This versatile plant has been used as a medicine and flavouring since ancient times. Coriander is a member of the carrot and parsley family (it has a similar appearance to flat leaf parsley) and has long stems, compound leaves and small pink-white flowers. It is native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Both the leaves and seeds of the plant are used in cooking but they have very different flavours and are used in different ways.
Fresh and dried coriander
Used widely in Asian, Oriental and Middle Eastern dishes, fresh coriander is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. The leaves and roots have a strong and pungent flavour and an earthy taste. Coriander loses its flavour very quickly once cooked, so add it just before serving to maintain the maximum taste.
Uses: In salsas, dips, tomato dishes and salads. Fresh coriander goes well with chicken and pork dishes, try adding a sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander to stir-fries for a delicious flavour. Fresh coriander leaves make an attractive garnish for savoury dishes. To substitute dried coriander for fresh in a recipe, use 1 tbsp dried for 3 tbsp freshly chopped.
To store: Place fresh growing coriander on a sunny windowsill and water regularly. Pots of coriander don't remain fresh for long, but you can use all the leaves by freezing them. As soon as the plant shows any signs of wilting, pick all the leaves, chop them up and use to half fill sections of an ice cube tray. Top the tray up with water and freeze. When you need to add fresh coriander to a recipe, simply place the required number of cubes in a small sieve and as the cubes thaw, the water will drain away leaving you with chopped coriander. Dried coriander should be stored in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
After the coriander plant flowers, seed heads form - the seeds are tiny creamy brown-coloured balls. They have a mild, sweet taste. The seeds are either used whole or ground (see below).
Uses: The seeds are used extensively in Indian cookery, often dry-fried with cumin seeds and then ground. Whole seeds are used in pork and chicken casseroles and in pickles and chutneys. To gain the maximum flavour from coriander seeds it is best to dry-fry them. Heat a heavy-based frying pan (without any oil), add the seeds and fry them over a medium heat, stirring frequently. When a rich aroma is released, remove from the heat and cool. Use whole or crushed.
To store: The seeds have a long shelf life, store in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Ground coriander has a distinctive aroma and is popular in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Uses: In cakes, biscuits and lightly spiced savoury dishes and curries, especially good in soups made from root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and swede.
To store: Keep in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Fresh coriander in sunflower oil
This is a handy form of ready-to-use fresh coriander preserved in oil. It has a concentrated coriander flavour and is the best alternative to fresh coriander or when time is short.
Uses: Use to add a distinctive coriander flavour to sauces, pasta dishes, Thai-style curries and dips.
To store: Keep in a cool, dark place and once opened store in the fridge and use within 6 weeks.
To use: Simply spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons coriander in oil into recipes and stir well.