These Thyme Biscuits are very loosely inspired by the Italian pinolate biscuits, which are often lemon flavoured and contain ground pinenuts in addition to a topping of whole ones. When I was putting together a recipe for thyme-flavoured biscuits, I thought that a topping of pinenuts would make them look attractive and go well with the herby flavour. The pinenuts become golden and toasted while the biscuits are cooking in the oven and this makes them crunchy and also enhances their flavour.
The fresh thyme that you buy in the supermarket will generally be common thyme which does make a good flavouring for these biscuits. However, I used lemon thyme when making these biscuits, as I grow it in my garden and particularly like its lemony-herby flavour. If you have space for a few pots and want to grow your own thyme, there are many different types, a number of which have distinctive citrus notes such as lemon, orange or lime. Herbal Haven has a very large variety of thyme and other herbs which can be bought online.
These biscuits are flavoured with fresh thyme and topped with crunchy, toasted pinenuts. They are great as an accompaniment to ice-cream or sorbet.
115g butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 large egg
175g plain flour
Set the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas Mark 3
Combine all ingredients, except the pinenuts, in your food processor until they form a soft dough. (NB: If you do not have a food processor, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the chopped thyme. Gradually add the egg and then the flour.)
Roll the dough out to approximately 1 cm thickness.
Cut into circles or other shapes if you wish.
Place the circles on a baking tray lined with baking parchment or grease-proof paper.
Press pinenuts into the top of each circle of dough.
My Thyme Ice-cream, flavoured with honey and mascarpone, is rich and sweet. Although many of the ingredients that I use are local to where I now live in south-west England – fresh thyme from my garden, honey from the man down the road who keeps bees – the flavours take me back to many happy summers in Italy.
I think my Thyme Ice-cream makes an excellent dessert after a summer meal – cooling and creamy but with a herby twist! The taste of thyme is quite subtle in this recipe and is balanced by the other flavours, so this a good introduction to herb ice-cream for those who may be a little unsure about it. If I am serving this at a dinner party, I will usually serve it paired with another ice-cream with a less unusual flavour and let people choose which one they want!
I love herb-flavoured ice-creams. I think the cream or custard base provides the perfect vehicle for many herbs and allows their flavours to sing out. Herbs are the stars of the show and not just a supporting act! Many herbs, which may be considered mainly of use in savoury dishes, make excellent ice-cream. In addition to thyme, I think basil, bay, sorrel all make excellent ice-creams. There are also, of course, other herbs such as lavender and lemon verbena, which are used in many sweet dishes and make fantastic flavourings for ice-cream.
Whisk and bowl. This recipe is a breeze using an but you can still make it if you don’t have one (see instructions under point 12 of Method)
Try a sweet twist on thyme with this creamy Thyme Ice-cream with Honey and Mascarpone.
200 ml double cream
A large bunch of fresh thyme
4 egg yolks
100 ml honey
250 g mascarpone
Wash your thyme and crush it gently using the back of a spoon to release its flavour. There is no need to remove the leaves from the woody stalks.
Put the thyme into a saucepan with the cream. At this stage, if you have time (as well as thyme..) you can leave the mixture overnight to allow the flavour to infuse.
Next, heat the cream and thyme mixture gently. Do not allow to boil – it will be the right temperature when you are just about able to bear to dip a finger in it!
Strain the cream through a sieve to remove the thyme.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until the mixture looks paler and resembles a mousse.
Pour the thyme-flavoured cream into the bowl containing the egg yolks.
Transfer the combined mixture into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water or, ideally a double-boiler, as you need to reheat it very gently.
The mixture will gradually thicken until it looks like a custard (which is what it is). Stir regularly to make sure it does not stick while it is thickening.
Add the honey to the custard.
Remove the thick custard from the heat and transfer into a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to become thoroughly chilled.
Add the mascarpone to the chilled custard.
When you are ready to make the ice-cream, transfer to your ice-cream maker and use according to your machine’s instructions. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, you can place the mixture in a freezer-proof container, put in the freezer for several hours until half-frozen. Whisk the mixture and then return to the container and replace in the freezer until totally frozen.
There are many varieties of thyme and any are fine in this ice-cream. I used lemon thyme as I particularly love its flavour.
OK, I know that there are hundreds (thousands!?) of recipes for Pavlova available online or in cookery books. However, my excuse is as follows. Every four years of so, a very strange thing happens to me and I become (admittedly briefly!) interested in football. As those of you who live in countries where football (or soccer to those from other nations) is the main spectator sport will know, we are currently in the middle of the World Cup. And England is actually through to the next stage – so there is definitely a reason to celebrate!
I made this Pavlova for dessert last Sunday – we ate it at half-time – when England was playing Panama. It must have had an impact as the score was England 6: Panama 1! Although Mr Kane and his associates probably also had something to do with it?
If (horror!) you do not support England, you could consider versions in other national colours and/or designs. You can get berries in all different shades – blueberries, yellow raspberries etc. Or you could just add berries that you like or which are in season – it is a great summer dessert, with or without the patriotic decoration.
If you are looking to celebrate a sporting event, this Pavlova can be decorated in your team or country colours!
