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2 July 2018

Loving Lavender: A Cook’s Guide

While we all know it as a lovely flower in the garden, lavender has long been used as a culinary herb in Provence. It has a distinctive aroma and slightly minty, floral flavour that is quite delicious.

For most of us, the idea of experimenting with lavender in sweet dishes is mouthwatering and inspiring – think shortbread cookies, macaroons, sponge cake, sorbets, ice creams, crème brûlée and infused syrups and cordials. But did you know that lavender is a delicious seasoning that gives savoury dishes an elusive yet exciting extra flavour?

Here is our guide to exploring ways to use this fragrant herb in all your cooking, both sweet and savoury.


What is Culinary Lavender?

All varieties of lavender are edible – the key is to make sure that the lavender is organic and has not been sprayed or treated at all. If you’re searching for culinary lavender in South Africa, the dried version is easily available online. But the best news is that it is super easy to grow your own lavender either in the garden or in a pot. Both flowers and leaves are edible.

Lavender Lowdown

DRIED OR FRESH?
You can cook with either fresh or dried lavender but a little goes a long way. Dried lavender is more concentrated than fresh sprigs but whichever one you are cooking with, it is important to use a light touch. If you overdo the lavender, you will end up with a slightly soapy flavour.

QUANTITIES
Rule of thumb: if a recipe calls for fresh lavender but you are using dried lavender, reduce the quantity by two-thirds. So 1½ teaspoons fresh lavender = ½ teaspoon dried lavender.

 


Sorbets & Cordials

Add lavender when making a simple sugar syrup for sorbets or cordials, or steep it in gently warmed cream or milk for just a few minutes for other desserts.


Baked Treats

Mix ½ tsp very finely chopped fresh lavender leaves and blossoms into your basic shortbread or vanilla butter biscuit dough for an absolutely delicious variation. Another way to incorporate a lovely lavender flavour is to grind dried or fresh lavender into the sugar before mixing up your dough or batter. Decorate your finished baked treats with organic lavender blossoms when serving.


Desserts

Brighten lavender’s floral notes with berries and citrus. Lemon juice and zest are excellent counterpoints, while baked fruit desserts reach new heights when you add a hint of lavender to the mix. You can make lavender-infused sugar or castor sugar for a very subtle hint of lavender, or infuse it in a simple sugar syrup for an inspired layer of flavour. Pair lavender with strawberries, blueberries, pears, lemon, orange, honey and chocolate. Our recipe for Lavender Roasted Pears is an excellent dessert to get you started.


Savoury Dishes

For savoury dishes, mix dried lavender and other herbs in a salt grinder or use as you would any other fresh herb such as sage, rosemary and marjoram. A professional chef’s tip is to lightly toast dried lavender in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, to enhance its complexity and remove any perfumed notes. This adds a wonderfully evocative, aromatic herbal flavour that is difficult to pin down but adds an indefinable je ne sais quoi to your cooking.


Roasts

Pair lavender with other aromatic herbs including sage, rosemary, origanum, thyme and black pepper to make delicious herb mixes, dry rubs, salad dressings and beurre blanc. Lavender is superb with grilled or roast chicken and lamb dishes, and you can reinvent roast potatoes by adding finely chopped lavender leaves to the roasting pan when you put the potatoes in the oven.


If you’re inspired to create your very own lavender test kitchen, visit our recipes site for dishes you can adapt and infuse with your own brand of magic? Did you like this post? Sign up to our newsletter and we’ll send you more news and promotions!

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