I love bringing my garden into the kitchen; we’ve all heard of baking with lavender of course and many have probably done it too but savoury dishes with lavender takes some convincing, I know!
There are so many flowers that you can safely consume, just do a little research online to find out. Here in the UK, the Royal Horticultural Society does a good job with the information but my port of call is The Edible Flower Shop and a few other online sources. They give you a fairly comprehensive list of what’s safe to consume, including some suggestions and recipes. While I like to grow what I use, that’s not always possible, and these shops are a great source, especially for more exotic varieties of flowers.
If truth be told, most flowers appeal to me for their colour, more than their flavour or aroma. Some, like the lavender and rose, have a very strong and sweet fragrance that carries on into the dish. Herbes de Provence wouldn’t be the same without lavender in it. Others, like hibiscus in its dried form, is deliciously tart and perfect in desserts. Dried rose petals are also amazing used this way, they provide a touch of sweet.
A word about buying your edible flowers, and especially lavender, which is so easily found growing everywhere in the summer. Always buy the organic, culinary variety. Not just organic, make sure it says culinary or edible. The term organic is sometimes too loosely used, in my experience. I’ve always grown my lavender and as I don’t use pesticide in my garden, have always just picked the flower buds straight from the plant. But as I found out recently, dried culinary lavender is now so easily found in the UK, most of our larger supermarket chains do them.
Now, if you’ve never cooked savoury (or at all) with Lavender before, here’s a simple, recipe to start off with that you can do for Sunday lunch, Lavender and Sumac Roast Chicken. I’m pairing the sweet, floral lavender with the contrasting notes of sour and pungent Sumac with just a little bit of cumin for some depth. Lavender has a very potent bouquet, a little goes a very long, long way. Too much and the dish is ruined as everything will just taste a little soapy. What lavender does in a recipe is it imparts a delightful fragrance that enhances the flavour of your dish but to me, doesn’t actually provide any taste. Unless you use too much! Cooking is always a learning process and if you’ve never cooked with lavender before, it might take you a few attempts to get the balance right.
As far as cooking the chicken goes, follow my instructions or roast it the way you normally would. If you can’t get Sumac, just substitute it with some lemon juice, click on the link for Sumac to read more about this favourite Middle Eastern spice.
Fresh Lavender v Dried Lavender – use a third dried lavender buds to the fresh that you’re substituting. Dried is always more concentrated.Print
- 1 chicken (about 1.5kg/3 lbs)
- 1 medium onion, halved
- fresh lemon, halved
- 4 unopened lavender flower sprigs (the top bit) or 1 tsp dried buds
- 1 tbsp Sumac
- 2 cloves garlic
- quarter tsp cumin seeds
- half tsp black pepper
- half tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 190˚C/375˚F.
- In a pestle and mortar (or whatever chopper thing you use), crush the lavender flowers with the salt and garlic.
- Add all other marinade ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Place the chicken in your usual roasting dish, rub the marinade all over the chicken, including under the skin as far as you can go, being careful not to tear the skin.
- Place the onion and lemon halves in the chicken cavity.
- Cover (with a lid or foil) and roast for 1 and a half to 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, basting every 30 minutes or so.
- Leave the chicken uncovered for the last 20 minutes for a crispy, browned skin.
- Once cooked, take the chicken out of the oven, cover loosely with foil, then a tea towel and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes while you get the table ready.
- Serving Size: 4