Putting flavour back into your meals

Mid week meals don't have to be boring, you know.

Let’s face it, weeknight meals can become repetitive after a while. Alas, with a few tweaks, it doesn’t take much to bring life back into your meals.

Hello herbs and spices

Breathe new life into bland meals with herbs and spices. They greatly enhance the flavour and colour of your dishes. Think about your meal as a blank canvas, you are the artist and herbs and spices are the paint colours that bring the dish to life.

By simply adding a few herbs and spices to your kitchen collection, you can prepare dishes from all over the world. Consider the humble chicken breast, with a few shakes of the spice jar it can be transformed into a Mediterranean delight or spicy Mexican morsel.  Same goes for roast vegetables and pasta or rice dishes.

Be inspired by different cuisines of the world and the flavours that pair well together:

France Thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, nutmeg
Greece Olive oil, lemon, oregano, garlic, bay leaves
Hungary Onion, paprika
India Curry, cumin, ginger, garlic
Italy Tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil, marjoram
Mexico Tomato, chilli, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, garlic, lime
Middle East Sumac, cumin, coriander, garlic, cloves
Morocco/North Africa Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger
Thai Thai basil, chilli, ganagal or ginger, turmeric

These combinations can be used with different meats and vegetables.

Purchase spices in small quantities as they can lose their flavour over time. Popular spice blends available from the supermarket such as Moroccan seasoning or Cajun seasoning are loaded with salt and sugar. You can avoid the added salt and sugar nasties by making your own by simply blending the spices together?

Cajun blend recipe

-    1 teaspoon garlic powder
-    1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-    1 ½  teaspoons dried oregano
-    1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
-    ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)

Moroccan blend recipe
-    2 teaspoons ground coriander
-    2 teaspoons ground cumin
-    2 teaspoon smoked paprika
-    1 teaspoon ground turmeric
-    1 teaspoon garlic powder

When it comes to herbs, they generally fall into two categories; soft herbs (basil, parsley, coriander, mint etc.) and woody herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, bay and curry leaf). Soft herbs are best uncooked or added to a dish at the end of their cooking time as they lose their delicate flavours when heated. You can also use the whole stalk finely chopped in dishes not just the leaves.  Woody herbs are often too tough to be used raw and really begin to shine when infused in dishes through cooking - think rosemary and thyme on roast meats and vegetables.

3 ways with herbs

  1. Add freshly chopped soft herbs to olive oil, lemon and mustard to dress salad or steamed vegetables like green beans and asparagus.
  2. Make a pesto or salsa verde with basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Add this to pasta dishes, drizzled through salads and over vegetables. Instant flavour boost to any dish
  3. Roast vegetables with rosemary sprigs or dried herbs and garlic.

Get marinating for maximum flavour

If there is one sure fire way to pack flavour into a dish it’s got to be marinating. Protein rich foods like raw meat, poultry, fish, tofu and vegetables like zucchini and eggplant are fantastic vehicles for flavour. They can be coated in a paste, liquid or a dry rub in advance of cooking.

For best results, use this as a guide for how long to marinate foods:

Ingredient Type Marinating Time
Meats - such as beef, lamb, pork
Steak,chops or diced 2-4 hours
whole roast 4-6 (or overnight)
Poultry Fillets, cutlets, winds and drumsticks 2-4 hours
Whole roast 4-6 hours (or overnight)
Fish Whole fish or fillets 2-4 hours
Seafood Prawns, squid, octopus 1-2 hours

Be careful when using acidic marinades made with lemon, lime or vinegars. Foods left too long in these blends can change colour and texture. Softer fish fillets, for example, can begin to break down in a matter of minutes.

Don’t forget the crunch

Create interest by including more texture in your meals. Crunchy nuts and seeds work well sprinkled over salad or steam vegetables – try toasted almond flakes over broccoli or pumpkin seeds through salad greens. Use up left over bread and bake in the oven to make crunchy croutons that can be added to salads, soups and casseroles.  Sprinkle the bread with rosemary before baking – simply delicious. For more recipe information visit Healthy Food Healthy Planet

Is your life out of balance? Try the Wheel of Balance today to help you prioritise and get things back on track!

NAQ Nutrition

NAQ Nutrition is a not-for-profit, non-government organisation. We aim to shape the health and wellbeing of our community through informed food choices. Food is life. Food is you. 

Healthy Food Healthy Planet is NAQ Nutrition’s community meal planner and recipe website. It aims to provide people with simple, healthy recipes that are tasty and won’t break the bank.