|Lavender makes a wonderful addition to bread|
Love it, hate it or perhaps just a little afraid of it. Blue, mauve, indigo and pink, wonderful aromatic lavender isn't always in vogue .. but it always seems to get a reaction. I'm a fan and simple dishes such as lavender infused sugar sprinkled on strawberries and cream or lavender laced crème caramel seems to elevate the top notes with purple fresh mint tones. It's a hard taste to describe .. but really wonderful and so thank goodness lavender is fashionable to cook with again.
I suppose the best way to describe Lavender is that it overlays a sweet fruity floral mintyness to food works with both sweet and savoury and it somehow transforms the everyday into something remarkable just by showing up in the dish, however it is worth noting that with lavender .. less is more.
There is a superb article by Sudi Pigot in The Independent a few days ago and it’s interesting to read that lavender is really in back in fashion in the upper elisions of the culinary world, however it is also worth noting that not all lavender is delicious.
The Intermedia varieties such as Alba, Grosso, Dutch white, Old English and Seals that are grown commercially for perfume have far different culinary properties from the cottage garden Angustifolia used for cooking.. frankly I find that the Intermedia varieties are almost always revolting in food being both harsh and camphorous. Before you panic and wonder which lavender to cook with, it is the bog standard cottage garden species of lavender Angustifolia, that gives the sweet vanilla tones and is perfect for culinary use. Hidcote, Munstead, Rosea or indeed any Angustifolia will be beautifully scented and absolutely delicious to use.
To get the very best lavender flavour you must pick the unopened buds. Chose a warm day about midday when the sun is high because the heat concentrates the oils for more intensity. Once opened the flowers lose the essential oils that impart the flavour. Dry your lavender upside down, spaced out to allow air around the flowers, in a well-aired dark environment. 3 days is enough to dry lavender picked in this way. Do keep them in the dark you keep the intensity of the colour. Store in an airtight container, out of sunlight. You should make a fresh batch each year; if you don’t have lavender in the garden there are many pick our own farms or you could be really cheeky and ask a friendly neighbour.
Perhaps the simplest way to infuse lavender into food in a gentle way is to make lavender sugar, but you can also use it fresh by using double the amount of fresh lavender to dried lavender in a recipe, and although you can buy books with lavender recipes in them .. somehow just adding on to sprinkle to your normal everyday cooking seems to me the best way to enjoy.
So do you love it, hate it or are you a wee bit scared of it?