Whether it was the package of cupcakes to be used in the entree round, or the Parmesan that popped up for dessert, Chopped Canada this week had no shortage of awkward items that were to be used. Out of all of the ingredients that were pulled out of the baskets, I opted for one that I see chefs on television shows fail with most often: lavender.
When used lightly, lavender can add a beautiful, floral sort of sweetness to dishes. However, when it’s overused it can taste like an old woman’s perfume. Even twice on this season’s Top Chef Canada, we’ve seen chefs make unsuccessful dishes with lavender. Recently, I saw it used in a chicken pot pie on a restaurant menu. Now, I can’t speak to the taste of this as I didn’t order it, but that is one combination I will likely never try at home!
We’re going to keep things simple here because these little dried flowers can be extremely powerful. First - a simple syrup. If you like to mix your own cocktails at home, this is a perfect way to start experimenting with lavender, especially when it comes to gin or vodka and soda-based beverages. The great thing about playing with a simple syrup is that you can adjust it to your tastes, adding more or less as you see fit.
Here, I’ve added the simple syrup to a homemade iced tea, but toss an ounce (or two) of vodka into the mix and a splash of soda and you’ve got yourself the perfect patio drink now that it’s finally warming up out there!
For dessert, I made a cream that’s been infused with lavender. Again, since the temperature’s rising, this combination of macerated berries and fragrant, airy cream makes for an ideal spring or summer dessert. Try using this lavender chantilly cream to top citrus-forward desserts like lemon tarts or key lime pie.
Lavender Simple Syrup
Yields: 1 cup
Total cook time: 6 minutes
Simple syrup ingredients:
1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender
Simple syrup directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a small pan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
2. Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and keep cool in the refrigerator to use as desired.
Lemon Lavender Iced Tea
Yields: 4- 6 servings
Iced tea ingredients:
6 cups steeped and cooled black tea (like Orange Pekoe or Assam)
⅔ cup lavender simple syrup, more or less to taste
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Iced tea directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a pitcher and stir to combine.
2. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Macerated Strawberries and Lavender Chantilly Cream
Yields: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Strawberries and cream ingredients:
3 cups strawberries, quartered with tops trimmed
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅓ cup icing sugar
Strawberries and cream directions:
1. Place first three ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
2. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using. (Use within 1 day of preparing.)
3. Place cream and lavender in a small pot and heat on stove on medium heat until cream begins to steam, but is not boiling.
4. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
5. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, about 45 minutes.
6. Pour once more through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, add vanilla and icing sugar and whip using a whisk or a hand mixer until peaks form.
7. Chill cream in the fridge until ready to serve.
8. To serve: place several generous spoonfuls of cream into a small bowl and top with macerated berries.
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