Friday, 19 April 2013

Gourmet Garden Herb Blends: A Review

Fresh herbs and spices are almost always preferred in cooking - they're usually fuller-flavoured and have a softer, fresher texture than their dried versions. But then you don't always have a bunch of fresh herbs when you need them, or feel like doing all that chopping. 


herb and spice pastes

Luckily, you can buy herbs and spices already prepared - frozen in little tubs or packets, or puréed in tubes, designed to save you time in the kitchen. Gourmet Garden sent me a selection of their ready-prepared herbs to try out. 

You can't really help but avoid waste and save time with these herbs. With fresh herbs, you need to give them a rinse, chop them finely and then wash up the knife and chopping board. With these, you just squeeze them out of the tube into your dish. I was sent the Italian Herbs, Ginger, Thai Spices, Basil and Chilli tubes, and managed to integrate most of them into my everyday cooking. 


pitta with chilli hummus

One teaspoon of the purée is the equivalent of a teaspoon of fresh herbs, so you don't need to do any conversions when you cook. A good squeeze of the basil went into my avocado pasta, and also into a bolognese I made mid-week. I squeezed a teaspoon of their chilli paste into a leftover half tub of hummus and ate it with pitta bread, for a snack. And the Italian herbs and chilli were great spread onto slices of mozzarella before grilling on a piece of wholemeal toast. You could also knead them into breads to add flavour and use the ginger and lemongrass pastes to make up quick curry pastes, too. I didn't have these, but they also make garlic and parsley pastes and I know I would use these ones a lot. 


herby mozzarella toasts

They're simple to use, give you less washing up, save you time and mean that you don't end up with soggy bunches of herbs, past their best, at the back of the fridge (the pastes have a longer shelf life than fresh herbs). They also taste just like the chopped herbs. The only downside I was ready to throw in is that they were more expensive when compared with fresh herbs. But even that isn't true. Sainsbury's currently sell fresh basil at £2.86 per 100g, and Gourmet Garden basil paste works out at £1.91 per 100g. The only reason I reckon you'd really have to ditch these for fresh herbs is when you want a coarser texture in a dish and want to see the individual leaves in there. 

I had reviewed Gourmet Garden a few years ago, and found the pastes particularly useful when cooking home-made curries. I also spread the coriander and garlic pastes onto freshly baked naan breads as they came out of the oven. I'm really glad to see that they've kept their great quality and are just as easy to use in the kitchen for quick 5-minute snacks as well as longer, slow-cook meals. 

Have you tried herb pastes? How do you get on with them?