Grow a Little Herb Garden
Herbs are very much part of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Herbs in many Mediterranean countries have been used for many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years in food and cooking for flavour, and as a medicine. Hippocrates of Cos, the ancient Greek physician, who is considered the father of medicine, used many herbs in his practice and is famous for saying:
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" Hippocrates
Today modern science is confirming many beneficial aspects of many common cooking herbs.
Rosemary, not only for Rememberance
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a Mediterranean herb with sharp thin leaves, which release a wonderful aroma when crushed or cooked. Research had linked rosemary with improved cognitive performance and hints that a component of rosemary called 1,8-cineole may inhibit the breakdown of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Perhaps this is why scholars in ancient Greece, would often twine rosemary into their hair when engaged in scholarly pursuits.
Other research has found that using rosemary when cooking meat, significantly reduces carcinogenic compounds (cancer causing). Rosemary also contains many potent antioxidant compounds like rosmarinic acid, which is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Rosmarinic acid can also inhibit GABA transaminase and so may have anti-anxiety effects.
When you get used to cooking with rosemary you will find it indispensable in your kitchen, as if goes perfectly with potatoes, meats and can even be added to shortbread biscuits.
Rosemary Roast Potatoes
1 kilo of red potatoes, cut into wedges
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs dried rosemary
1 tbs garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated lemon rind
Mix olive oil, Rosemary, and garlic together in a bowl. Set aside.
Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until not quite cooked.
Drain the potatoes and cover with flour. Set out on a cooling rack and let dry for 1 hour.
Add potatoes to oil mixture and mix about. Spread out in a single layer on a baking tray. Season with sea salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper.
Place in the bottom third of oven (400 degrees F, 200 degrees C, gas mark 6) until well browned and crispy on the outside, for about 15-20 minutes, turning over halfway through. Serve warm with grated lemon rind.
Oregano Tangy, Spicy and Sometimes Sweet
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) has a unique flavour, which goes perfectly with pizza, meat and eggs. The complex and often pungent flavours of oregano, are also medicinal, as researchers at Long Island University have found that oregano may have a role in treating prostate cancer.
Oregano is very high in antioxidants and is anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. In fact Hippocrates used oregano as part of his medicine cabinet, to treat stomach and respiratory problems and Greeks today will pull out the oregano when a sore throat strikes.
However oregano is quite simply recommended, because it can make your cooking delicious.
Crisp and Fresh
Simply combine washed and chopped juicy tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers, Spanish onions, capsicum, Kalamata olives (no seeds) and cubes of feta cheese in a salad bowl. Then pour on some virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, oregano and sea salt. Mix to combine and allow to stand for a few minutes for the salad to marinate in the juices. Delicious!
Whose got the thyme?
The ancient Greeks had a very high regard for thyme, they soaked in baths sprinkled with thyme and they burnt incense of thyme in their religious temples. And thyme was also placed under pillows during the Middle Ages, to encourage sleep and to chase off nightmares.
Today thyme (thymol) is used in many commercial items, like mouthwashes and other antiseptic items. Recent research from Leeds Metropolitan University, has found preparations of thyme to be very effective against acne forming bacteria. If you happen to have a sore throat, consider a soothing and antibacterial cup of thyme tea. And why not add some tasty thyme to your cooking, just for its fresh flavour?
Lemon and Thyme Chicken Drumsticks
2 kilos of chicken drumsticks (about 10)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Put the chicken legs onto a deep baking tray and add all the spices, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix chicken about until the legs are well covered with juice and spices. Leave the legs to marinate if you can for 1/2 hour, which will increase flavour and soften the chicken.
Pop the tray into a moderate oven and cook until nice and golden, but remember to baste and mix the chicken often while cooking.
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