Lavender Pom-Berry Sorbet (8 servings)
Lavender has a great affinity for blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate and honey. The honey not only rounds out the flavour but helps keep the sorbet texture smooth.
Make ahead: The berry-juice mixture needs to infuse for at least an hour and up to three hours. The sorbet needs to firm up in the freezer for at least an hour before serving, and it can be frozen in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
• 2 cups fresh or frozen/defrosted blackberries, coarsely chopped
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 1/4 cups pure bottled pomegranate-blueberry juice, plus more as needed
• 6 tbs sugar
• 1/2 cup clover honey, plus more as needed
• 1 tbs chopped fresh culinary lavender spikes (bloom heads) or 1 tbs dried culinary lavender buds (see headnote for Candied Lavender Pecans)
• 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
Thoroughly stir together the blackberries, water, pomegranate-blueberry juice, sugar and honey in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils gently, and cook until the berries are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the lavender and lime juice, then remove from the heat.
Taste, and thoroughly stir in a little more honey, as needed. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (fresh lavender will infuse much more quickly than dried buds). Taste; if the lavender flavour is pronounced enough, strain the mixture through a sieve into a 4-cup measure. Press down with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. For more intense lavender flavour, refrigerate, tasting occasionally, for up to three hours before straining. Stir enough additional pomegranate-blueberry juice into the measure to yield a generous three three-fourth cups.
Refrigerate, covered, until well chilled. Pre-chill a storage container to hold the finished sorbet. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s directions. Immediately put the sorbet in the chilled freezer container and freeze until firm, at least an hour, before serving. Freeze for up to two weeks.
Nutrition/half cup serving: 140 calories, 0g protein, 37g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 2g dietary fibre, 34g sugar
Pan-Grilled Apricots With Honey-Orange Lavender Syrup (5 or 6 servings)
This is a riff on a dish served at Nopi that was so popular, the London restaurant’s co-owner Yotam Ottolenghi included it in the Nopi cookbook. Here, the stone fruit is quickly seared, then cooked down until slightly caramelised.
It can go savoury or sweet; serve alongside robust grilled or roasted meats or poultry dishes. Or create a simple but memorable dessert by dividing the fruit among individual dessert plates or bowls and topping each serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Make ahead: The syrup mixture needs to infuse for at least an hour and up to four hours.
For the syrup:
• 2/3 cup clover honey
• 1 tsp finely grated orange zest plus 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs fresh orange juice or blood orange juice
• 1 tbs chopped fresh culinary lavender spikes or 1 tbs dried culinary lavender buds
• 1 tsp coarsely crushed coriander seed
For the fruit:
• 6 or 7 medium, just ripe peaches or nectarines, or 8 or 9 large just-ripe apricots
• 1 tbs unsalted butter
• 1 tsp olive oil or safflower oil
• Pinch fine sea salt
For the syrup: Stir together the honey, the zest and juice, lavender and coriander seed in a medium non-reactive saucepan until well blended. Bring almost to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let stand an hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Taste; if a more pronounced flavour is desired, cover and continue infusing the syrup for up to four hours, until the desired flavour is developed.
Reheat the syrup over medium-low heat until warmed through, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass jar or other non-reactive storage container. Discard any solids. The yield is one generous cup; you’ll need 1/3 to 1/2 cup for this recipe (to taste). The rest can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
For the fruit: Thoroughly wash the fruit and pat it dry. Cut each peach or nectarine into five or six wedges; cut apricots in four or five slices. Discard the pits.
Heat the butter, oil and salt in a large skillet over high heat until bubbling and hot but not smoking. Add the fruit pieces, flesh sides down; sear them until nicely browned, about two minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of the honey-lavender syrup, reduce the heat to medium and, cook, stirring and gently turning the fruit, for two to three minutes more, until the liquid boils down and begins to caramelise but the fruit pieces still hold their shape. Use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the fruit to a plate.
Add two or four more tablespoons of syrup (the larger amount for tarter fruit) to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until reduced and slightly thickened. Let cool in the skillet.
When ready to serve, return the fruit to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, gently stirring, just until reheated and well coated. Strew the fruit with fresh lavender “bloomlets” before serving, if desired. Pass syrup at the table, if you like.
Nutrition/serving (based on 6, using apricots, olive oil and 1/3 cup syrup): 110 calories, 1g protein, 21g carbohydrates, 3g fat, 2g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 45mg sodium, 1g dietary fibre, 19g sugar
Candied Lavender Pecans (8 servings, 2 cups)
These make wonderful cocktail munchies, snacks and garnishes for salads and cheese plates. If you can bear to part with them, package them nicely and give as a gift to somebody you really like.
For gently flavoured sugar, use only a tablespoon of dried lavender; add up to two tablespoons for a pronounced aroma and taste.
Buy only lavender designed for cooking purposes.
Make ahead: The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at a cool room temperature for up to two weeks or refrigerated for up to a month.
For the lavender sugar:
• 1 to 2 tbs dried culinary lavender buds
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• For the candied pecans
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
• 2 cups unsalted pecan halves
For the lavender sugar: Combine the lavender (to taste) and half cup of the sugar in a food processor. Process until the lavender is ground very finely, four to five minutes. (Alternatively, grind the lavender and sugar in a spice grinder for a minute.) Stir the ground lavender sugar through a fine-mesh strainer, then return the strained mixture to the processor. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar; process for 1 minute or until well combined. You’ll use half cup of the lavender sugar for the pecans; reserve the rest in an airtight container at room temperature.
For the candied pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Use a wooden spoon to stir together half cup of the lavender sugar and the salt in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar starts to melt, about two minutes. Working carefully, continuously stir and scrape the sugar into a pool until most is melted, being careful to avoid splashups.
Stir in the pecans until coated; this should take about two minutes. Don’t worry if the coating isn’t completely even. If at any point the pan smokes or the sugar or pecans smell burned, lift the pan from the burner and continue to stir.
Immediately transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast (middle rack), stirring every three or four minutes, until nicely browned and fragrant, but not burned; this should take seven to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven; immediately sprinkle over additional garnishing salt, if desired. Stir the pecans well, then spread them out on the foil-lined pan. Use forks to separate any clumps or clusters; don’t touch the nuts, as they will be extremely hot. Let them cool completely, then break up any remaining clumps with your hands before serving or storing.
Nutrition/1/4-cup serving: 220 calories, 2g protein, 16g carbohydrates, 18g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 65mg sodium, 2g dietary fibre, 13g sugar
(From cookbook author Nancy Baggett)