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Lavender, apart from looking great in the garden, is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. Fresh edible flowers have made a bit of a comeback recently as enhancements to both the flavour and the appearance of food in restaurants.

As a herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years. In ancient times the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia used lavender for mummification and perfume. The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word “lavo” meaning “to wash” that the herb took its name.

As member of the same family as many of our most popular Mediterranean herbs, I’m pleased to see that it is slowly returning to our kitchens as its sweet, floral flavour, and citrus tones can add an interesting note to so many dishes. It can also be substituted for rosemary in many savoury recipes and the flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of Cava or Champagne.

Lavender works well with chocolate and as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. It’s also perfect to add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or Panna Cotta.

An easy way to cook with lavender is to simply create a lavender sugar. Take a clean coffee grinder and place the buds of two lavender flowers, with 3-4 tablespoons of sugar. Grind these together until a fine sugar is created. This breaks apart the lavender buds and releases their essential oils into the sugar. Store this fragrant sugar in an airtight container in a cool place to use throughout the year.

CHOCOLATE & LAVENDER TART

This rich, decadent chocolate & lavender tart works really well with red fruits and vanilla ice cream. If you can’t find lavender flowers you can substitute with a sprig of fresh rosemary or a few green cardamom pods. I sometimes make this tart with eucalyptus and it’s also a delicious alternative.

Ingredients serves 6-8

For the pastry:

120g plain flour

60g icing sugar

50g chilled butter, diced

1 whole egg

1tbsp cold water

A pinch of salt

For the filling:

180g dark chocolate, chopped

100g butter

80g plain flour

140g sugar

6 whole eggs

1tbsp dried lavender flowers

To serve:

2tbsp dark cocoa powder


For the sweet pastry:

Place the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar, cold water and egg and pulse again, just enough to incorporate the egg.

Scrap out the pastry and mix gently until it comes together to form a firm dough.

Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick.

Line a 23cm tart ring with the pastry and rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan)

Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and line the pastry case with a circle of baking parchment or foil and fill with baking beans.

Bake the pastry blind for 10 minutes, or until just lightly golden-brown, then remove the paper and beans and return the tart to the oven to cook for a further 3-4 minutes.

For the filling:

Gently heat the butter, lavender flowers and chocolate in a medium pan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and flour. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and pass through a fine sieve. Place the pastry case on a baking tray.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the pastry case, filling it right to the top and place in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Dust with cacao powder, cut into portions and serve with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

MARINATED STRAWBERRIES WITH PASSION FRUIT AND LAVENDER CUSTARD

Ingredients: Serves 4

500g fresh strawberries (quartered)

100ml orange juice

Juice and zest of one lime

1tbsp. Sugar

1 passion fruit, juice and seeds

Mix al the ingredients together and leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Lavender Custard

6 egg yolks

125g sugar

150ml cream

150ml milk

1tsp Lavender flowers

Bring the cream and milk to the boil with the lavender flowers. Infuse for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and pour over the cream and the flowers.

Return to the stove, stirring continuously until the mixture just coats the back of a spoon. Do not boil.

As soon as the mixture begins to thicken slightly, remove from the heat. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

To serve, place the strawberries in 4 tall glasses, pour over a little of the lavender custard.

ROASTED PEACHES WITH LAVENDER CARAMEL & CRÈME FRAÎCHE

Ingredients serves 4

4 large, ripe organic peaches, halved and pitted

1 tbsp unsalted butter

80ml clear honey

2.3 sprigs fresh lavender flowers

Grated zest of one lemon

4 large spoonfuls of Crème fraîche

Preheat oven to 200c°/gas 6

Coat an ovenproof baking dish with a little butter. Arrange the peaches, cut side up, in the baking dish.

Drizzle the honey over the peaches, and add the lavender flowers and lemon zest.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and spoon the lavender caramel from the baking dish over the peaches. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the peaches are softened and golden.

Top the warm peaches with a spoonful of Crème fraîche and drizzle with remaining lavender caramel. Serve immediately.