It’s that time of year again, when the floral scent of lavender continues to fill the air.
The recent balmy weather has encouraged the aroma of the sweet herb to linger longer.
Whilst lavender flowers are widely dried, I often feel it’s underused in baking and cooking.
And now, as the flowers start to fade, it’s the optimum time to use them in the kitchen.
Historically lavender was a holy herb originating from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India.
It’s considered to have health and therapeutic benefits – to aid sleep, help skin blemishes, lower blood pressure and alleviate the hot flushes of the menopause.
It’s a natural insect repellent, a fragrance and a calming ingredient used in soaps, washes and lotions.
In cooking it’s more-often-than-not used to flavour biscuits, cakes and syrups.
You can also use the flowers to flavour cider vinegar – simply add the flower heads into an empty glass jar and top up with cider vinegar (one part flowers to three parts vinegar). Leave to infuse for two weeks and then strain. This can then be used to make salad dressings, bottling a flavour of summer for months to come.
In recent years however, my go-to recipe for really extracting the lavender flavour is in an ice cream.
If you fancy making your own lavender ice cream, get gathering the flowers right now before they begin to fade too far and use them to make this fragrant and refreshing dessert.
The floral creaminess of this ice cream makes it a joy to devour on a sunny summers day.
Here’s the recipe…
Lavender ice cream recipe
- 500 ml whole milk
- 35 lavender flower heads
- 6 large egg yolks
- 200 g caster sugar
- 500 ml double cream
Put the milk in a saucepan and add the lavender flowers. Bring to the boil, being careful not to let the milk boil over, pushing the lavender flowers into the milk so they are covered. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Bring the milk to just under the boil again and strain it through a sieve into a jug. Slowly – or a little at time – pour the warm milk onto the egg yolk and sugar mixture, beating all the time with a wooden spoon.
Pour the milk and egg mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over a very low heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to turn into a thin custard.
Fill your sink with cold water and place a large bowl in the water.
Immediately pour the custard into the bowl set in the cold water. Let it cool, stirring every so often.
When cool, stir the cream into the custard, cover and chill in the fridge.
Churn in an ice-cream machine or, if you don’t have a machine, pour the mixture into a shallow flat container that will fit in your freezer and cover it. Every couple of hours, remove the mixture and beat it – do this about three times during freezing.