Coriandrum sativum is the plant all parts of which are edible. In some countries, its leaves and stalks are collected and sold as cilantro, and its dried seeds are sold as a spice known as coriander. Yet both of them come from the same plant. This fact is great to know because many people think of these two as entirely different foodstuffs. What can be even more confusing is how this herb is sometimes labelled – Chinese parsley (people love to complicate things!). But in many countries, both fresh and dried parts are called coriander. This word itself came from Latin coriandrum, and cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander. And to top it off, there is also cilantro or Mexican coriander – a plant from the same family but from a different genus. But it only sounds similarly – its leaves look absolutely different. Feeling dizzy already? Botany is not that easy after all. But cooking with coriander is much easier than a taxonomy of plants.
Fresh herbs of coriander are fresh and fragrant, but many people find its flavour repulsive because it feels soapy to them. Those who like it, however, use it plentifully as a common garnish in different cuisines from Thai to Mexican in preparations like soups, salads, salsas, spreads, chutneys, and whatnot. But we prefer it in a vibrant, gorgeous, green dressing. What you need is five basic ingredients and a blender. Coriander leaves and stalks – 2 cups, olive oil – ½ cup, vinegar – 2 Tbsp, garlic – 1 clove, salt – 1 tsp. We do, however, add ½ tsp of chilli flakes for an extra kick, but it’s totally up to you. All goes into a blender for about a minute until smooth. Add water to adjust consistency. When ready, put on everything from tacos to regular green salads, from rice to roasted chicken thighs. You won’t be disappointed.
Coriander seeds have a nutty, citrusy flavour that can be elevated by toasting the seeds on a dry hot pan for a minute or two. That’s the best way to get the maximum out of them. Heat some oil in a skillet, add 5 cloves of sliced garlic, 1 Tbsp of ground coriander seeds and 1 tsp of paprika. Cook for two to three minutes until the garlic is lightly coloured. Open a can of white beans, rinse and drain them, add to the skillet, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Then pour a cup of chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Place the mixture in a blender and run it until everything is smooth. The almost bland flavour of beans will work here as a perfect canvas for the spices, taking them into the foreground. Add more coriander, paprika, salt and pepper to really get it all going. Chill everything and serve with toasts. Spice up your life.