Quick Recipes and Easy

Take Some Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

Pun-provoking thyme is one of the most well loved and commonly used culinary herbs. It grows well in most climates and prefers a light, sandy, well-drained, dry soil in full sun. It is one of the simplest herbs to grow in containers on an apartment balcony, but is quite susceptible to root rot and fungal disease if grown in soil that is too moist or heavy. Thyme does not require fertilizer and grows well with lavender and sage. This herb will attract bees to your garden and it will repel cabbageworms. Thyme can be propagated by seed, cuttings, root division or layering. Its fine root system makes it more hard to transplant than most herbs. It should be went well in advance of any risk of freezing. A layer of sand applied on the soil will help protect the delicate roots from frost.

Common thyme (T. Vulgaris), is the most preferred species for use in the kitchen and in the essential oil industry. Common thyme includes both English – or German or winter thyme – and the narrower leafed French thyme. The latter is the sweeter of the two and certainly preferred in French cuisine. Both are perennials, but the French thyme is less robust than the English variety and may require some winter protection.

Thyme has inspired poets from Virgil to A.E. Housman, who wrote in A Shropshire Lad, “… Among the springing thyme, Oh, peal upon our wedding, And we will hear the chime.”

The word thyme may be derived from the Greek word thymon, meaning courage. To the Greeks, thyme exemplified graceful elegance and “to smell of thyme” was an expression of urbane tribute. After bathing, the Greeks would use the essential oil of thyme for massage.

The Romans bathed in thyme water to energize themselves and during the Middle Ages, knights were given sprigs of thyme by their ladies as tokens of courage before they went into battle.
Sumerian cuneiform tablets dating back to 2750BC mention thyme mixed with pears and figs as a medicinal poultice. The ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming and St. Hildegard recommended the herb as a treatment for leprosy, paralysis and “excessive” body lice. A moderate number of body lice were perfectly acceptable we presume.

An ancient Irish legend claims that if you wash your eyes with the dew from thyme on the morning of May 1st then you will be able to see the fairies.

Today, thyme’s well documented antiseptic and tonic qualities make it the ideal immune system booster. It is particularly effective for chest infections such as bronchitis, whooping cough and pleurisy. Thyme may be taken as a tea or check with your local health food store to see if they stock a natural cough syrup using thyme. The essential oil of thyme must not be taken internally. Some herbalists recommend a handful of dried thyme – in a porous bag or cheesecloth – added to bath water to ease back spasms.

Thyme is indispensable in French cuisine and in bouquet garni. The best cooks prefer to work with fresh herbs, but of course this is not always possible. When working from a recipe, remember that one tablespoon of a fresh herb translates into one teaspoon of the dried variety.
Thyme enhances wonderfully the flavour of beta-carotene vegetables such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. Boost your immune system with this

Herbed Carrot Soup

· 2 lbs. of carrots, chopped
· 1 large onion, diced
· A bouquet garni consisting of 6 sprigs of fresh parsley, 3 thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. of dried thyme and 6 black peppercorns

· 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
· 4 Tbsp. butter
· 6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
· Freshly grated mace or nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

In a excellent-sized soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until soft. Start with the onion and add the garlic after a couple of minutes. Add the stock and the carrots and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the bouquet garni and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes. Carrots are the one vegetable that becomes more nutritious with cooking as the vitamin A rich fibre is thus broken down and more easily absorbed by the body. Remove the bouquet garni, allow the soup to cool and place it through the blender in batches. Reheat the soup over a low heat while adding the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some fresh, home-made bread and garnish with some fresh parsley and a small chopped fresh thyme.

Thyme is the best herb for flavoring pork. The following recipe will serve two. Double the ingredients for four etc.

Pork Tenderloin in Puff Pastry

· 2 large pork tenderloins
· 1 package of frozen puff pastry
· 4 slices of lean bacon
· ½ cup of Dijon mustard
· 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
· Juice of ½ lemon
· 2 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
· 2 tsp. fresh winter savory, chopped
· 1 tsp. of olive oil
· ½ tsp. of salt
· 1egg yolk, beaten
· Freshly ground black pepper to taste
· Fresh parsley for garnish

Thaw the puff pastry in the refrigerator and role out sufficient sheets to really enclose each pork tenderloin. Look for frozen puff pastry packaged in two blocks. Roll out each block to a 12-inch square for each tenderloin. In a bowl mix together the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper. Coat the pork tenderloin with this mixture and set aside. Lay one slice of bacon as a base on the puff pastry. Coat this bacon with a layer of the mustard/thyme mix and lay the tenderloin on top. Cover the tenderloin first with the mustard/thyme mix and then place the other bacon slices on the sides and on top of the tenderloin. Wrap the puff pastry around the tenderloin and bacon, ensuring that the seal overlaps. Seal it well along the seam and at both ends with a small water. You can get creative with left over pieces of puff pastry by using them as raised relief designs. Brush with the beaten egg yolk, adding a small milk if necessary to increase quantity. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet in a preheated 350F oven for one hour.
Chicken is also complemented wonderfully by thyme.

Sherried Kiwi Chicken (whose thyme has come)

· 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
· 1 cup of chicken stock
· ¼ cup of medium dry sherry
· 1 onion, chopped
· 3 cloves of garlic, minced

· 3 Tbsp. of olive oil
· 1 Tbsp. of unbleached white flour
· Freshly ground black pepper to taste
· 5-6 fresh, ripe kiwis, peeled and chopped
· 2 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp. of dried)

Sauté the chicken breasts in the olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from pan and place into a lidded casserole. In the same pan sauté the onion until translucent and then add the garlic. Then add the flour, continually stirring while you make a roux. Turn down the heat and slowly add the chicken stock until a nice thickened sauce has formed. Then add the sherry, the thyme and the freshly ground black pepper. Salt should not be necessary unless you have used unsalted chicken stock. Pour the sauce over the chicken and then pack the kiwis around and on top of the chicken. Cover and bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is well-cooked. Serve with rice. Serves four.

Bruce Burnett, has won four Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold awards for travel journalism. Read more of Bruce Burnett’s writing on his websites:

1. globalramble.com/ globalramble.com/

2. bruceburnett.ca/ bruceburnett.ca/

3. herbalcuisine.com/ herbalcuisine.com/

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