Everyone has seen lavender scented soaps, shampoos, and all manner of assorted body-care products. Often there is an idyllic picture of fields of lavender flowers, swaying in the hot Provence sun. But–it also has some use in the kitchen!
I did not empty out a sachet of lavender from my sock drawer–after seeing various recipes calling for lavender, I added a jar to my big bulk spice order from The Spice House. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it–would it taste like eating perfume? On the other hand, I succumbed to the romantic idea of eating flower buds directly from those Provence fields, and figured: why not try it?
In particular I had seen a recipe for lavender honey ice cream in A Platter of Figs. It’s pretty simple: take a basic ice cream recipe, and steep the lavender in the warmed milk as a first step. Also you use honey instead of the sugar. Easy enough, but there was a technical snafu: the problem I had was actually that my ice cream maker didn’t freeze properly! Our freezer is unfortunately so packed that I guess it didn’t have a chance. I ran the ice cream maker for well over the 20-30 minutes required, and of course it didn’t help: the freezer compartment just melted all the more (at this point, helped along by the motor getting overheated!) I put it back in the freezer, made sure it had enough air circulation, and tried the next day. And voila!
The ice cream definitely tastes like something you would expect a Chez Panisse head chef to come up with. It’s a very elegant, sophisticated ice cream, not the ice cream you sit back and eat out of the container in front of the tv (though Marie and I may have done that…). The honey and lavender flavors are really in evidence and it took me a while to get used to the flavor, but I really like it now–I think it’s the lavender’s association with all those personal care products! David Tanis says in his recipe that there is actually a correct “temperature” to serve ice cream at, and I really notice it with this ice cream: I scraped a little of the super-frozen ice cream off the side of the freezer compartment before I cleaned it and it actually didn’t taste that good. However, eating it just slightly soft, and it’s perfect. Very interesting to note.
Maybe the idea of lavender in a dessert is not so outlandish, but how about with lamb? I wasn’t even looking for this one. We had two lamb leg chops from our meat CSA and I was flipping through my other new favorite cookbook, the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and one of her variations on roast lamb was a lavender marinade. Basically you just marinate in lavender and olive oil overnight. Easy enough:
This recipe I was a bit more dubious about–how on earth would flowery lamb chops taste? But you’ve got to trust Judy Rogers and this did not disappoint. How much of it was the lavender and how much of it was the great meat we get from our CSA, I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was delicious!