Parsley and sage 'can be used in innovative ways'

July 04 2013

Herbs have a very wide range of uses in the kitchen -  and some of our old time favourites can bring a whole new twist to your menu if you're willing to try using them in new or less traditional ways.

Parsley is one of the most well-loved herbs - and there are plenty of good reasons for this, not least of which being the fact that it can add something of a zest to a meal. The plant itself is a species of Petroselinum and - like many of the more popular herbs - it originally comes from the Mediterranean region, although it has long since been naturalized throughout Europe. 

It is used very widely in American cooking, as well as in dishes from the Middle East and Europe - and some European dishes also use it as part of the bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs tied together and used in soups, stock and stews - although it is typically removed before the meal is served. 

Professional chef and cookbook author Eric Akis explained that there are two main types of parsley. In an article for the Times Colonist, he said these are curly leaf and flat leaf - and the latter is sometimes referred to as Italian parsley. 

"Their taste is similar and most often, if the parsley is being chopped, they can be used interchangeably," the expert commented. 

The curly leaf variety is the type that is perhaps most commonly seen as a garnish, sprinkled on top of already-prepared meals as a finishing touch - and Mr Akis suggested either chopping it over or sprinkling it into foods like salads and dressings, or even sandwich fillings, pasta, grilled meats and fish. 

With regards to its flavour, the chef described it as being "mild, refreshing, very slightly bitter [in] taste and [having a] rich green colour [that] can brighten the look and flavour of countless dishes".

Sage is also a Mediterranean herb that may be most familiar to diners for being used as a stuffing. Indeed, sage and onion is often considered the basic stuffing for use in meats. 

The herb is much more commonly used in the preparation of cooked meat dishes than parsley - and it is not unusual for it to be used as an additional flavouring in pork sausages. 

Mr Akis was full of praise for the herb, underlining the fact that "in the kitchen, sage has saved me on many occasions, with its wonderful aroma and earthy, somewhat peppery, pine-wood taste adding a bounty of substance to stuffing for poultry, homemade sausages, risotto, braised dishes and pasta". 

"To spread its flavour around ... fresh sage leaves are often chopped, but they can also be used whole," the expert continued. 

He suggested sliding whole leaves under the skin of a chicken leg before cooking, or even deep-frying them and garnishing a pork chop with them.