Coriander grows better during the cooler months of the year.
During summer, coriander plants change rapidly from leafy to seedy (this is called ‘bolting to seed’) and it’s almost impossible to have a crop on hand for use in the kitchen in the hot months. During autumn, winter and spring, however, coriander stays nicely leafy for a number of months.
Ideal conditions: coriander likes a sunny spot, well-drained soil and a steady supply of both water and fertiliser. It grows equally well in pots or in garden beds. If using pots, use top quality potting mix and sit the pots up on pot feet, so water drains away after each watering.
Sowing seed: this gives best results in the long run. Sow coriander seed 6mm deep in rows 24cm apart. Each plant should be 20cm apart, but our tip is to sow your seeds just 10cm apart (just in case some seeds don’t come up) and later on, if plants are a bit crowded together, pull out the weakest seedlings (but use these in the kitchen!) so the remainder are 20cm apart.
Planting seedlings: coriander seedlings are sold at most garden centres. Aim to buy the smallest healthy seedlings, rather than big ones (which might be pot-bound). Often coriander is sold with many plants crammed into one pot. For best results, try to separate the seedlings out into individual plants, and plant these spaced 20cm apart.
Fertilising/watering: keep the soil lightly moist (in the cooler months, this probably means watering potted herbs about twice a week if it doesn’t rain). Fertilise monthly with a liquid or soluble plant food, such as Nitrosol.
Harvesting/cooking: you can snip off as many leaves as you need, and more will grow back, but you can also pull up the whole plant if you like. If using the whole plant, you can use all of it: the leaves, stems and roots. Stems and roots have the strongest flavour and, if crushed, chopped and cooked, add a lot of flavour to dishes. If using coriander as a herb garnish added towards the end of cooking, the leaves are the best choice.
Using coriander seed: if you want to grow coriander for the seed, to use as a spice in cooking, it’s quite easy to harvest and dry the seed. Wait until the coriander plant flowers (with coriander grown at this time of year, this might not happen until spring) then after the flowers fade the seed clusters will form. As the plants finally start to die down in spring, snip off all the seed clusters and put them in a paper bag. Hang the bag up somewhere dry (eg, in a garden shed, or the pantry) and the seeds should be dry in a few weeks. That’s it. So easy. To use the coriander seed in the kitchen, each time you need to crush some to make coriander powder, measure out the amount of seeds needed (roughly), warm up a dry teflon frypan, toss in the seed and shake about for a minute or so until you can smell the aroma coming off. Now, immediately toss the seeds into a spice grinder (eg, coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle) and grind the seeds to a powder.
Tracy Rutherford’s Crab and coriander noodles (Crab Sang Choy Bow)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes
Serves 4 – 6
200g bean vermicelli noodles
2 teaspoons peanut oil
5 spring onions, finely sliced
1 red bird’s eye chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 x 170g cans crabmeat
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
12 iceberg lettuce leaves
1. Place the noodles into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes, to soften. Drain well, then turn onto a large plate or tray lined with paper towel, to absorb the excess water. Place into a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small, non-stick frying pan, and add the spring onions, chilli and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add to the noodles.
3. Combine the lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar in a small screwtop jar, and shake to combine. Drain the crabmeat and squeeze out the excess liquid.
4. Add the dressing, crabmeat and coriander to the noodles, and mix together with your hands until evenly combined. Divide between the lettuce cups.
Note: this serves 4 as a light lunch, or 6 as a starter.
Tracy Rutherford’s Coriander chicken skewers
This is the recipe Tracy has created for the 30 Days of Home & Entertaining show being held at 2-14 Amelia St, Waterloo, in Sydney during April 2010. For full details of show events click here.
Preparation time: 30 minutes + 30 minutes marinating
Cooking time: about 6 minutes
1/2 bunch coriander
1 lime, rind finely grated, juiced
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
800g chicken breast fillets
1. Cut the coriander to separate the leafy top section from the stems and roots. Wash the roots, then roughly chop the roots and stems, reserving the leaves.
2. Combine the coriander stems and roots, lime rind and juice, sauces and oil in a small food processor or blender. Process until almost smooth, and pour into a shallow, non-metallic dish.
3. Trim the chicken and cut diagonally across the grain into 5mm wide strips. Add to the marinade and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, soak twenty 16cm bamboo skewers in cold water for 20 minutes.
4. Thread the chicken onto the skewers. Cook on a hot barbecue or char-grill for 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Serve sprinkled with finely chopped coriander leaves.