First of all, the word coriander can be confusing so let me clarify: for American readers, fresh coriander or simply, coriander, is cilantro. The seeds are called coriander seeds in British English, but in US they are just coriander. The powder from the ground seeds is called ground coriander – well at least that’s simple. I am using the British terms in this article.
Fresh coriander looks like flat-leaved parsley (also called Italian parsley) and this can be a substitute, although on its own, it lacks the punch of coriander. If you mix it with a little fresh dill and tarragon, you get an approximation of the fresh coriander flavor. However, don’t be tempted to put equal amounts of each in a dish; there should be more flat-leaved parsley than either of the other two.
As I love cumin seeds and put them in most dishes, I would need to replace coriander seeds with fennel or caraway seeds, some would mix both, but caraway is quite strong, so just a pinch would do with half a teaspoon of fennel seeds (plus the cumin seeds). You could, of course, simply omit the coriander seeds or ground coriander without changing the flavour too much.
There’s nothing quite like a simple salad of fresh coriander or flat-leaved parsley, or a mixture of both, served with lemon juice and black pepper to pep it up, but sometimes it’s difficult finding the fresh herb. However, I have found that wherever I am in the world people from the Indian sub-continent who have food shops, usually sell the fresh herb, and of course, the seeds.
I once lived in Turkey and used to frequent a restaurant in the harbour. One evening there was no flat-leaved parsley to be had and I was quite disappointed. The following evening (the restaurant was full) the lights were dimmed and one of the waiters appeared with a silver salver covered with a lid, and lit candles. I thought it was someone’s birthday, or perhaps a wedding anniversary, but no, the waiter came straight to my table, took the lid from the salver – and there was my flat-leaved parsley with lemon wedges. He then made a big thing about serving me those leaves and stalks. My fellow diners were astounded, but after the initial embarrassment, I tucked in and thoroughly enjoyed it. That, I believe was followed by a fish, which pales into insignificance in my memory of the parsley.