Thyme is a lovely herb - intensely fragrant, fairly easy to grow (some varieties are used as a ground covering) and has a flavour that is subtle enough for fish and strong enough to complement meats. There are many types of thyme, including lemon, English, Spanish and several varieties of the wild herb. In Hong Kong, however, we basically have a choice between fresh and dried, unless we want to grow a specific type ourselves. The small-leafed herb has the bright, fresh smell expected of a member of the mint family. It's a native of Europe and the Mediterranean and is used a lot in the cuisines of those corners of the world. It's an essential part of the classic herb mixtures, bouquet garni (in which it is used fresh with parsley and bay leaf) and herbes de Provence, in which it is dried and combined with basil, lavender and assorted other herbs (depending on the blender's preference). It is also a part of the Jamaican 'jerk' seasoning mixture, along with dried chillies, cinnamon and ginger, and the 'blackened' meat and seafood dishes of New Orleans. If you have a balcony that receives a lot of sunlight, try growing a pot of thyme bought from the supermarket. When roasting chicken or other poultry, cut off a small bunch of stems and stuff into the bird's cavity, adding a quartered lemon to accentuate the herb's lemony qualities. Alternatively, pull the leaves from the branch and scatter them across fish (marinated with olive oil, lemon juice and minced garlic, then sprinkled with sea salt) and pan-fry or grill. The flavour of thyme also goes well with beef and lamb. If you're cooking rack of lamb, brush the meat lightly with Dijon mustard, press a mixture of breadcrumbs, minced garlic and shallots, chopped fresh thyme, parsley, salt and pepper into the meat, then roast. The leaves are delicious in dishes of roasted potatoes, sauteed vegetables and vegetable soups. Unlike most fresh herbs (such as tarragon and parsley), which lose their potency when dried, the flavour of thyme intensifies. The best way to dry herbs is to cut off the stems at the base, tie them in a bundle and dry them upside-down, which allows the flavour to concentrate in the leaves. You'll need to use less of the dried herb than the fresh or it will overwhelm a dish. It is best to use the dried herb in dishes that will be simmered slowly - don't use dried thyme if it is to be sprinkled on at the last minute or it will be too pungent.