All you need is thyme

Recently, I was given a very original gift. Twelve ‘melons d’Espagne’ (a variety of winter melons) from our farmer neighbours. It was a beautiful jade green sight, as if they were dropped by someone from outer space. These are the last melons of the season, often stored in garages to ripen for use. They are best prepared as jam. So at this time of the year, local Médocains are all preparing the melon d’Espagne jam. I immediately called my aunt for inspiration as she is the confiture (jam) expert. Ever since I was a child, she’s been making the most delicious home-made jams, mixing quince with rosemary and mint, strawberries with roses, rhubarb and raspberries. After our little chat, I hurried to the kitchen and mixed melon with vanilla and sugar in one bowl, and in the other one, ginger, mandarin, melon and sugar leaving them to soak overnight.

I woke up extra-early the next day with only melons on my mind. They had turned into a syrupy fruit mash, ready to be cooked. Just for 45 minutes. It turned out to be so easy, so beautiful to make, and on top of it the house smelt like sugar and spice. I transferred the jam to little glass jars, prepared my scones recipe, which I make for my family several times a week. We had a lovely breakfast, the sun was shining, the jam was delightful with the scones. I’ll be making much more jam this next week, as I think they will be ideal presents for my friends. I am looking forward to finding pretty fabric and ribbons to decorate the jars.

To inaugurate the first holiday week with the children, I planned a good old-fashioned roast lunch, just how my grandmother Séraphine prepared them. My grandmother had a little notebook filled with recipes from her own childhood, along with pretty dried flowers decorating her notes. Mostly violets. Her recipes came from another generation, given to her by family and friends, from Toulouse to Lyon. This recipe is from Augustine, my great-grandmother. The ‘crème de thym’ was her speciality, a Lyonnaise style sauce based on milk, thyme, garlic and egg yolks. It’s a timeless sauce, which can be served with lamb, roast beef or chicken.

Rack of lamb roast with thyme cream sauce (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F

1-1.5 kg rack of lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and brown the lamb on all sides until golden. Place in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on rack size and cooking preference). Serve meat on a large plate, add steamed potatoes on all sides. Serve with the thyme cream sauce.

Steamed potatoes:

700-1kg new potatoes (depending on portions)

Wash and scrub potatoes if necessary. Place water in a large pot (5 cm/ 1 inch and a half), place potatoes in a steaming basket, drizzle with salt, cover with a lid and steam for approx 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and serve.

For the sauce:
1 garlic clove, minced
70 g fresh thyme
350 ml milk
3 egg yolks
150 g butter, cut in cubes
Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a soft boil and take off the heat. Add the fresh thyme, ground garlic and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. Strain milk with a sieve, pressing all the thyme to get as much flavour as possible. Discard stalks. Return thyme infused milk to the heat, add 3 egg yolks, one by one, whisking constantly. When the sauce starts to thicken, lower the heat and add butter pieces, stirring away. Add salt and pepper and set aside.

Melon d’Espagne jam

1 kg melon d’Espagne
450 g granulated sugar
Soak overnight

recipe 1: 1 vanilla pod
Recipe 2: Fine slivers of 1 small mandarine
Thumb-size small piece of ginger, finely sliced

Slice melon into chunks (discard skin), remove all seeds and place in a large bowl. If you want to make different flavoured jam, divide melons into two bowls. Pour sugar on melon and mix well. In one bowl mix melon and sugar, in the other mix melon, sugar and add ingredients from recipe 2. Cover with cling film and leave to macerate overnight. For recipe one, in a large pot, pour soaked melon, slit the vanilla pod along its length, scrape off the seeds using the tip of a knife and mix with melon. For recipe 2, cook in another pot. Cook on a low heat, stirring from time to time, for 40-45 minutes, or until consistency is thick and glossy. Pour jam into glass jars and leave to cool.

Tip: Be careful not to overcook as the jam will become to stiff and pasty.

Serve with home-made scones.

Perfect scones 

for 15 to 20 scones (depending on size)


440 g/ 3 & 2/3 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
80 g/ 1/3 cup unsalted butter
65 g/ 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
210 ml/ 7 fluid ounces of whole milk
A pinch of salt

For the glazing
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 220°C/ 420°F

You will need parchment paper, baking sheet, rolling pin, a fluted round scone cutter (6 cm/ 2.5 inches approx) and a pastry brush.

