Friday, February 6, 2015

Lemon and thyme divine

Lemon and thyme lamb; an amazing throwback to my childhood

Lemon and thyme cake; the twist of thyme gives this citrusy delight a kick

Lemon and thyme divine

As a child growing up, the rule in our house was, on your birthday, you got to pick the meal for dinner that night. I usually picked one of two things; either my mum's lasagne, or lemon and thyme lamb.
My mum's 30-yr old recipe card
Lemon and thyme lamb is a favourite. I've got a picture of my mum's recipe card for it; the recipe card must be 30 years old and is from the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. When I moved out of home 15 years ago, I photocopied a bunch of my mum's recipes - ones I'd loved my mum making as I grew up - and they formed the basis for what is now the seven volumes of recipe scrapbooks I have in my kitchen.

But since Emperor D is not a fan of lamb, I never get to make it. Until recently. On a spur of the moment decision, we headed home to Australia for Christmas. I returned to Europe before New Year, but D stayed on until late January, leaving me home alone for a few weeks - and free to cook what I pleased.

With the weather cold and wintry, I spent one morning on the couch flicking through my recipe volumes, searching for inspiration. I came across lemon and thyme and lamb and was suddenly struck with making it; I hadn't had it - either made for me or making it myself - for years. I invited a friend over, Sophia, who being Greek, appreciates the combination of lamb and lemon. But having it with thyme - instead of the usual Greek combination with rosemary - was something new for her.
Lemon and thyme lamb
Throwing together the onion and lots of garlic, the lemon and thyme is added with cubes of diced lamb and white wine, then left to either bake or gently simmer on the stove for 1.5 hours. I chose to put it all into my faithful bright blue Le Creuset cast iron casserole pot, throw it in the oven, and allow it to slowly cook away.

Pulling it out of the oven and lifting off the lid, the delicious aroma of lemon, garlic and lamb hits my nose. Served simply with white rice, the first bite takes me back to my 11th birthday, May 1991. The lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and together with the combination of the citrusy lemon, slightly minty/peppery thyme and garlic, it just works. There’s the zing from the lemon, which I love, but which is slightly tempered by the thyme and the strong flavour of lamb. Love it.

Lemon and thyme cake
It’s strange to have two key flavours represented in both a savoury main and a dessert like a cake. But I found a recipe for lemon and thyme cake recently that I thought I’d try. It’s a twist on a simple lemon cake, with the thyme giving a delicate kick.

Easy to make, it’s simply butter and sugar creamed together, plus eggs, lemon zest, a small amount of thyme leaves, flour, and almond meal – which makes it light. What makes it super moist – and delicious – is a syrup of lemon juice, sugar and thyme leaves that is poured into skewered holes of the hot cake as it comes from the oven.

I’ve made this a couple of times now and it’s a winner with everyone. The moist, light cake is packed with the flavour of citrusy, tangy lemons, offset by the sweetness of the sugar and given a slight uplift with the thyme. Served with my favourite Gruy√®re double cream (bliss!), it’s the perfect tea time treat.

Savoury or sweet, two recipes prove that, together, lemon and thyme are divine.