If you could take a peek into a medieval kitchen, amongst the other herbs and spices that were on offer there would be nearly always be an abundance of lavender. It’s said that Queen Elizabeth 1st insisted that a jar of lavender conserve was served with every meal and that she was a devotee of lavender tea for moments of particularly high monarchical stress. However if you now look at your own spice rack, it’s unlikely that lavender is a regular feature.
But, here at Jersey Lavender we think that it’s high time that lavender made a long overdue reappearance onto our tables. And the great thing about cooking with lavender is that there is really only one rule – make sure that you use a proper culinary-grade lavender. We supply a lovely culinary lavender made from our native lavender angustifolia varieties. This special blend of lavenders is sieved and cleaned, ready for use, and, as we ensure that the lavender is harvested early in the season, it is guaranteed to impart a lovely soft, rounded lavender flavour.
So now the rule part is over and done with you are free to start experimenting with cooking with lavender. Unlike so many other herbs, lavender is fantastic in both sweet and savoury dishes and so we’ll look at some savoury uses of lavender first. One of the tastiest uses of lavender in a savoury dish has to be the pairing of lavender and lamb, in fact just about anywhere that you would use rosemary, lavender can make a great substitution, but this one seems to be a particularly excellent pairing!
A simple and delicious Sunday Roast can be made by simply making a aromatic rub of dried culinary lavender, sea salt and olive oil (give it all a good bash in the pestle and mortar) and then rub it over your lamb joint, leave it to marinate overnight and then cover with foil and slow roast it. The meat will come out delicately flavoured and just falling apart. Or to go even further back to our medieval roots, why not try wrapping a leg or shoulder of lamb in a mixture lavender sprigs and hay (get this from your local pet shop) and slow roasting as before. Your lamb will come out moist and succulent with a gorgeous sweet and perfumed flavour.
There are also a number of ways of cooking lavender in sweet dishes. Lavender Shortbread is probably one of the best known sweet lavender dishes (see our Lavender Shortbread recipe here), but lavender is also great in a real myriad of different desserts. A great way of getting a lovely subtle lavender flavour into your baking is to substitute your usual sugar for lavender sugar. Just as you would make vanilla sugar, try either adding whole buds to a jar of sugar and leaving to infuse, or blitz some of those yummy little dried culinary lavender buds up with your sugar until you have a sweet, perfumed, lilac pot of loveliness and then just use as you normally would – very good in meringues!
Another way of cooking with lavender in sweet dishes is to infuse it into the milk or cream that you are using. Simply add some dried culinary lavender to your cold liquid, bring to scalding point and then leave to infuse for an hour or so before straining the lavender out if desired. This lovely lavender-flavoured milk can then go in to make divine pannacottas, scrummy possets and fools (lovely with the addition of raspberries, lemon, orange or rhubarb) and wonderful ice creams! Or try adding a sprinkling of dried culinary lavender to your apples for a twist on a classic tarte-tatin. The list is almost endless!