In a perfect world, this would be the time we would roam through lavender fields, admiring endless rows of purple and enjoying the beautiful scent along with the typically idyllic surrounds. Ideally, the visit would include a picnic in the midst of the blooming plants, and we would take home plenty of all the fantastic lavender products sold locally; from soaps to perfumes, lavender oils, lavender tea, and of course culinary lavender to be used in the kitchen.
In a not so perfect world, the second-best way to spend peak lavender season (though this will vary depending on the location with harvest in the northern hemisphere taking place from May to July) is cooking up a storm using culinary lavender indeed.
Using lavender in the kitchen not only adds a fantastic, subtle sweet and citrusy flavour to your food., It will add a stunning pop of colour to your dishes too, particularly when using fresh lavender.
What is culinary lavender
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, Middle East, and India although today it is grown across the world.
There are nearly 50 different types of lavender, and the plant can be used in many different ways from medical to cosmetic and culinary uses. And whilst most types of lavender can be used for cooking, some are better than others.
In most cases culinary lavender is Lavandula angustifolia, also referred to as English Lavender (though it does not need to be grown in England to be called that way – which means English Lavender is not a protected term of origin). English lavender has the sweetest fragrance of all types and brings out the best flavours in cooking.
How to use lavender in the kitchen
Adding lavender to your food, it will bring out the richness of fruits, further enhance herbs, add a lot of debt and texture to meat and vegetables and of course give desserts and cakes a particular sweet and floral note.
If you want to cook with lavender, during harvest season you can use fresh lavender which you are likely to find at your local farmers’ market. Otherwise, dried lavender will work equally well.
Now you might wonder, what type of food can you prepare using culinary lavender. Well, the truth is, only your imagination is the limit. It will work perfectly with desserts, ice cream and cakes but it is also perfect for hearty foods, especially meat and poultry, and vegetables.
A few facts you should be aware of when using lavender in the kitchen:
- Make sure to use culinary lavender. There are many different types of lavender, and some are predominantly produced for cosmetic uses.
- Do not overuse. Due to the strong flavour profile, adding too much can result in your food tasting like soap or perfume and make it taste bitter. Rather, start with adding smaller amounts and slowly increase until you obtain the taste profile you like.
- You can use both fresh and dried lavender. However, when using dried lavender, keep in mind the flavour will be more intense. Therefore, you only need about one-third of the amount of fresh lavender when using dried lavender.
- Every part of lavender – leaves, stems and flower buds – can be used; however, it will be the flowers that will add that particular sweet and citrusy flavour.
Recipe: Lavender Madeleines
These quintessential French delicate and fluffy little cakes are easy to make and whipped together in the shortest of time.
Starting with the basic Madeleines recipe there is no stopping of variations, which means these delicious little teacakes are perfect for any occasion and any time of the year.
To get them into the typical shell shape, you will need a special Madeleines baking pan.
Serves 24 pieces
125 g butter + some for the baking pan
1 vanilla pod
100 g all-purpose flour
100 g food starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
125 g sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons dried culinary lavender
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4-5 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Melt the butter over low heat, then set aside to let cool slightly.
Mix together flour, food starch and baking powder.
In a medium bowl, add eggs, sugar, a pinch of salt, the seeds of the vanilla pod and the lemon zest. With a hand mixer, beat the mix together on high speed for several minutes until obtaining a thick and pale-white mixture.
Add flour mixture to the cream and gently fold together, then slowly add the melted butter.
Finally, add 2 tablespoons of the culinary lavender and carefully combine.
Brush the moulds of the madeleine pan with soft butter and slightly dust with some flour.
Fill the moulds about 2/3 with the batter (about one tablespoon full).
If you do not have two madeleine pans to bake the whole batter at once, cover and refrigerate the remaining half until needed.
Bake madeleines for about 10-12 minutes. They will be ready when the top of the cakes springs back when slightly pressed with a finger.
Transfer madeleines to a rack to let cool.
Repeat the procedure with the remaining half of the batter.
Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Spread the icing over one half of each madeleine cake, top of with some culinary lavender.