A useful guide to coriander, including ideas on how to use it in cooking.
Coriander is an extremely popular herb that is used extensively and liberally in Indian, Thai, South American and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Other names for coriander, which you may recognise, are cilantro and Chinese parsley. The leaves of the coriander herb bear a very strong resemblance to Italian flat-leafed parsley and sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.
History of coriander
Coriander has been around for thousands of years, even as far back as 5000 BC. It is native to southern Europe and the Middle East and was used by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks.
In fact, the Romans used coriander to flavour their bread and to preserve their meat whilst travelling.
Coriander has also been used for thousands of years in medicine, to mask the naturally unpleasant taste of some medicines, as well as for medicinal purposes.
Is coriander nutritional?
Although coriander is a tiny herb, it is actually full of vitamins and minerals. It is particularly rich in Vitamins A and K, but also contains plenty of Vitamins B, C and E.
As for the mineral content, coriander has a phenomenal amount of potassium and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.
Good for the health
Coriander has traditionally and is still used mainly to treat all kinds of stomach and digestive problems. It is said to help regain a loss of appetite and therefore is beneficial for sufferers of anorexia.
In Chinese medicine, the seeds are used to treat stomach disorders, whilst the leaves can be chewed in order to combat bad breath.
Coriander is said to contain several properties that can heal the body and is used to treat the following symptoms:
- Coriander is used to treat urinary tract infections.
- It aids digestion.
- Coriander restores a loss of appetite.
- It has been used for gastric disorders.
- Coriander freshens the breath and combats halitosis.
- If prepared as a herbal tea, infused with hot water, coriander can help to relieve headaches, particularly those that are caused by a cold or flu.
- Coriander is sometimes an ingredient of lotions and creams that can be applied to the skin in order to treat aching joints and rheumatism. This is because it is known to have anti-inflammatory qualities.
- In research on rats, it was proven that coriander lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol.
- It can alleviate PMT and menstrual problems in women.
- Coriander can promote sleep.
Buying and storing coriander
As with most herbs, coriander is best bought fresh as opposed to dried.
Fresh herbs are so much more flavoursome, although they only stay fresh for a few days.
Fresh coriander leaves, bought from the supermarket will last for about three days.
They should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.
Ideas for using coriander in the kitchen
Coriander is predominantly used to flavour curries and soups but can be used in many more types of dishes and meals. Below are a number of ideas:
- Use in all types of curries, pickles, chutneys and sauces.
- Sprinkle over fresh salads.
- Use to flavour soups, carrot and coriander is quite popular.
- Use to flavour homemade bread, waffles and scones.
- Coriander is used as an ingredient for some cakes and biscuits including gingerbread.
- Use to add flavour to creamed cheese or mayonnaise.
- Use to garnish meat, fish or vegetable dishes.
- Use in meatballs, meat or vegetable burgers and other homemade dishes.
- Add to stocks and gravies.
- Use in marinades, particularly for meat and fish.
- Coriander goes very well with mushrooms.
- Use to spice up stir-fries and bland vegetables such as spinach.
Recipes that include fresh coriander as one of the main ingredients including guacamole, smoked mackerel pâté and marinated coriander chicken.
Serve this exciting Mexican guacamole dip with pitta bread, tortilla chips, raw vegetable sticks or even use it as a spread for toast, tortilla wraps or bread.
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 1 medium tomato, peeled and diced
- ½ finely chopped small onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 2 tbsp of freshly chopped coriander
- 1 - 2 tbsp of lime juice
- very small amount of finely chopped seeded chilli pepper
- salt and pepper
- Cut the avocados in half, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh. Place in a bowl or in a blender.
- If using a bowl, add the lime juice and mash well with a fork. Stir in all of the other ingredients and season.
- If using a blender, add all of the remaining ingredients and blend together.
- Chill in the refrigerator for half and hour to allow the flavours to infuse.
- Serve as a refreshing dip or as a spread.
Indian Smoked Mackerel Pate
This Indian-style pâté is quick and easy to prepare and delicious served warm or cold on bread or toast.
- 7 oz (200 g) of smoked mackerel fillet
- 5 fl oz (140 ml) of soured cream
- 1 deseeded and finely chopped fresh green chilli
- 1 finely chopped small red onion
- 3 tbsp of fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp of lime juice
- 1 chopped clove of garlic
- salt and pepper
- Remove the skin from the smoked mackerel and divide into small chunks or flakes with a fork.
- Place the fish into a food processor and add the soured cream, chilli and the coriander. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Stir in the finely chopped onion and add the lime juice. Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly with a spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish or bowl, cover with cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least a few hours and overnight if possible.
- The pâté will firm up once the chilling process is underway.
- Serve with toast and a side salad.
Marinated Coriander Chicken
Chicken breasts marinated in a hot and creamy concoction of exotic flavours. This dish is best served with a cool, refreshing salad or plain boiled rice.
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 6 fl oz (170 ml) of coconut milk
- 1 finely chopped and deseeded fresh green chilli
- 2 sliced cloves of garlic
- 4 tbsp of freshly chopped coriander
- 3 tbsp of lime juice
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of caster sugar
- grated zest of 1 lime
- ¾ inch (2cm) piece of fresh root ginger
- Take each chicken breast and make 3 or 4 deep cuts into the meat, equal distance apart. Set aside in a glass or non-metallic dish.
- Place the rest of the ingredients all together into a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Coat each chicken piece both sides with the marinade mixture. Leave any remaining marinade to one side.
- Cover the dish with cling film and place the chicken breasts in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour or longer.
- Preheat the grill to fairly hot and transfer the chicken to the grill rack or pan. Grill the chicken breasts for about 15 minutes, turning once, ensuring that they are cooked through.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinade sauce until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
- When the chicken breasts are cooked to your taste, remove from the heat and serve with the sauce, some plain boiled rice or a fresh salad.