‘C’ is for Coriander by Nazia Hussain

***image1***Hi there, it’s Naz here, The month of November is upon us now and like many of us, in the Western world, winter is approaching and with it, different clothes and food symbolising the need for comfort and warmth. I always envisage winter as a time for woollen sweaters, gloves and scarf, nursing a bowl of hot soup by an open fire!! Unfortunately, I do not have an open fire but winter and the cold remind me of such things. This month I am going to take a look at Coriander, a herb/spice that can be used both in summer and winter recipes.

‘ C ‘ is for Coriander

Coriander is one of my favourite herbs. I use it a lot in my cooking especially when I am preparing Indian or Middle Eastern food. Funnily enough I could not stand it when I was a child. I remember my mother using it in omelettes and how I used to turn up my nose at it, but as an adult it is one of the herbs that I can not live without and as such have a supply of it both fresh and frozen ready and waiting in my fridge/freezer. After living in Dubai for a few months, I developed a passion for Middle Eastern food and have started cooking a lot of dishes from there. Middle Eastern cuisine incorporates the use of both coriander seeds which are a spice, as well fresh coriander leaves which are categorised as herbs. In the UK, the increase in more ethnic cooking has meant that practically all grocery stores stock coriander in their herb sections. Five years ago this was not the case and one would have to visit the ethnic stores to be able to find coriander.

Coriander can often be mistaken for parsley as the leaves are very similar being bright green and shiny in colour. It grows well in warm and dry light soil. If the seeds are sown in April/May they take about 3 months to grow before cutting down. Coriander cultivation is more commonly found in various parts of Continental Europe, and in northern Africa, Malta and India.

The seeds unlike the herbs are small and like little globules about 0.2 inches in diameter. They are a light terracotta colour and contain about 1 percent of volatile oil. They have an aromatic taste and, when crushed, a characteristic odour. Once the seeds are dried they become more fragrant and the longer they are kept, the more fragrant they become.

The Recipe of the month is Steamed Vegetables with Coriander. This is one of the easiest recipes to make and I often make it (even for guests) when I’m in a hurry and want something quick and easy that tastes good and wholesome. It was one of the first vegetarian dishes that I ever made and I remember how my friend Priti, a vegetarian, once commented that this item was a regular on the menu whenever she came over to mine for dinner and was there any possibility of making something else. What seemed like a criticism at the time spurred me on to try different vegetarian dishes and I now find that I make a whole variety of unusual vegetarian dishes much to the delight of Priti and my other vegetarian friends.

Recipe of the Month:

Steamed Vegetables with Coriander

This recipe can be made with any vegetables you wish to use. The ones below are just an example of the ones that I sometimes use.


1 large potato, cut into 2cm cubes

1 carrot sliced

Half a red pepper & half a yellow pepper

6/8 broccoli florets

1 small cupful of sliced cabbage

Chopped coriander leaves to taste

Salt to taste

Pinch of turmeric

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp olive oil/spray lite


1. Wash all the vegetables in a steamer and steam for approx. 10 minutes. (The potato may take longer).

2. Heat the oil/spray lite in a wok or large frying pan and add the fresh ginger and turmeric.

3. Once the vegetables have cooked, toss them in the frying pan and allow the ginger infusion to coat them.

4. Add salt and then add the chopped coriander and mix well.

5. Serve with brown rice and lentils.

Interesting Facts

***image2***Coriander also has medicinal uses. It can be used as a stimulant, aromatic and carminative. The leaves, when crushed contain a fluid and oil that are basically used as a flavouring to hide the taste of active purgatives and to correct their griping tendencies. It is frequently used as an ingredient of senna and syrup of Rhubarb, and in angelica gentian, jalap, quassia and lavender. However, if it is used too freely the seeds have a narcotic affect.

Coriander was originally introduced from the East, being one of the herbs brought to Britain by the Romans. As an aromatic stimulant and spice, it has been cultivated and used from very ancient times. It was employed by Hippocrates and other Greek physicians.

The name Coriandrum, used by Pliny, is derived from koros, (a bug), in reference to the foetid smell of the leaves.

Pliny tells us that ‘the best (Coriander) came from Egypt,’ and from thence no doubt the Israelites gained their knowledge of its properties.

The Africans are said to have called this herb by a similar name (goid), which Gesenius derives from a verb (gadad), signifying ‘to cut,’ in allusion to the furrowed appearance of the fruit.

In the northern countries of Europe, the seeds are sometimes mixed with bread, but the chief consumption of Coriander seed in the UK is in flavouring certain alcoholic liquors, for which purpose it is largely grown in Essex. Distillers of gin make use of it, and veterinary surgeons employ it as a drug for cattle and horses. The fruit is the only part of the plant that seems to have any medical reputation.

Confectioners use the little seed to from round pink and white comfits for children.

It is included in the British Pharmacopceia, but it is chiefly used to disguise unpleasant medicine.

A power of conferring immortality is thought by the Chinese to be a property of the seeds.


Coriander is frequently used in Europe, Northern Africa, West, Central and South Asia. In the Mediterranean region, coriander cultivation dates back to ancient Egypt; In Europe, coriander is known since the Middle Ages. In Indian cooking coriander is an essential part of curry powder. Ethiopian berbere, which resembles Indian spice mixtures, contains coriander. In Latin American cuisine coriander is also used.

Coriander leaves are popular over the most part of Asia. Used in India regionally (e.g., in Maharashtra), they are indispensable in Thailand for green curry paste both the root and the leaves are needed. In Vietnam and parts of China, the chopped leaves appear as decorations on nearly every dish. They are less enjoyed in Malaysia and Indonesia. Use of coriander leaves is also frequent in Latin America, especially México

Coriander leaves are most often used raw; cooking or even short frying tends to diminish their fragrance. As always, there are exceptions to that rule: In some Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in huge amounts and long-cooked till they dissolve and their flavour mellows. An example is the Iranian herb sauce ghorme .

Yet, even in Europe, the popularity of coriander leaves has increased steeply in the last years of the late millennium (in the USA, a similar development had taken place a decade earlier). Due to the increasing interest in ethnic cookery, and the success of Mexican and Thai restaurants, coriander leaves are now more appreciated in Europe than ever before. In conjunction with the changing eating habits, new recipes are published that make heavy use of formerly hardly-known herbs, coriander being one of them.


Back next month with more from Naz ! If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me on noshbynaz@yahoo.co.uk . Feedback is always encouraged.

Bye for now.

Nazia .

by Nazia Hussain
A business consultant by day and a passionate cook by night. Nazia is currently away from her home, London, seeking new international recipes for her column! This article first appeared on PS Magazine last month.