18 July 2010

For the Love of Lavender

Somewhere inside me, there's a little old lady trying to come out. Or how can I explain my love affair with lavender?
Apart from its smell - you either love it, like me, or you don't - and use in potpourries or as a moth deterrant, lavender oil is used medicinally for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It also aids relaxation and can therefore be found in many bath remedies and even in pillows. However, lavender is also a powerful allergen, so use it cautiously if you don't know whether it agrees with you.

This is my favourite lavender species: 

lavendula dentata

I use both leaves and bud of my tooth lavender in cooking. The leaves, I find, compliment any provencal type dish, chopped up and used together with other herbs such as thyme and rosemary. I harvest the buds and store them in a kitchen jar with ordinary sugar, and after a few days the sugar has absorbed a lovely, floral flavour. I use this sugar in baking, for instance for a lavender loaf cake or muffins. You could also use it to flavour home-made jams, and I imagine it could be very nice in a range of herbal and black teas. And did I mention lavender ice cream? Make a custard using lavender sugar and use this as the base for an utterly irresistible gelato deluxe. The flavour is very delicate, not overpoweringly perfumed. I urge you to try this!

lavender sugar

Lavender Muffins
125 g butter
125 g flour
125 g lavender-infused sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
lavender buds/leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Mix all dry ingredients to a fine crumble consistency, then add the wet ingredients. Pour into a prepared baking tin, and if you like, decorate each muffin with a bud of lavender or a few leaves.

Bake for ca. 15 minutes until golden brown.

You could, of course, eschew decoration before baking and top the muffins with lavender coloured icing (mix icing sugar with a little red and blue food colouring for a faint lilac), finish with a bud. The little old lady in me, however, desires no such kitsch. Not yet, at least!

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