Monday, 20 September 2010

Cooking with lavender

Lavender has been widely recognized over the centuries for its healing qualities. The Romans first called it lavender which may have come from the Latin verb “lavare” meaning “to wash”, or from the word “livendulo” which means “livid or bluish”. For me the flower immediately conjures up all sorts of images of soaps and oils. It also reminds me of the perfumes worn by my primary school dinner ladies who predominantly seemed to wear a blue rinse in their hair.

Traditionally it is not something that we Brits add to our food, although the French have several recipes where they use lavender in a dish or preserve. However, it is fair to say that lavender has undergone a revival in our kitchens over the past ten years. It is starting to be seen in British cuisine and it can now be found on menus in the more adventurous eateries across the UK. I think that using lavender in cooking adds a really interesting dimension to a dish, both savoury and sweet. It is perhaps an acquired taste and a bit like Marmite – you either love the taste, or you hate it - but it definitely is worth a try.

You can buy dried lavender for use in food direct or online from lavender farms across the UK. Be sure to ask for one specifically for use in food as it will not have all the pesticides sprayed on the flowers. I pick lavender from my own garden, dry it and store it in containers. You can store the flowers on their own in a jar, or if you wish to use the flowers for sweet dishes only, mix a handful with some sugar (about a quarter of the quantity of the total should be flowers the rest sugar).

I thoroughly recommend that you give lavender a whirl in your cooking. It tastes fantastic in ice-cream, in meringues, in biscuits (my children adore these) and cooked with lamb. Another delicious way to use lavender is to add a tablespoon of the dried flowers to some chopped strawberries, add a sprinkling of sugar and leave them to macerate for an hour. These strawberries will taste fantastic with a piece of chocolate cake! Go on, have a go, there are some delicious recipes for you to try out below.

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