Herbs and meat can form a dream combination if you know the properties of the individual aromatics and use them correctly. We have therefore summarised the most important herbs for meat and explained both their particular strengths and their correct usage.
Anyone who often cooks using the "sous-vide" method will be familiar with images of meat sealed inside plastic bags with rosemary and placed in a water bath. This is done both for reasons of flavour and aesthetics. Rosemary is not just a pretty decorative element – it provides many essential oils that you can use to give your meat a strong Mediterranean twist. Combined with lamb or poultry, its flavour comes out perfectly. The herb is rarely eaten and is typically removed after cooking. As a wonderful side effect on the barbecue, lightly charred rosemary releases a delicate aroma that transports a light smoky note to the meat.
Thyme can really leave its mark on a dish, so use it sparingly. A few leaves, finely chopped, will enrich Mediterranean marinades. A good way to "dose" the essential oils in thyme is to repeatedly dab the food to be grilled with a sprig of thyme. You can also use the sprig as a marinade brush and kill two birds with one stone.
Meat and onions harmonise excellently, as perfectly demonstrated by that perennial favourite dish: fried beef and onions in gravy. Onion notes create a BBQ feeling and provide additional "umami" when combined with meat. Chives are perfect for conveying gentle onion aromas and flavours – far more subtle than the brute pungency of a freshly cut onion. The following always applies: chives do not need to be heated to develop their flavour. Simply sprinkle them on in rings after preparing the meat. And the finer they are chopped, the better.
Sage is the Mediterranean classic used in saltimbocca – where it shows how well it can be combined with strong meaty notes. In the traditional saltimbocca method it is wrapped into the meat together with ham; however, it is also wonderful when deep-fried as a topping. This causes it to lose some intensity, but that's not a bad thing. After frying in fat, you're left with a crispy leaf of sage that still has enough power to enhance a cut of meat, but can no longer overpower it. This crunchy sage, in combination with tender meat, also contributes to an exciting interplay of textures.
Chervil (French parsley)
With its subtle aniseed note, chervil is a herb that can add a very special nuance to meat. Especially with lean, very mild meats such as chicken or pork fillet, a leaf of chervil can provide the final twist of sophistication. What's more, thanks to the many bifurcations in its leaf structure, chervil looks much better on any plate than the classic decorative herb, parsley. Another advantage is that the thin chervil leaves can easily be chewed whole.