Ask Peter: Coriander
I have a garden full of coriander that is all ready to eat at once — I threw a few too many seeds around thinking it would fail to grow, as in previous years, but it has completely taken off. Do you have some ideas for dishes that can take a lot of coriander, I have always thought it should be used sparingly, but you may surprise me. Gillian
I say lucky you! Coriander is one of my favourite herbs. I love it for its freshness and aroma, its ability to go well with citrus and chilli, ginger and garlic, fish sauce and coconut cream — some of my favourite ingredients.
I love it tossed with tomatoes, dill and extra virgin olive oil and served on a grilled salmon steak, or mixed through and scattered on a smoked fish kedgeree packed full of "Indian" spices like cardamom, cassia, cumin and curry leaves — which we served recently in Niue (but that’s another story).
It’s lovely scattered on scrambled eggs with fried diced chorizo and surprisingly delicious folded through a hollandaise sauce and slathered over a poached chicken breast ,served with roast carrots and buttered spinach as the French might do.
To my mind, coriander is versatile and goes with many cuisines, not just Thai. However, as you’ll be aware, the world is divided into two schools, the lovers and the haters, as with brussels sprouts. The haters tend to say it tastes soapy, and I just don’t understand that. Or at least, I’m yet to experience a bar of soap that is a deliciously tasty as this wonderful herb.
I've been told that many people who try to grow coriander give up after the first season, because it usually bolts, producing seeds rather than leaves, when first planted from seedlings.
They hope for a lush bed of it, as you now have, but feel annoyed when all they get are weedy plants with too few leaves and too many seeds. Unfortunately, but quite naturally, this is simply the plant going into defence mode, as it gets "shocked" when it leaves the relative safety of the seedling soil environment and is put into the big wide world.
Don’t despair! The trick is to just let it do its thing, give it a year, until the plants settle into the soil and environment, because the next season you’ll have plenty of happy leafy plants. I guess some people want instant success but nature doesn’t really offer that.
For those readers in the UK, people often struggle growing it due to cold weather and frosts, but you can have good success if you grow it in a chimney pot type tub — by which I mean a tall planter that doesn’t have to be of large diameter, but has depth so the roots can burrow down.
if you don’t have a chimney pot (and let’s be honest they’re scarcer than hens' teeth these days unless you live near a salvage yard, just make sure you plant your seedlings in something more than 30cm deep.
The advantage of a smaller, deeper tub is you can move it inside the garage, under a deck or at least close to the house, where the roots won’t be killed off in frosts or snow. Keep the soil a little moist during the year, but not at all wet, then once Spring arrives, move it out into the garden and it should bounce back and make you happy.
Those of you with seeded coriander are also lucky, as the seeds are delicious. Pick the seedy stalks and let them dry, then shake the seeds out. They’re used lots in Nordic baking and rye bread — which I find interesting , as we tend to associate coriander with tropical climates, yet in colder places the seeds are used. I love pounding the seeds and adding to breads, pizza bases, sparingly in biscotti and scones.
They have a citrus aroma, nothing like the leaves. I’ve also had a double espresso made with a few crushed seeds and a cardamom pod added to the coffee and that was quite delicious.
Try these coriander recipes from the Bite team