Thursday, 25 July 2013

Herbs - Tarragon

Hi peeps!

Its been awhile since we took a look at the world of herbs and spices. So far we have done Rosemary and Thyme and I'd like to bring Tarragon into the limelight for today. Here's some info about this herb; followed by a delicious recipes incorporating it into the dish.

Tarragon herb or dragon wort is a very popular culinary herb used as flavoring agent, especially in the Mediterranean cuisines. This aromatic perennial growing plant is rich in phytonutrients as well antioxidants that help promote health and prevent diseases.
Botanically, tarragon belongs within the family of Asteraceae of the genus: Artemisia and known scientifically as Artemisia dracunculus. The herb is thought to be originated in Central Asia; probably Siberia.
Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides) is a more robust; closely related species. It, however, is quite inferior in flavor to its Mediterranean counterpart and hence, less preferred in cooking. This herb is small shrub featuring slim woody branching stems that reach up to a meter in height. It grows well in rich sandy soil with adequate sunlight. Its leaves are smooth, dark green with pointed ends.

Health benefits of Tarragon herb:
This exquisite herb is rich in numerous health benefiting phyto-nutrients that are indispensable for optimum health.
The main essential oils in tarragon are estragole (methyl chavicol), cineol, ocimene and phellandrene. Tarragon has been used as a traditional remedy to stimulate appetite and alleviate anorexic symptoms.
Scientific studies suggest that poly-phenolic compounds in this herb help lower blood-glucose levels.
Fresh tarragon herb is one of the highest antioxidant value food sources among the common herbs. Its total measured ORAC (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value is 15,542 trolex equivalents (TE) per 100 g.
Laboratory studies on tarragon extract shows certain compounds in them inhibit platelet activation, preventing platelet aggregation and adhesion to the blood vessel wall. It thus helps prevent clot formation inside tiny blood vessels of heart and brain protecting from heart attack and stroke.
The herb is very rich source of vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A as well as B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, etc., that function as antioxidant as well as co-factors in metabolism.
Tarragon is a notably excellent source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and zinc. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for cellular respiration (co-factors for cytochrome-oxidase enzyme) and blood cell production.

Medicinal uses of tarragon:
Tarragon herb has been used in various traditional medicines for stimulating the appetite and as a remedy for anorexia, dyspepsia, flatulence and hiccups.
The essential oil, eugenol in the herb has been in therapeutic use in dentistry as a local-anesthetic and antiseptic for toothache complaints.
Tarragon tea may help cure insomnia. (Medical disclaimer).

Selection and storage:
Tarragon leaves are available fresh during late spring and summer season. Growing tips may be gathered for fresh use. Oftentimes, the herb is grown in the backyard, and fresh leaves are readily available for cooking. Leaves may be harvested at flowering time for drying slowly under gentle heat. Dried tarragon can be available in the herb stores the year around.
Try to by buy fresh leaves whenever possible for better flavor and nutritional benefits. Look for the herb that is rich in fragrance. Avoid those with shriveled, discolored old stock. Once at home, wash the leaves in clean running water, pat dry with absorbent paper and store inside the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for immediate use. Dried tarragon, however, should be stored inside airtight container and stored in cool dark place where it will stay for up to six months.

Preparation and serving methods:
Fresh tarragon herb should be washed before use in cooking. In general the herb is added in small amounts to recipes at the last moment in order to retain flavor and taste.

Culinary uses:
Generally, the herb is added at the last moment to recipes in small amounts in order to retain flavor and taste.

Here are some serving tips:
Fresh tarragon is used in green salad.
Fresh as well as dry leaves may be used as flavoring base (in marinade) to fish, lamb and poultry.
Tarragon herb is one of the main ingredients in French béarnaise sauce, a hot emulsified butter sauce made of clarified butter, egg yolks, shallot, chervil, peppercorn and tarragon vinegar.
Furthermore, it is used as flavoring base in traditional Christmas breads called potica.

Monkfish and Mussels with Tarragon
- 1 tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 600g/1lb 5oz monkfish tail, cleaned and cut into 4 pieces
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50g/2oz unsalted butter
- ½ lemon, juice only
- 40g/1½oz shallots, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh tarragon
- ½ tsp saffron strands
- 200ml/7fl oz white wine
- 1.5kg/3lb 6oz mussels, beards removed
- 110ml/4fl oz double cream
- 200ml/7fl oz hot fish stock
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon


1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
2. In a bowl, mix together the curry powder and the salt until well combined. Dredge the monkfish pieces in the powder, then season with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat, add the monkfish pieces and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until just golden-brown on both sides.
4. Add half of the butter to the pan, then transfer to the oven and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, or until the monkfish is cooked through. Remove from the oven and squeeze over the lemon juice.
5. Heat the remaining butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
6. Add the bay leaf, thyme, tarragon and saffron strands and stir well.
7. Add the white wine, stir well and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by half.
8. Add the cream and the fish stock and bring the mixture to the boil.
9. Add the mussels, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that remain closed.
10. Remove the mussels from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue to simmer the cooking liquor until it has thickened slightly.
11. Add the mustard and the chopped tarragon and stir until well combined. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to simmer the mixture for a further 1-2 minutes.
12. To serve, slice each of the monkfish pieces into two medallions. Place two of the monkfish medallions into the centre of each of four serving bowls. Remove half of the mussels from their shells and divide them among the bowls. Divide the remaining mussels between the bowls. Spoon over the tarragon and mustard sauce and serve immediately.
- recipe by BBC FOOD.

And that about finishes up our blog for today. See ya'll tomorrow for some fun on a Friday!
Chef Shants xxxxx

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