How to: cook with lavender
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Lavender’s flatmate from the hot dry rocky spots of the Mediterranean is rosemary. Both share a fabulous fragrance that scents the garden, especially when summer’s heat draws out the essential oils in the foliage. And both can be thugs in the kitchen: cooks must proceed with caution.
When rosemary is used with abandon everything tastes like rosemary. Worse, when lavender is used too liberally everything tastes like soap! But with a gentle hand lavender imparts a subtle, dusty, floral note which is as surprising as it is delicious.
With lavender in full flower this month, now is a good time to experiment with capturing that scent in sweet treats. Of course, only use flowers you know have never been sprayed with chemicals.
To a kilo of caster sugar add just a teaspoon of flowers picked from the spike of a lavender flower. Mix well and store in a sealed jar. Allow the flavour to develop then use in shortbread or sponge cake, or sprinkle over summer berries.
Lavender macaroons with chocolate cream
Use lavender sugar and a few drops of purple food colouring in your favourite macaroon recipe then sandwich with chocolate cream. Lavender goes surprisingly well with chocolate.
Make a simple sugar syrup by boiling a cup of water and a cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Steep a teaspoon of lavender flowers in the syrup for half an hour, then strain. Use this fragrant syrup to subtly flavour fruit granitas. Blueberries work well. Puree blueberries with a squeeze of lemon juice and enough of the syrup to give a pleasing sweetness with a little tang of acid and the fragrant surprise of the lavender. Strain well, then freeze in a shallow tray, scraping the forming crystals with a fork every 20 minutes as the mixture freezes.