Thyme has inspired poetic praise from Virgil to Kipling, who wrote of “wind-bit thyme that smells of dawn in Paradise”. It is one of the great culinary herbs of European cookery.
Thyme deserves a place right beside salt and pepper in the kitchen. Its amiable and positive flavour works in more dishes than any other robust culinary herb. Whether it’s humming in the background or conspicuously assertive, thyme seems to go with everything in the cooking pot. Another virtue is that it aids the digestion of fatty foods which makes it very useful in a health promoting diet.
Thyme can be added at any point in the cooking process, from the beginning of a stew to a last minute sprinkle. Oftentimes it is added both at the beginning and again a few minutes before serving to slow cooked dishes.
Use thyme judiciously until you are familiar with its pungency. As long as you match the quantity of the herb to the robustness of the other ingredients, thyme is comfortable with nearly any savoury dish. You can be as timid or as daring as you wish, using anywhere between half a teaspoon and one tablespoon per serving. The smaller amount will linger softly whilst the larger amount is best with something that has its own assertive flavour like a grilled leg of lamb.
Chopped fresh leaves are much more pungent than dried leaves. When converting between the two, start with equal amounts and adjust according to taste.
I trust you’ll add this wonderful herb to your cooking repertoire.
Tossed Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette
Inspired by the traditional Greek salad this dish is always popular when served at our classes or family gatherings. The baby salad greens are optional but they do add a wonderful dimension to the salad.
500g green cabbage, shredded (I liked to use savoy)
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
150g black olives, pitted and halved
225g feta cheese, crumbled
120ml olive oil
about 3 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar, herb vinegar or lemon juice to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 big handful baby salad greens (optional)
In a large salad bowl, toss the cabbage, onion, olives and feta until thoroughly mixed. In a small mixing bowl whisk the olive oil, vinegar, thyme and salt. When emulsified toss with the salad. Refrigerate the salad for 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavours to develop. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Just before serving, toss the bay greens with the salad and season with pepper.