I love lavender! I grow several varieties in my garden and look forward to the first hot day of the year when you get a waft of lavender scent on the air and know that summer is truly here. Lavender Shortbread is an excellent way of capturing the essence of this beautiful, fragrant plant.
Lavender has many culinary uses and its fragrance works well in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. However, you do have to be a bit careful though as lavender is a very strongly scented plant and, if you use too much, it can overwhelm other flavours. For this reason, I think it is best used on its own rather than in combination with other aromatics.
Plain shortbread is delicious – it should have a fairly soft, crumbly texture – but it also makes great vehicle to showcase a range of flavours, including lavender, rose geranium, thyme, rosemary and lemon verbena. It is a great accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee and is also a good partner with ice-cream or sorbet.
The English word lavender is thought to be derived either from Old French lavandre which is taken from the Latin lavare “to wash” which refers to the practice of using it in infusions or from the Latin livere “blueish” in reference to its colour. Lavender (“nard” in Hebrew) is mentioned in the Song of Solomon.
It was introduced into England in the 1600s. At that time, it was used to make herb tea which was appreciated for its taste and for its medicinal properties. It was also used to make a conserve which was prized by members of the aristocracy including, allegedly, Queen Elizabeth 1. Although lavender is often now associated with southern French cuisine, it was not widely used until the turn of the 20th century and its use was popularised only later by its inclusion in the 1970s in herbes de Provence, a blend of herbs invented by spice wholesalers.
I make Lavender Ice Cream using my standard ice cream recipe. It has a wonderful floral creaminess which is perfect eaten in the garden on a sunny English summer day!
Lavender is a strong taste and needs to be used in moderation to avoid echoes of furniture polish! Don’t be tempted to increase the amount in this recipe. What you are looking for is a subtle whisper of lavender rather than a full-on bombardment of your taste-buds. As it is such a strong flavour, I would serve this Lavender Ice Cream on its own or possibly together with plain vanilla ice cream or maybe Lemon Shortbread biscuits.
You only need the egg yolks for this recipe which means you will have spare egg whites. As I hate waste, I pretty much always make some form of meringue, when I make ice cream and, very conveniently, my meringue recipe requires four egg whites. If you feel in the mood for meringue, you could check out my basic Meringue or Pavlova recipes, or if you want something slightly different, you could try my Rose Meringue recipe.
Whisk and bowl. This recipe is a breeze using an but you can still make it if you don’t have one (see instructions under point 8 of Method)
Rich and creamy, this Lavender Ice Cream is a great way of using the wonderful, floral taste of lavender.
4 egg yolks
85 g caster sugar
425 ml double cream
3 fresh lavender flowers broken down into petals (or 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh lavender leaves)
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl until the mixture looks paler and resembles a mousse.
Put the cream and lavender flowers or leaves in a saucepan and heat gently. Do not allow to boil – it will be the right temperature when you are just about able to bear to dip a finger in it!
Remove the saucepan containing the cream and lavender from the heat. At this stage you can strain the cream to remove all the lavender. I generally don’t strain the lavender out as I like the little blue petals distributed through the ice cream but I know some people prefer a totally smoothe ice cream with just the flavour and no petals!
Pour the infused cream into the bowl containing the egg yolks and sugar, whisking all the time.
Transfer the combined mixture into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water or, ideally a double-boiler, as you need to reheat it very gently.
The mixture will gradually thicken until it looks like a custard (which is what it is). Stir regularly to make sure it does not stick while it is thickening.
Remove the thick custard from the heat and transfer into a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to become thoroughly chilled.
When you are ready to make the ice-cream, transfer to your ice-cream maker and use according to your machine’s instructions. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, you can place the mixture in a freezer-proof container, put in the freezer for several hours until half-frozen. Whisk the mixture and then return to the container and replace in the freezer until totally frozen.
Make sure that you only use fresh lavender that you are sure has not been sprayed with chemicals. The best place to source it is from your garden – it is very easy to grow!
If you do not have access to fresh lavender, you can use 2 teaspoons of dried culinary lavender. The flavour is strengthened by the drying process, so the amount is less than that for fresh lavender.
This Honey Cream Tea, made with Lavender Scones, is a variation on the traditional English Cream Tea which uses plain or fruited scones sandwiched with jam and cream.
I first tasted a Honey Cream Tea many years ago when visiting Quince Honey Farm in Devon. Understandably, given the primary product of the farm, they served scones sandwiched with cream and honey, rather than the traditional jam. When I decided to write a recipe for Lavender Scones, it occurred to me that a honey and cream filling would go very well with their floral flavour – and so it proved! If you have lavender-scented honey, so much the better.
This Honey Cream Tea is made with lavender-flavoured scones sandwiched together with honey and whipped cream. It is a variation on a traditional English Cream Tea, which combines plain or fruited scones with jam and cream.
350 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
85 g butter
25 g caster sugar
4 fresh lavender buds (or 2 tablespoons of culinary lavender)
100 ml milk
A small pot of good quality (ideally locally-sourced) honey
300 ml double cream (whipped)
Set your oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas Mark 6.
Put the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar to the flour and butter mixture.
Detach the small flowers from the lavender stalks and add them to the mixture.
Lightly beat the eggs and add them and the milk to the mixture.
Use your hands to very gently combine the mixture so that it forms a soft dough.
Press the dough out onto a floured surface. It needs to be about 1cm thick. Use a round cutter to cut out dough shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the scones have risen and are a light golden colour.
Transfer the scones to a cooling rack.
When they are cool, split them in half and sandwich together with honey and whipped cream.