Apparently a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth 1st, Lavender Jelly or Conserve wouldprobably prove to be a bit of a table top talking piece these days. However just because you may not always see it nestling in next to the mint sauce and redcurrant jelly, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a surprisingly delightful little condiment.
Now don’t be fooled into thinking that Lavender Jelly is in fact a sweet jelly along the lines of that children’s party favourite, best served alongside ice cream (although a infusion of dried culinary lavender into a sweet syrup and then set into a jelly is an absolute delight). Lavender Jelly is a condiment that wonderfully compliments a number of savoury dishes, as it is based on lavender infused apple juice, sugar and vinegar. Think of it as a cross between a chutney and a redcurrant jelly and use it as you would both of these! Pop it on your cheese board (a good strong cheddar is one of its best friends), spread it onto your ham sandwich, whizz it into a salad dressing or melt a spoonful into your lamb gravy – yum!
The last use of lavender jelly in a lamb gravy is real winner. For centuries lavender and lamb have been cooked together to fantastic effect. You know how lavender looks a little similar to rosemary; well lavender can also be used in cooking in many of the ways that you would use rosemary, or used in addition to it to give a truly delicious flavour profile.
One of our favourite ways of cooking lavender and lamb is in a simple marinated lamb steak. Simply rub a mixture of 1 sprig of chopped rosemary, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 dessertspoon of our own dried culinary lavender*, a good splodge of runny honey (or use lavender honey), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good sprinkling of flaky sea salt and a good grinding of fresh black peppercorns, into about 1kg of lamb steaks. Give everything a really good mix together (popping everything into a plastic bag is a handy hint here) and then leave to marinate for as long as you can manage, but a couple of hours at least. The simply grill, BBQ or roast until your lamb is cooked just to your liking and has a gorgeous herby, floral, sweet, tangy flavour. Mmmmmm, drool!
But where’s the Lavender Jelly you all shout? Well rather than cooking with it in this recipe, serve your lovely Lavender Jelly as a condiment instead of a traditional mint sauce that could easily overwhelm all of the other lovely flavours that you spent so long marinating for. Serve this for a dinner party and your guests will a) think that you’re an amazing cook, when all you’ve done is squidge some things together in a bag and then leave them in the fridge and b) think that you are the most fantastically adventurous cook, when actually all you’ve done is take a lesson from the past!
*Note: we always recommend using a specific culinary lavender in your cooking. Ours comes from our own lavendula augistifolia variety and has been cleaned and sieved ready for culinary use. This variety is carefully grown to ensure a subtler and more rounded flavour and is harvested when just the right amount of lavender essential oil has been produced – too little and the flavour would be too indistinct, but too much and the flavour can become overpowering and bitter.