Herbs are one of the key ingredients of traditional cooking and there's a magnificent selection that forms the backbone of our favourite dishes.
Try freshly shredded basil added to a tomato and mozzarella salad with olives. It's also great in aioli -- that flavoured dressing -- and adds flavour to basil-and-peppercorn butter, to a plum-tomato and basil sauce or in mash with beans and Feta cheese.
There is nothing to beat a simple stew of vegetables -- pepper, potatoes, sugar snap peas and a good handful of olives with a hint of garlic.
French tarragon with its delicate-scented leaves is great for flavouring many a cream sauce, which works a treat with chicken or fish. Pull off the leaves and add before serving. In the recipe for Irish salmon and creamy sauce, add one sprig of tarragon with the leaves removed, for a really summery flavour.
Italian flat-leaf parsley is elegant, flavoursome, makes a great soup, an ideal garnish and competes favourably with its relation the curly-leaf parsley that grows in some form in many gardens.
One of my favourite herbs is thyme which is available in so many colours, flavours and fragrances. So often it is associated with the more robust flavours of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme used widely at Christmas yet here, I have used it alongside some really flavoursome dishes ideal for autumn eating.
Thyme is found in bouquet garni with bay leaf and parsley and is a key ingredient in many a stockpot and casserole. The varieties of thyme are endless and, recently, as I was sitting overlooking a market stall I spied the more unusual orange thyme, which I love. The leaves are dainty but, if they are on woody stems, remove them before cooking. Thyme has such a great aromatic flavouring and it goes so well with leeks, onions, roasted vegetables, paté, meat, duck and all poultry. It's also good with lemon and thyme in cream, or marinated with tomatoes in a sauce.
This week, I have used thyme in a versatile country paté, which is great as a starter, on crackers or with salad. The salmon with the creamy sauce is a quick and versatile recipe that works well with tarragon, chives or flat-leaf parsley. And there's a really good cherry tart made with filo pastry. Maybe it's an old wives' tale but I've read that cherries are great to help you sleep. Either way, enjoy.