Written by Sara Dixon – Herb Society Member
If you are still with me on building your ‘Herb Larder’ in the garden, in pots, on the allotment – then let’s carry on!
Two herbs. Contrasting experiences on the tongue! The feistiness of Wild Rocket. The sweetness of the various types of Lavenders. Ideal for March – which I always find to be a bit of an ‘in between’ stage in my cooking. Not quite ready yet to move away from the cold (give me spicy heat for that!) but yearning for light Summer (if not Spring) flavours such as Lavender.
. Easy to grow. UNLESS you have chickens (Mary, one of our flightiest, just loves it. Even if I clip her wings, she manages to fly over the orchard fence and onto my little herb plot into which I have planted plenty of rocket…). Imagine pepper. Imagine spice. Imagine real flavour. Add it to salads. Or add it at the end to a dish – any dish frankly if, like me, you love it on pretty much everything. (Not tried it yet on puddings yet…!). It is the type of herb that you need to add at the end though as its real spicy hit dissipates a bit if you cook it in any way. Stir frying it is okay but long slow cooking is to be avoided I find. And if you let it flower, you have both flavour and beauty in your dish.
. Well, where to start? Not all Lavenders taste the same, that much I do know. I love Lavender Meerlot and Lavender Edelweiss. I tend to avoid the traditional ubiquitous Provencal/French ones. All dark blue flowers on tall thin spikes! I find their flavours a bit tart. And bitter. Choose one that you enjoy the flavour of. If it looks pretty, so much the better! In Winter/Autumn, I like to make Sunday lunch with Lavender. Either stuffed in a pumpkin and slow roasted OR put in a roasting tin/slow cooker, with some mutton on top. You lose the particular flavour of your Lavender but you are left with the most amazing sweetness. Always cook Lavender. Raw it can be just too much!
I made a lunch recently, using some Lavender taken from a friend’s garden when I was staying with her in Mallorca.
Here are some before and after photographs. We used broccoli, chillis, and pineapple (such a treat) and added some orange juice from the local oranges.
Here is the recipe:
Take a couple of drum sticks/any cut of chicken with the skin still on. Cut some Lavender, wash it, dry it well, and then chop that Lavender and stuff it under the skin of the chicken. Place the chicken then in a dish. Surround the chicken with small pieces of vegetable (eg potato, turnips – whatever is in season) AND add some chillis. Yes… the Lavender sweetness really complements the chilli. Then drizzle just a little oil over the top (I prefer Rapeseed Oil) so that you get a lovely combination of chicken juice and oil when the dish is cooked, with your chilli adding some heat to the juice. Cover your dish with foil or a lit. Cook it low and slow (if you have used chicken, remember to skewer the chicken in the thickest part to make sure clear liquid is released to indicate it is cooked. Or use a thermometer to make sure it has reached the appropriate heat.)
Until next month… happy cooking with herbs!