Flower power

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am


Not many people think of food when they see or smell lavender. The pretty, fragrant sprigs of the ornamental plant are more commonly used for soap, essential oils and perfumes, or in sachets to put into lingerie drawers. The scent of lavender is said to be calming and sleep-inducing.

Lavender - fresh or dried - can be used for cooking, however, although you should make sure that the flowers haven't been sprayed with pesticides or additives used to make the colour last longer. Use the flavouring with extreme discretion, unless you want your dish to taste like soap.

Dried, lightly crushed lavender flowers can be mixed with sugar and stored in an airtight container to make lavender sugar, which is delicious when sprinkled over shortbread before it's baked, or on baked or steamed custard that's then torched to make creme br?lee. A drop or two of lavender oil can be mixed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice for a delicious salad dressing. Dried lavender flowers are often combined with tea leaves, which, when brewed with hot water, create a soothing tisane. The flowers can also be infused in hot milk or cream, then strained out before the liquid is made into a sweet or savoury sauce or ice cream.