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29 July 2014

Lavender, Chilli & Rosemary Focaccia

Photo: © childsdesign
Focaccia originates from Italy and is enriched with olive oil, which gives the bread a soft texture. It can be topped with a variety of things, but rosemary and sea salt is the most common. We’ve gone a step further and used chilli flakes and some dried lavender flowers taking the flavour into another dimension.

Focaccia is the perfect bread to be enjoyed with charcuterie, cheeses or even just simply dipped into a rich balsamic or fruit vinegar.

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Enjoy the scent of lavender in the kitchen

Photo: © childsdesign
Right now the air is buzzing with the sound of bees bobbing about on the lavender and the sun is releasing the wonderful soothing scent which makes the garden a lovely place to relax.
Even when the lavender has finally finished flowering it can still be enjoyed until next summer. As long as you remember to dry some bunches and then crumble the flower heads into jars, the aroma packed blooms can be used around the home and in the kitchen.

The mediterranean plant has long been utilised for its health and wellbeing qualities and is the essential oil is used by aromatherapists to promote relaxation. It is an antiseptic and also has anti-inflammatory properties and was even used to disinfect hospital floors during the First World War. A little of the oil applied to your temples will soothe a headache and we can certainly vouch for its ability to aid sleep and relieve anxiety.

Photo: © childsdesign
Historically, lavender can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt where it was used for embalming and cosmetics. The ancient Greeks greatly appreciated its scent and the Romans made full use of its healing attributes. In fact it has been used throughout history to the present day from medicine through to insect repellent to perfume.

When we’re out in my garden tending to the fruit bushes, vegetable plants, and herbs, we often ponder how flowers could be used in our cooking, lavender being no exception. It is a strong flavour and should be used sparingly but lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes.

A couple of sprigs of the flowers tucked into a jar full of caster sugar gently infuses to give a wonderful ingredient for baking, the subtle fragrance is good in cakes and biscuits. It is also an unusual but interesting addition to rubs and marinades, perfectly complementing lamb or even chicken. A few of the dried flower buds can be dropped into milk or cream, gently warmed and left to allow their flavours to permeate to make a base for custard or ice cream.

Photo: © Womersley Foods
There are some producers on The Artisan Food Trail that use lavender in their products to the greatest of effect. Try the infused vinegars from Scrubby Oak Fine Foods or Womersley Foods.

Although there a few people who don’t like the smell of lavender as they associated it with elderly aunts’ handbags, we would urge them to try it in cooking as it really is a different story. Just take care not to use too much and it can transform a dish in a subtle yet surprising way.

We made a deliciously fragrant focaccia bread with just a sprinkling of lavender and you can have a go at making it yourself using our recipe.

Left: Womersley Foods' Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender Vinegar goes great with fish.

7 July 2014

Feta, Spinach & Mint Tart in Linseed Meal Pastry

Photo: childsdesign
This savoury tart is creamy and delicious, with a lovely salty tang from feta cheese. Spinach is an ideal partner for the cheese but the addition of fresh mint really lifts and brightens the flavour.
The pastry is quite special too as we’ve added some linseed meal giving an extra fresh nutty flavour.
The tart can be served warm or cold with a salad of tomatoes, cucumber,
red onion and black olives. It would also be ideal to take on a picnic too.

View recipe