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{Ingredient Guide} Lavender, Hâlhal, Lavande, الخزامي

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

Spring brings a birth of aromatic vegetables and herbs.  These aromatics premiates the countryside air, but also the Algerian kitchen.  The use of aromatic herbs is far from being a culinary frill. Grandmothers in generations past relayed on the true medicinal value of spring herbs.  Hundreds of proprietary knowledge is still embedded in the memory of the older generations. Sadly, is  being forgotten by our youth.  I believe it's a part of our cultural heritage we need to preserve.

Spring for me isn't only about the beauty of the natural lush green land, but also the abundance of certain aromatic herbs such pennyroyal (flyiou), rosemary (aeklil) and I think my utmost favourite lavender (hâlhal).

 Lavender in my mind encapsulate the essence of the Mediterranean. Not only it's naturally vibrant colour but its scent is captivating. You just need close your eyes and breathe deep. Your scenses will bring you right back to the sun-drenched hills of the Mediterranean no matter where you are. 

The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man. As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years.

In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian's, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word "lavo" meaning "to wash" that the herb took it's name. Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece. Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.

You can easily dry lavender flowers for use inside the home and enjoy the fragrance all year round:

All you will need is a pair of sharp scissors and some twine.

Cut the mature lavendar just before it blooms in the early morning. Cut matured lavender flowers just above the leaves, getting the longest stem possible on the flower. Bundle the lavender together and tie with the twine. Form a loop with which to hang the lavender.
Hang it upside in a dry place for about a week. Once dried, strip the flowers off the twigs and store in jars.  The leaves you can chop up for potpourri or a natural air freshener.

Cooking with Lavender: Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. In today's upscale restaurants, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as enhancements to both the flavor and appearance of food. 

As a member of the same family as many of our most popular herbs, it is not surprising that lavender is edible and that its use in food preparation is also returning. Flowers and leaves can be used fresh, and both buds and stems can be used dried. Lavender is a member of the mint family and is close to rosemary, sage, and thyme. It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savoury.

English Lavender (l. angustifolia and munstead) has the sweetest fragrance of all the lavenders and is the one most commonly used in cooking. The uses of lavender are limited only by your imagination. Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

Lavendar can be used to make lavendar infused sugar, honey, syrup, water or vinegar, but also in cooking/baking for custards, cakes, breads, marinades; jams, etc. Enchallah stay tuned for these soon.

In cooking, use 1/3 the quantity of dried lavender flowers to fresh lavender flowers. 
500g of dried lavender buds is about 15 cups.

Lavender has a sweet floral flavour and they look beautiful. They have a  very Earthy and fresh taste that matches exceptional well with lemon or chocolate.The key to cooking with lavender is to experiment; start out with a small amount of flowers, and add more as you go.

NOTE: Adding too much lavender to your recipe can be like eating perfume and will make your dish bitter. Because of the strong flavor of lavender,  the secret is that a little goes a long way.

The lavender flowers add a beautiful color to salads. Lavender can also be substituted for rosemary in many bread recipes. The flowers can be put in sugar and sealed tightly for a couple of weeks then the sugar can be substituted for ordinary sugar for a cake, buns or custards. Grind the lavender in a herb or coffee grinder or mash it with mortar and pestle.

The spikes and leaves of lavender can be used in most dishes in place of rosemary in most recipes. Use the spikes or stems for making vegetable; fruit, seafood or meat kabobs. Just place your favorite fruit on the stems and grill.

Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a cocktail juices, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savoury dishes also, from hearty stews to reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. Dried lavender blossoms used in perfumes and pot pourris.

Medicinal use:
Lavender is said to heal insect bites and burns as well as repel insects. It can soothe headaches if you apply it to the temples and it helps you sleep if you have the flowers by your pillow. Dried lavender is used to repel moths in clothes closets. Lavender oil is also said to cure acne. The essential oil has antiseptic properties, it was used in hospitals in the 1st world war to disinfect wards. And of course it’s quite nice in the bath, for aromatherapy, and can be found in household products like room fresheners.

What are the health claims for Lavender ?

  • Helps you relax and get rid of anxiety and tension
  • Promotes peaceful sleep
  • Gives relief to sunburnt skin
  • Can be used as a natural antiseptic for minor cuts
  • Soothes mild stomach upsets
  • Helps get rid of dandruff and promotes healthy shiny hair

 For more information visit the Museum of Lavender.

I also created a Pinterest board dedicated to lavendar and ways to use it recipes for collecting ideas and keeping track of links. If you have any loquat recipes you would like to share, please post them in the comments below. 

And here is an interesting article by EcoMuslim. Check it out!


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