Lavender is one of those flowers that we recognise more as a perfume or room refreshener rather than an ingredient that we cook with. It is also, for this reason, that a lot of us will tend to steer away from trying this unusual plant but lavender has been used in traditional English and European cooking for centuries.
There are many varieties of lavender and they all vary in fragrance. You should select the sweeter scented variety for cooking and while both the stems and flower can be used, the flower will provide a better flavour.
It goes well with meat such as lamb, chicken, pork and even game meats and it is quite often used in custard-based desserts and works very well with chocolate. Care must be taken when using lavender as it can prove to be quite over-powering. It has a flavour much like how it smells only a more milder taste with a slight citrus undertone and an amazing floral background.
6 egg yolks
8 buds fresh lavender
Bring milk and lavender buds to the boil then remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it thickens and lightens in colour.
Remove buds from milk and stir into the egg mixture with a spoon, do not whisk. It's alright if some leaves have stayed in the milk.
Pour into moulds and place these into a dish with about 2cm of water on the bottom.
Place carefully into a pre-heated oven at 130 degrees for approximately 1 hour.
Brulees will be ready when you tap the sides and it holds like a jelly. There should be no liquid.
Remove from water and let brulees sit for 30 minutes.
They can be chilled if desired.
To finish the top, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and use a small blow torch to caramalise the sugar. You can also heat up an old spoon in a gas flame until really hot then run smoothly over the sugar.
5 buds of fresh Lavender
250gm softened butter
1 cup castor sugar
2 cups plain flour
Break flowers and beat into butter.
When smooth mix in icing sugar - beat well. Then add the flour and mix in well.
Roll into small balls and press down with a fork.
Place on non-greased tray and bake in moderate oven for 10–12 minutes until colour has changed slightly.
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Matt Clark Freelance Food Writer and Professional Chef