Celebrated for its calming and healing powers since ancient times, lavender emerges from the closet with a host of applications in cooking, handcraft and toiletries.
Lavandula angustifolia is the best variety of lavender to use in cooking. Other lavender varieties have a strong camphorous aroma which can give food a bitter taste. If you have a blue-coloured, summer-flowering lavender in your garden, it will generally be good for recipes. Don’t use Lavandula dentata (French lavender) in food as it doesn’t strip off the stems easily. It’s great for garnishing dishes however, particularly in winter, when it flowers profusely.
To dry lavender, pick the flowers, bunch them and hang upside-down in a cool, dry spot. Or place them on a wire rack in a ventilated spot. When the flowers are crispy dry, put on a dust mask and rubber gloves and strip the flowers from the stems onto an old sheet or piece of newspaper. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard until you need them. Before cooking with lavender, shake it in a kitchen sieve to remove any dust. To make lavender water for use in cooking or as a room spray, pour one cup boiling water over one teaspoon blue L. angustifolia flowers and leave to steep for five minutes. Strain and discard the flowers. Store in a spray bottle.
These recipes were originally published in Australian Country 14.6. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
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Recipes & tips Rosemary Holmes
Styling Sandra Hinton
Photography Ken Brass
Lavender bath bomb
It is most important that your hands and the bowl are completely dry. Any contact with water and the bath bomb will begin to fizz.
2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons citric acid
6 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda (carb soda/baking soda)
20 drops lavender essential oil
3-4 teaspoons vegetable oil
Combine flowers, citric acid and carb soda in a glass or ceramic bowl and mix with a metal spoon. Add essential oil and enough of the vegetable oil for the mixture to cling together in a dough-like consistency. Spoon the mixture into a well-oiled metal or plastic mould, stand for a few minutes, then turn out onto a board that has been lined with non-stick baking paper. Place bombs in a cool, dry place and leave to dry out, preferably overnight. Makes two bombs.
120g caster sugar
1 rounded teaspoon blue
L.angustifolia fl owers
1 cup self-raising flour
Preheat oven to 180°C. Beat butter and sugar until soft. Add egg and mix well. Add lavender and mix thoroughly. Add flour and mix again. Place small teaspoons of the mixture onto a tray lined with non-stick baking powder. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until browned, turning trays half way through cooking time. Makes approximately 30 biscuits.
Lavender, Apple and Ginger Chutney
4 large onions (approx 800g)
250g preserved ginger
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon allspice
1.5 litres malt vinegar
1kg soft light-brown sugar
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons blue L.angustifolia flowers Peel, core and chop apples coarsely, slice onions finely and dice ginger. Place cloves and allspice in a muslin bag. Place the apple, onion and vinegar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, add sugar, spices and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Add lavender and boil for a further 10 minutes before spooning into sterilised jars.
1 large orange
1 large grapefruit
1 large lemon (2 if not juicy)
1.75 litres water
2.25kg sugar (approx)
1 tablespoon blue L.angustifolia flowers
Wash fruit and finely slice orange and grapefruit using skin, pith and flesh. Discard seeds. Roll lemon well with the palm of the hand until the skin is soft. Halve lemon, extract juice, discard seeds. Place fruit, including lemon halves, in a large saucepan with the water. Cover, bring to the boil, add lemon juice, simmer 30 minutes; cool. Pour mixture into a large ceramic (non-reactive) basin, cover and stand for 36 hours. Remove lemon skins, measure fruit mixture. Allow one cup of sugar for each cup of fruit. For a sweeter marmalade, add one extra cup of sugar. Return fruit mixture to saucepan, add warmed sugar and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil rapidly until the marmalade gels when tested on a cold saucer. This should take approximately 30 minutes. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, stir in lavender and brandy. Allow to stand for five minutes before spooning into hot sterilised jars, and seal. Makes approx one litre.