In the days I lived in Hong Kong, due to the crazy hectic and fast paced life, there were times I couldn’t get myself to sleep. After a trip to the local market and a chat with my favourite herbal tea lady, I found myself with a bag of what she called ‘sleepy tea’. This will make you sleep very well she said in her Chinese accent. So I went home and just before bedtime, brewed myself a cup of the little dry purple buds. The sweet heady aroma of these tiny buds filled my nostrils and wafted though the entire house, suddenly reminding me of my grandmothers Yardley powder. You guessed right, it was Lavender. And just like that I had my first ever Lavender bud experience. The tea was indeed very relaxing and put me to sleep, and still continues to do.
Lavender is well known to mankind since ancient Greek times. The flowers have long since been used to treat digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. Until World War I, lavender was used to treat and disinfect wounds. For centuries, English farmers would place lavender flowers in their hats to prevent headache and sunstroke. Women would place sachets of lavender in their closets and wardrobes for fragrance, in addition to using it in potpourri. Hospitals used lavender as an antiseptic and disinfectant to sterilize surfaces and equipment.
Today, lavender is used in much of the same way, for many of the same reasons. Both the flowers of the plant and the essential oils derived from the plant can be used for therapeutic uses. The essential oils extracted from the flowers contain more than 150 compounds. Lavender essential oil is easily and quickly absorbed into the skin, and can be detected in the blood in as little as five minutes. Lavender is most commonly used for anxiety, depression, mental exhaustion, insomnia, scrapes and wounds, digestive problems, headaches, skin problems and women’s health problems. In addition to this, lavender can be used to treat exhaustion, heat exposure, fevers, aches and pains, over-exertion, jet lag, rashes, sprains, sunburn, sunstroke, bruises and burns. It can also be used as a disinfectant and insect repellant. Lavender is an antiseptic, natural antibiotic, sedative, detoxifier.
Lavender has a refreshing clean smell that is unmistakable and even has its place in the culinary cuisine. Its subtle sweet flavour and floral scent adds a nice and light taste to dishes.
Lavender pairs well with a lot of foods such as pork, lamb, lemon, olives, vanilla, honey, pistachio, pears, ginger and rosemary.
If you are experimenting with it for the first time, try using the leaves and buds sparingly since it can be an overpowering strong herb. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste as you go. In desserts the floral herb is just at delicious, Lavender and chocolate chip ice creams, sorbets, granitas, gelatos, cakes, puddings, spring-lavender cupcakes, lavender cookies, macaroons are just a few to get started.
For 4-6 servings
For the panna cotta:
* 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
* 1/4 cup water
* 2 cups heavy cream
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1 tablespoon edible lavender buds
* 1 1/2 cups milk + ½ cup fresh yougurt( mixed well together)
Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Reserve.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, honey and lavender buds to a simmer. When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture among 4-6 cups or ramekins. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.
For the grilled peaches:
* 4 ripe medium peaches
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Prepare the peaches:
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Slice each half in half and toss them in a bowl with the vanilla extract and brown sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes while you preheat a grill with a medium-high heat. Grill skin side down until skin is slightly charred, about three minutes. Turn and grill on the other 2 sides until you get nice grill marks, about 1 minute on each side.
Divide the peaches among equally and serve with the panna cotta.