About 15 years ago, after graduating from university, I studied herbalism for a few years. I wanted to be self-reliant when I was away from civilisation, to be able to treat minor injuries and discomforts myself, with what I found growing around me.
It didn't happen. I've never used those skills professionally, but I've continued experimenting, in the kitchen as well as in my improvised lab-under-the-stairs.
Today I want to share a few easy herbal recipes, using everyday ingredients.
Most of them make great presents. Find a nice bottle, make a vintage-style hand-written label (which you can personalise as you see fit) and decorate with a ribbon, raffia, flowers or sprigs of herbs. Or how about trying them out with friends or family during a well-deserved, health-inspired spring get-together?
- vegetable oil, enough to fill the container of your choice. Most food quality oils will do, but the milder the flavour, the more you'll taste the herbs.
With mediterranean-style herbs like basil, thyme or oregano, I use a good olive oil.
- fresh herbs. To give an idea of quantity: per cup of oil (roughly 250ml), I use about 1 cup of fresh herbs.
I make this with either one herb or a mixture of several. My favourites are: thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, oregano, chillis and garlic. Lemon thyme and (a bit of) sage make a particularly good combination.
- Wash the herbs and dry them well.
- Gently bruise the herbs to help them release their flavour.
- Put the herbs in a jar, add some fresh pepper.
- Pour the oil over the herbs. (Some recipes want you to heat the oil. I don't do that. I'm not a fan of heating vegetable oils because it changes the nature of the fats.)
- Close the container and keep in a cool, dark place for about a week. (Some recipes advise you to keep it longer. I find 1 week is enough; I prefer a more subtle herb flavour. You can taste in between to see if it needs a few more days.
- Strain the oil and pour it in the container you've chosen. You can add a sprig of dried herbs, a few peppercorns and/or dried chillis for decoration and additional flavour.
- Choose a good quality oil. This will affect the outcome, as it's the main ingredient.
- Experiment with different herbs and combinations.
- After infusing the oils, don't keep them too long or they will turn rancid.
- Adding some lemon zest to the recipe gives a nice tang.
- You can make herb vinegars in quite the same way.
- Use this recipe with just oil (e.g. almond or sesame oil - check for allergies first!) and calendula flowers (marigold) to make a great body or massage oil.
Avocado Face Mask
- 1/2 ripe, preferably organic avocado
- 2 tablespoons of warm herbal tea (camomile for a soothing effect, peppermint to refresh)
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- Purée the avocado with honey and tea to a smooth mixture.
- Apply to your face, avoiding the eyes.
- Leave on for 10 minutes.
- Rinse off with warm water, then once more with cold water.
- If you're concerned about allergies, test out the mixture on a small part of your skin (e.g. the inside of your wrist), leave it on for a few minutes, rinse off.
- If you have some left: add onions, garlic and lime juice. Eat with nachos / corn chips. ;-)