The keen, savoury scent of garden thyme makes it a fine collaborator with most of the Irish kitchen’s staples. It hits an understated and invaluable note of harmony to many a braise – acting as a steadying reference point to accompanying flavours. It has a spiciness though and, hopefully at this time of year, a slight sweetness that leaves it equally comfortable embracing melody.
A thyme, orange, butter and peppercorn dressing
Maybe try with some goats curd and red onions roasted with red wine. Or some slow braised pork belly and white beans. Or some liver with mashed potatoes and green garlic.
Use a stalk of thyme per plate and the same again of leaves. Slowly heat the butter in a small pot with the thyme and slivers of orange zest. Let it come to the boil and lightly brown.
Take it off the heat but, if possible, leave it at a warm temperature so the infusion can continue. When ready to use bring it back to the boil, add some crushed black pepper, some salt (if the butter is unsalted) and squeeze in some orange juice. Taste, adjust – a couple of drops of cider vinegar might be appropriate – and serve.
Or perhaps leave out the salt, go lighter on the pepper and try it with something sweet. A golden sponge cake with poached pears…a sweet curd tart…a pine nut and honey tart.
Lamb, thyme and fire
Soak a bunch of thyme for a couple of hours. When the embers are at the peak of their heat sear the loin until it’s crispy and brown all over. Take the loin and the grill off and pop the thyme – shaking off any excess water – across the fire.
With some haste, pop the grill back on (as low as it will go) the loin and a pot (already heated) over the loin. The pot will initiate a half bubble of thymy smoke for the lamb to hover in. It will cook through slowly as it smokes – varying on the heat of the fire and wetness of the thyme.
Let the loin rest for ten minutes or so. Slice thin – and if possible at an angle running against the grain of the muscle – and sprinkle a little salt on the cut surface before serving. If not by itself perhaps serve with some roasted carrots and cress. Or on a little mashed parsnips (boil them in milk) with a drizzle of rapeseed oil.
Pears, yoghurt and thyme honey
Another one for the fire.
Thyme infused honey is a Greek trick where the wild thyme bursts into flower mid April. With the flowers come the bees, and so this cheeky combination. If you’ve no fire then you could bake the pears with some white wine. Covered in a hot oven for ten minutes and then turn the pears over, lower the heat a little and bake uncovered until the wine is almost reduced.
Pour a jar of honey into a pot and heat slowly with half a bunch of thyme. Give it a shake as it heats to immerse the thyme and when the honey begins to simmer take it off the heat. Let it cool slightly and then pour it all, thyme included, back into the jar. If possible then leave the jar on the windowsill for a couple of days before using. (You could also use some of it with roasted carrots or baked apples and brown butter).
Halve the pears and scoop out the core. Pop, flat-side down, on a grill over a fire or griddle pan. In less than a minute it should be well charred. Carefully turn over with the back of a spatula and cook the other side. Let the pears cool a little and then serve each half on some yogurt with a few bashed up almonds and a generous spoonful’s drizzle of thyme honey.