Cooks everywhere love to use the aromatic combination of herbs which the French have made so famous and herbes de Provence can be found in almost every kitchen as well as all the supermarkets and stores in every city and town in most parts of the world. It has become synonymous with the tastes and flavours of the south of France and lovers of French food know the importance of it when they are cooking either a simple omelette or more complicated and extravagant dish.
There is an art to cooking and knowing which herbs go with what food is vital. Knowing the perfect quantities and amounts also helps and the French have got this off to a tee. There are a few combinations of ‘herbes de Provence’ and each and every one of them goes with certain foods superbly well. The basic mixture of thyme, rosemary, basil, savoury, oregano, marjoram, serpolet, sage, lavender and hyssop, has for decades delighted the palates of discerning food lovers and the thought of French food without these aromatic combination of herbs is unthinkable.
I grew up in the south of France and I remember well my grandmother making her own mixtures of fresh herbs up as she needed them. The importance of the quality of the herbs she used was of paramount importance and she would discard any that she thought were not good enough for her mixtures. I used to love it when she was making up a combination of herbs she used on seafood dishes. The aromas of the fennel, coriander, dill, bay leaves, tarragon, thyme and parsley were pleasantly overpowering. This mixture of herbs is also a combination which is called herbes de Provence, but it is specifically used in seafood recipes and really does enhance the flavours of a dish.
Les Fines Herbes which are a combination of parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil is a refined delicate mixture of herbs which enhance food and sauces a little more subtly. Traditionally les herbes fines are used to flavour omelettes, chicken dishes, soups and potatoes as well as vinaigrette dressings. I adore La Persillade which is a very simple basic combination of garlic and parsley and this goes tremendously well with mushroom and potato dishes as well as tomatoes either cooked or fresh. Dishes served in a traditional pottery of Provence get really astonishing look.
Growing up where fresh herbs were normally used in all the dishes my grandmother prepared, it is understandable that the dried varieties will never taste the same. I like to make up my combinations of fresh herbs just as my grandmother showed me how to, but I do resort to the dried forms occasionally and although they are very good, it is not quite the same.
My herb garden is well cared for and I do have pots of herbs on my kitchen window sills but nowadays it is possible to find most of the fresh herbs you would ever need at supermarkets, so there is always an option available to you to make up your own special and aromatic mixtures for the wonderful French dishes you prepare at home.