Friday, April 19, 2013

Orange and Lavender - a culinary combo

We have a wonderful Washington Navel Orange tree in your yard. In fact the oranges are so good that I am ruined for shop-bought oranges. Once these oranges are gone I probably won't eat another orange until next January. But that's okay. I'll fill the void with tomatoes and then pomegranates. In the mean time, we literally have baskets of oranges.
Also beautiful at this time of the year is the lavender blossom. It makes quite the companion to oranges in recipes.

There are many different varieties of lavender and not all of them are ideal for eating. I did read that all are edible though some are less palatable than others. The best one for cooking is the Provence lavender. The link has a good picture of Provence lavender along with exciting recipes for using it.

I have several varieties in my garden. It took me a while to figure out which was which, but I think I have it figured out.
Provence Lavender Flower

The flower buds are more spread out along the stem than the French or the Spanish lavenders.
French Lavender
I did use the French lavender in an early experimental recipe by mistake. Neither I nor my guinea-pig friends died, but the flavor had a camphor edge to it. The Provence tasted much better.

Below is a picture of the most gorgeous of the lavenders, in my opinion. It's the Spanish Lavender and the bees seemed to think it tasted fine to them.
All the lavenders look and smell beautiful. If anything, the Provence is the least showy, more straggly variety and better placed in a herb garden than in a flower bed...oh well, I live and learn!

So, I adapted three recipes to include lavender, inspired by my friend Anne who is fellow writer as well as a Martha Stewart clone (but in only the ways you'd want her to be - i.e. much prettier, wittier and not an ex-con!) Anne made me Meyer Lemon and lavender marmalade once and it was so yummy I had to ban it from the house!

The abundance of oranges, coupled with my new Kitchen Ninja blender/processor system, led to the conclusion that I needed to make orange sorbet. I wanted it to be dairy free, and easy, so I amalgamated a couple of recipes until I got the sorbet right. Then I experimented with the lavender, and here's what I came up with....

Orange and Lavender Sorbet

Makes: 2 Servings
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange
  • 2 frozen navel oranges (peeled and separated before you freeze them overnight)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of lavender flowers (for plain orange sorbet just leave this out)

Method:
1. Add all ingredients to the blender jar.

2. Pulse to begin the blending, then blend until you get the consistency you like.

3. Eat immediately, or freeze to create a harder consistency.

I tried to get snazzy at this stage and saved some of the orange-halves and filled them with sorbet before popping them in the freezer. Once in the freezer, the tray must have shifted and before the sorbet had time to set it oozed out of the cups then it froze. The result looked very "art installation" to me.

Still tasted great!

After all at cold food there's nothing better that a nice cup of tea. And of course some Shortbread. I adapted the recipe from The Everything Lavender website and turned it into...

Orange and Lavender Shortbread  

Use the recipe on The Everything Lavender website and add a table spoon of orange zest. 
Orange zest and lavender flowers

It was so yummy I never even got a chance to photograph it before it was all eaten!

And finally - the Irish in me had to do this...

Orange and Lavender wheaten bread
I've already got a recipe posted for making the wheaten bread using orange pulp, but I think I've improved it, and it's easier to make. Win and win!


  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup of porridge oats (not the microwave or easy cook ones, but the real ones your Mammy used)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of orange zest
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lavender 
  • 3-3.5 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1.   Preheat the oven to 450o F. 2.   In a big bowl, sift the dry ingredients together making sure the bicarbonate of soda is evenly mixed. 3.   If you have herb grinder or blender, finely chop the orange zest and lavender flowers before adding them to the mix. I used a smoothie bullet.
 
4.   Quickly add the orange juice and stir to get a soft, raggy looking dough.  Don't spend too long mixing as speed is important here.  As soon as the bicarbonate of soda gets wet, the chemical reaction begins that causes the dough to rise, so you don't have to knead this bread at all.  In fact, more than a few seconds will cause the loaf to be tough, so the good news is - less is best.
5.   Turn the dough out on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour.
6.   Shape it into a slightly domed circle about 6-8 inches in diameter.
7.   Use a sharp knife to cut a cross right across the loaf to about half the depth of the loaf.
8.   Gently (sudden jarring may disturb the developing carbon dioxide bubbles that help it rise) set the baking sheet into the oven and bake at 450o F for 10 minutes.
9.   Then, turn the oven down to 400o F for 35 minutes.
10. Tap the bottom of the loaf - a hollow sound means it's done.
11. Put on a rack to cool.
12. Serve with butter (ideally melting and dripping of the bread), honey and a big mug of Yogi's Honey Lavender tea.



 Lavender is great for a multitude of ailments. I use lavender oil to sooth allergy attacks. I just rub a couple of drops in the palm of my hand and hold it close to my nose.

It is a wonderful stress reliever and what with this weeks news events - explosions in Boston, Baghdad and Texas, to name (unfortunately) only a few of the news stories that upset me this week - it's good to chill and be grateful for the good things in our lives.
This post is dedicated to all the victims of violence on our planet.

Byddi Lee

 

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