Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cooking heaven

I've been to cooking heaven and it's called The Essential Ingredient. I'm ashamed to admit that a baking aficionado like me, who loves trying new recipes and ingredients and is an avid reader of Gourmet Traveller, whose recipes quite often include an ingredient list marked with an asterisk that says "available from The Essential Ingredient", has never been to this shop. It's been on my list of places to visit for a very long time but I've never done it. This year I'm determined to stop making endless lists of places I want to visit and actually do it.

So I made the effort to visit and I could have spent hours there. Recipes churned through my mind as everywhere I looked I saw jars, bottles and packages of ingredients: preserved lemons; piquillos; anchovies; capers in salt; peppercorns in brine; extra virgin olive oil from around the world; sherry vinegar; verjuice; quince paste; carnaroli rice; harissa; type 00 flour; puy lentils; quinoa; olive tapenade; vanilla beans; saffron threads; chestnut flour; orange blossom water; chestnut puree; jars of milk, white and dark couverture buttons; light and dark muscovado sugar; rich, dark cocoa powder; light and dark demerara sugar; rosewater; cocoa nibs; cornichons in vinegar and slabs of couverture chocolate. There were dozens of glossy cookbooks, a wall of shelves filled with white dinnerware; and a huge range of cooking tools and implements. Oh for a huge budget, unlimited pantry space and a free week to devote to cooking and baking! I could easily have filled the entire car.

But I was forced to restrain myself and came home with just a few "essentials". One small item that made its way into my basket was dried lavender flowers, which I used to flavour some sweet butter biscuits. The lavender flowers impart a gentle flavour to the biscuit, giving them the faint taste of a lazy summer's afternoon. Taking just 15 minutes from the time you pull out the mixing bowl to the time you pop a warm biscuit into your mouth, it is also the sort of biscuit that is perfect to whip up on a lazy summer's afternoon.


125g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
200g SR flour, sifted
2 tsp dried lavender flowers

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, then gently mix in the sifted flour and lavender flowers, taking care not to overmix. Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on baking paper-lined trays, flattening slightly with your hand. Leave room for spreading. Bake at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.

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