It is lavender time in Provence and as you cans see, lavender is the centrepiece of our garden in summer. It forms a band between our farmhouse and the olive groves… almost a division between work and play… Although anyone who gardens would know that lavender is all work and not much play. It is worth it… the cutting back, the weeding between the rows and all the other efforts that make it spectacular. The lavender this year is early… it started to bloom a couple of weeks ago… and right now it is at its vibrant best… Lavender flowers start out as a soft, almost baby blue colour and as the blossoms open, the hue intensifies until the tiny blooms become a potent shade of violet… As the colour deepens so does the fragrance… Imagine the heady perfume that wafts in the evening air.
Sometimes in my less romantic moments, I think… ‘Lavender and Provence, what a cliche’… yet… every year I am enchanted by the colour, the beauty and the fragrance. Each year I think… it cannot be any more glorious… It is. I see it as a giant bouquet in our garden… a welcome to friends, a talking point and a wonderful prize from nature. The purple changes colour with the light, with the shadows… As I write this I can see that it is softer, rosier than these photographs I took last night.
Lavender is a natural habitat for bees… I enjoy walking underneath the purple haze and listening to the ‘buzz’… this sound has a way of making all things seem right in the world… Like me, the butterflies adore this paradise… I love their gentle floating motion, as they wing their way in and out of the bushes… At the end of the season, we clip the lavender back and tie it into bundles… Sometimes, when time permits, I collect the dried flowers and leave them in bowls around the house… at other times I stack the bundles in baskets and use them to light the fire in winter… the natural oil makes for a great fire-starter.
Lavender and olive trees… they seem to go together… in my world any way…. To tempt you… a delicious and easy recipe for lavender ice cream.
Ingredients: (for four servings)
- 6ozs honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers or 1 level teaspoon dried culinary lavender
- ¾ pint double cream
- Place the honey into a heavy bottomed saucepan, over a low heat.
- Crush the lavender flowers with a spoon, and add them to the honey.
- Stir in the cream and mix gently.
- If you have an ice cream machine, transfer the mixture and follow the manufacturer’s usual directions until frozen.
- If you don’t have an ice cream machine, whisk the mixture until it becomes thick. Put it in a shallow container suitable for freezing, cover, and place in the freezer. After half an hour, take it out. It should have started freezing from the outside edges, but not be fully frozen in the middle. Whisk to break down the ice crystals and make it smooth. Put it back in the freezer and repeat after another half an hour. You may need to do this a total of three or four times until the ice- cream is frozen through and smooth, with lavender speckles.
Ice Cream Serving Tips:
- Move the ice cream from the freezer to the fridge about half an hour before serving, and it will be the perfect texture.
- Serve small quantities of lavender ice cream in a shallow wineglass or dish, with plain shortbread,and garnish with a fresh sprig of lavender, for a dessert with a difference!
To Store the Lavender Ice Cream
- Put lavender ice cream into a suitable container with about half an inch spare at the top to allow the mixture to expand.
- Lay a sheet of clingfilm against the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Store it in the coldest part of the freezer.
Try it… you won’t be disappointed… it is an unusual but superb flavour… and one that will keep your guests guessing…. xv