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and mix well.
Add the milk, eggs, cream and vanilla essence. Mix the dough until soft, slightly on the sticky side.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface – about 3 cm/ 1 inch thick.
Sprinkle the inner rim of the pastry cutter. Cut the scones and place them on a parchment paper covered baking tray.
Glaze each scones with egg mixture and bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.


36 thoughts on “All you need is thyme

  1. I love the story behind your crème de thym. Old family recipes are so precious. I inherited my grandmother’s recipe box when she passed away, and her recipes are some of the things I treasure most. When I cook from her box, I feel as if I’m passing on her memory to my kids, though they never met her. Thank you for sharing! And your jam looks incredible, I can only imagine how delicious it must taste. Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thanks Rebecca! It was a beautiful cooking day, filled with wonderful family memories. I still have 9 melons left, so there will be of jam jars to fill! Have a lovely week-end! Mimi

  2. Hello Mimi, thank you for a gorgeous blog. It’s breathtaking, everything you share from your family anecdotes to pictures. You are an inspiration, it’s moving and brings a smile and life joy! You are beautiful and I wish to ask and hope you are not offended. How tall are you and how much do you weigh? How do you keep in shape? I feel like I gain 20 kg just by looking at your delicious food. You look marvelous! Just beautiful! Love Cecilia

  3. These are gorgeous, and the flavors of your family ‘confitures’ remind my of my own grandmother’s — quince and rose feel very Persian to me. Funny how we feel some kind of ownership of childhood flavors. It’s delightful to hear about how other families use the same flavors in different ways. I look forward to trying your recipe out, it looks just gorgeous. I apologize if you already mentioned it and I missed that part, but do you think this would work with other types of melons also? Thank you.

  4. What a lovely gift!! I have not done much cooking with melon and am inspired by what you’ve done. 🙂 The thyme cream sauce sounds absolutely amazing. Thyme is one of my very favorite herbs. 🙂

  5. This is a lovely post! I really enjoy thyme. Would you please share with us your great-grandmother’s recipe for crème de thym? It would be an honor to try it.

    1. Oops…I’m sorry. I see you have given us the recipe! I glossed over it. I will try it and thank you for sharing!

  6. Now of course you made me keen on growing melon d’Espagne next year! But hélas, I don’t think the seeds are available in the US. They might do well in this climate, just like charentais, which are my favorite melons. Oh well, I will just have to content myself looking at those beautiful photos…

  7. Avec du melon d’espagne, j’ai essayé la recette de Christine Ferber, en ajoutant noix et zestes de citron. C’est un délice mais j’ai maintenant très très envie d’essayer ton mélange de mandarines et gingembre…
    Bravo pour ton magnifique blog que j’ai découvert il y a peu, chaque recette que j’ai déjà essayée dans ma minuscule cuisine a été une petite merveille !
    Merci 🙂

  8. I just revisited your post because melon d’Espagne is on my gardening wish list for 2013. Do you happen to know which variety your neighbors grew, or could you possibly find out the name of the variety? That would be of great help, as there seem to be tremendous differences in taste. Happy New Year!

  9. I have made the recipe for thyme cream sauce several times now – it is lovely. However, I am never able to put 70g of fresh thyme in 350ml of milk – it is an enormous bunch of thyme! Wondering if there is something that I am missing, or if you strip off the leaves first before putting in the stems so that more of the thyme comes in contact with the milk?

  10. Lovely, warm and homey blog. It gives me saudades in a good way. I was about to try the scone recipe but the link is broken. Is there any other way to get it in the blog?

    1. Hi Rosalee,

      Sorry about this, there seems to have been a technical glitch but I am adding the scones recipe here 🙂 Hope this didn’t cause you too much bother. Mimi x

  11. Hi Mimi,
    The first scones that I did. There was no heavy cream, no brown sugar, no eggs.
    I am really sorry. It was not this recipe.
    Sorry for my english, I am a french woman.
    Thank you Mimi!

    1. While Martine may not recognize it, I am deeply appreciative as I just want a basic recipe
      I cannot imagine a scone recipe without cream, eggs or some sort of sugar
      Thank you

  12. Magnifique! Vous êtes mon coup de coeur en ce dimanche de -26 degrés dans mon beau Québec. Je vais essayer qques recettes dès le weekend prochain!

  13. Tried the thyme cream sauce tonight, but it never thickened.. after about 50 minutes and a tbsp of cornstarch, it was still the consistency of water.. 🙁

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