Yesterday, on my way to the greengrocers, I found a little communal garden down a little backstreet that I’ve never taken before. Well, that’s not strictly true; last time I went down there it was winter, and me being me, there were no pretty flowers to turn my head. The garden in August however, is a totally different story. It’s covered in beautiful flowers, fruits and herbs, all smelling amazing and buzzing with bumble bees.
So I went about collecting. I didn’t want to take too much, so I was mindful about what I already had at home, but ticked off a few things I would have bought at the greengrocers. The herbs smelled absolutely amazing…after going round deciding what I wanted my hands smelled like a mixture of mint, lemon balm and rosemary, but remembering I had lots feta in the fridge to use up, I went for rosemary, and made some delicious baked feta with homemade focaccia when I got home. Honestly, nothing is more inspiring for me than seeing ingredients fresh in the ground and then taking them straight home to cook, even if it’s just a small part of the dish.
Something else I couldn’t resist was the lavender. The smell of lavender always reminds me of my mum. Whenever I buy her a bath oil or body lotion it’s almost always with that scent. Each time I smell it it reminds me of being in the garden with her when we were little, she would always pinch the buds and let us smell her hands, or when she’d call up the stairs for me to bring her some socks and I’d find a little bag of dried lavender in her sock drawer. Cute.
I’ve never really cooked with lavender as a main ingredient, as, like many, I’m not massive on floral flavours in food. But this changed for me when I became obsessed with the lavender meringues by the Meringue Girls. Not only were they the prettiest (dappled purple kisses that looked like the sky) but the lavender was really subtle and worked so well with the marshmallowy meringue texture.
So I decided to see if I could make it work in shortbread. Ideally, If I’d have had time, I would have put the lavender in caster sugar and given it a little whizz in a food processor, or even left a few sprigs in a jar of sugar for a few days to make lavender sugar. But I didn’t have time for that, and as I mentioned before I wanted the flavour to be subtle rather than over powering.
Makes 10 shortbreads
200g plain flour
50g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp fresh lavender buds, gently washed and dried
100g milk chocolate
1 tsp Demerara sugar mixed with 1 tsp caster sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.
Start by creaming together the butter and lavender buds, releasing the flavour of the lavender, and set aside.
Combine the flour and caster sugar, then add in the butter and use your fingertips to rub in. Tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a ball, being careful not to knead too much. Place the ball onto a piece of baking parchment and roll out to about 1cm thickness. Now, you can either use a cutter to make your biscuits or shape into one large shortbread. If you decide to do this, make sure you make lines on the dough so you can cut it easier later. Prick your shortbreads using a fork, sprinkle with half your demerara caster mix and place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the rest of your sugar mix.
To melt your chocolate, place it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle over the biscuits once they’re cool. You can sprinkle a couple of extra lavender buds over if you like. Enjoy!