops liquid stevia or 1/8 tsp stevia powder
- Place cacao powder and cinnamon and peppermint into a heavy bottomed pan add in two tablespoons of warmed almond milk to dissolve then turn on heat to medium and add the remaining room temperature almond milk and coconut milk and sweeten to taste stirring often until it is warmed through. Pour into a mug and serve.
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