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
225 caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
300 ml double cream
As many strawberries (or other soft fruit such as raspberries or blueberries) as you like!
Set your oven to 140 C/275 F/Gas Mark 1.
Whisk the egg whites with salt until they form stiff peaks.
Add two tablespoons of sugar and continue to whisk until combined and the mixture is thick and glossy.
Fold the rest of the sugar, the cornflour and the lemon juice into the whisked egg whites.
Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment or silicon paper.
Spoon the egg white mixture onto the baking sheet to form a large circle or oval.
Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour until the exterior of the meringue is hard to the touch.
Allow to cool.
When ready to serve, whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks and then spread it on top of the meringue base.
Decorate as you wish with strawberries or other berries.
I decorated my Pavlova in the English colours. However, you can use different coloured fruit and berries and designs according to which team you support. Berries you could consider are blueberries or red or yellow raspberries.
Strawberries and cream is a classic combination. This Strawberry Cream Roulade is very easy to make and makes a wonderful summer dessert for a party as it looks impressive on the table and is easy to slice into individual portions. It is a bit retro – anyone remember Arctic Roll (frozen sponge cake, jam and ice-cream) from their childhood? – but, in my view, is none the worse for that!
Roulades are great. They are really quick and easy and can be made well in advance. They also look very attractive, and impressive, when they are brought to the table and when they are sliced (who doesn’t love a spiral?). This makes them ideal for buffets or dinner parties. No last minute stress or difficulty dividing into portions!
I add a floral twist to this recipe by using my Strawberry and Rose Geranium Jam. I think this makes the recipe even more of a celebration of English summertime (strawberries, cream, roses – and I’m off in a dream about Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show……!). If you would like to add a note of rose to your roulade, you can do this by adding a few drops of rosewater to your basic strawberry jam.
Line your Swiss roll tin with baking parchment or grease-proof paper.
Combine the eggs and sugar and whisk until thick and foamy. This can take up to 5 minutes. This is one recipe where you really need a food processor with a whisk attachment or an electric whisk rather than attempting to do it with a hand whisk.
Fold the flour and baking powder into the foamy egg and sugar mixture.
Pour the combined mixture into your Swiss roll tin.
Put the tin in the oven and bake the sponge for 15 minutes until firm and golden.
Turn the cooked sponge onto another sheet of baking parchment or grease-proof paper on which you have sprinkled around a tablespoon of caster sugar.
While the sponge is still warm, roll it up so it looks like a Swiss roll with the paper inside. You need to roll it up while it is warm – you can’t do this when it has cooled off as the cake will crack! Allow to cool completely.
You need to construct your roulade a couple of hours before you are ready to eat it – otherwise, the cream and jam will make it soggy. You need to unroll the sponge and remove the paper. Spread your jam over the sponge and top it with the whipped double cream. Don’t spread filling too thick and don’t take it quite up to the edge of the sponge (leave a gap of a couple of centimetres). This will avoid too much squidging out when you roll the cake up again!
Roll the filled cake up into a Swiss roll shape again.
This Shallot Tart is very quick and easy to make. The flavours are a good balance with sweet, caramelised shallots, salty anchovies, pungent thyme and creamy mascarpone on a base of crispy, buttery puff pastry. If you are a vegetarian, you could replace the anchovies with olives or capers which both have a strong, salty taste.
I love shallots, partly because they generally have a milder, sweeter flavour than most onions. It is easy to remove the skins using boiling water, as described below, and I like that they can be eaten whole (or halved) rather than needing to be chopped or sliced like regular onions.
When I have been working all day and need to make a quick supper to feed my family, I often make a tart based on ready-made puff pastry. If you use a brand that uses butter (check the label!) it will taste delicious and, although I usually make shortcrust pastry from scratch as it is very straightforward, in my view, ready-made is the way to go for puff pastry!
Generally, the toppings on these puff pastry tarts are determined by what I have to hand in my kitchen but they usually include something cheesy or creamy and also something oniony plus a few stronger flavours to pep things up! My recipe for Asparagus and Herb Cheese Tart, another variation on the theme, is also included in this blog.
This Shallot Tart with Thyme and Anchovy makes an easy and very tasty lunch or supper. The combination of crisp buttery pastry, sweet shallots, fragrant thyme and salty anchovy is superb!
500 g pack of ready-made puff pastry (get one made with butter if you can)
A little plain flour
A few sprigs of thyme 1 tin of anchovies 400 g of shallots 150 g of mascarpone
Set your oven to 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.
Lightly dust your oven tray with flour.
Roll out the puff pasty into a large rectangle and place on your oven tray.
Remove the skins from your shallots. The easiest way of doing this is to put them in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and leave for 3 minutes. Then drain off the water and the skins will be easy to remove.
Cut each peeled shallot in half. Place shallots in a small frying pan with a little butter and cook very gently until golden and softened. This should take around 10 minutes.
Spread the mascarpone over the puff pastry.
Sprinkle with thyme leaves and small pieces of anchovy. Then add the cooked shallots.
Place the tart in the oven and cook for 20 minutes until the pastry is crispy and golden.
The tart can be eaten hot, warm or at room temperature. I like it best hot.