Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A touch of lavender

Whenever my mom comes to visit us in Holland, we take turns in the kitchen. There are days when she cooks for us the traditional Greek dishes that I miss from home, days when I'm in heaven because I get to taste her cooking that I crave almost every single day.

Her stunning tyropita, mousakas, dolmadakia and giouvetsi are among the dishes she makes, with me hovering over her, trying to memorize her movements, her pinches of this and that, her special touch.

And then there are the days when I cook for her. I'm eager to introduce her to new flavor combinations and ingredients that she doesn't use in her everyday cooking and I always try to impress her with my special desserts and savory meals that she normally would not make at home.

There are some dishes though that are not particularly fancy or extravagant or that different, except perhaps for a single ingredient that once you add it to a dish you otherwise are familiar with, it changes everything. The dish is transformed, it becomes unique and surprises you with its flavor.

Lavender is an ingredient that I never used to enjoy. I've had it in desserts, cakes in particular, but it mostly reminded me of my underwear drawer. Eating it was never a pleasant experience. And then I tried a recipe by Rachel Khoo, for a lavender, lemon and honey-marinated roasted chicken. After the first bite, I became a convert.

Who knew lavender could taste this good? I was smitten by the taste of the chicken with its juicy flesh and crispy, caramelized skin. The sweetness of the honey, the floral and slightly herby quality of the lavender, the freshness and acidity of the lemon, everything was fantastic.

Such a simple dish, such en effortless combination of flavors and aromas, it swiftly became a staple in my house. Along with some small potatoes with their skins still on and a refreshing rocket salad, it's one of my favorite chicken dishes.

Honey, Lemon and Lavender-Marinated Roasted Chicken
Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen

Make sure your lavender is appropriate for culinary use. The amount of lavender in the dish is not a lot and it's not overpowering, so don't be afraid to use it. It gives such a wonderfully aromatic dimension to the dish.

Also, choose your honey carefully; you want to use one whose flavor you enjoy and that it's not overwhelming.

Yield: 2-4 main-course servings

1 chicken, about 1,200 g, cut into 6-8 pieces*

for the marinade
1 heaped Tbsp dried edible lavender
2 garlic cloves, mashed
The leaves of 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
4 Tbsp good quality olive oil
4 Tbsp runny honey
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
Freshly ground black pepper

*I always cut the chicken into six pieces; legs, wings and breasts. You can also cut it into eight pieces, separating the legs into thighs and drumsticks, but I prefer not to because they remain more juicy.

Special equipment: mortar and pestle (optional), plastic wrap or plastic bag appropriate for storing food

Place the lavender in the mortar and slightly crush it with the pestle, cracking open the dried buds. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, place the lavender on a clean surface, like your kitchen counter or a cutting board, and crush it with the back of a wooden spoon.

Prepare the marinade
In a large bowl, add the lavender, garlic, thyme, olive oil, honey, lemon zest and juice and a little black pepper and mix well with a spoon.

Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and coat them well with the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or, alternatively, place the chicken pieces with the marinade in a plastic bag suitable for storing food and seal it. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 45 minutes, or up to 4 hours. If you choose to marinate the chicken for more than 1 hour, place it in the refrigerator. Take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before you put it in the oven, to allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 390 Fahrenheit.

Place the marinated chicken in a roasting tray large enough to fit all the pieces in one layer, drizzle the marinade on top and add salt to taste.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken takes on a golden brown color and the skin becomes crispy and caramelized. Also, if you insert a knife or skewer on the thickest part of the chicken pieces, the juices should run clear and not reddish in color. Don't cook for longer because the chicken will dry out and become tough.

Serve in dishes along with the delicious juices from the pan. They are perfect for dunking your bread in.
I usually serve this dish with small potatoes with their skins on that I have boiled in salted water and then oiled lightly with olive oil. You can also serve it with puréed, fried or roasted potatoes, or with rice.



  1. Lavender in chicken? Hmmm...I'm not sure I can quite imagine how this tastes. Guess I need to give it a try and see for myself!

  2. I trust your taste and am therefore very intrigued. Your photographs are gorgeous and the chicken looks perfectly cooked.

  3. Here's a chicken dish I could easily make, we 've got heaps and heaps of lavender in our mountain garden; love it, looks just irresistible!

  4. This sounds so delicious and just a little different form the roasted chicken we make with lavender, lemon and rosemary under the skin of the chicken. I think the honey would make a really nice difference. I love your Spode plate (it looks like Spode, anyway). I hope your mother enjoyed it, and that you two had a wonderful visit together.

  5. Magda--my mouth is watering. that chicken is beautifully prepared, golden and juicy. I forget about using lavender--because I have tasted it Overused in a dish. A little goes a long way. But paired with lemon, garlic, thyme and honey in the marinade, I can imagine it is wonderful.

    What a treat for your mom!

  6. Eileen — do try it.

    Denise — thanks for the vote of confidence :)

    Joumana — it's certainly a good way to use lavender!

    David — it's a great dish, you must give it a try. I have no idea what a Spode plate is :) I have to check the back of the plate; it's from England but I don't remember the brand.

    nancy — yes, I know what you mean. It scared me too before I gave it a try in this dish. It's beautiful!

  7. I feel the same about lavander! Maybe I should try this recipe.

  8. The chicken looks delicious. I must admit that I bought lavender once to use it in desserts and after not using it for months, it ended up in a tulle sachet as moth repellent. I must give it another chance.

  9. I made this the other night. It came out amazing. I put it on the bottom rack at 400 degrees. A little over half way cooking it started to brown on top. I took it out and flipped over all the chicken. Then I took a baster and put the juices all over it again. This came out wonderful! And you're right.... dipping bread in it is awesome.

    1. I'm so glad you liked it. It's one of my favorite dishes, I'm actually making it tonight. :)

  10. My daughter and I loved this dish. The smells that came from the oven were fantastic. We set the table and pretended we were in France lol. It was a culinary adventure. Will definitely be making this again. Thank you soooo much.

  11. Tks Magda, cause I couldnt find the recipe at Rachel s site.

  12. I used your recipe for couples dinner night at my house. It turned out great! The chicken was so juicy and delicious! Everyone loved it especially the skeptics :)

  13. I am dying to try this. Just had an amazing confiture of blueberry and lavender. Stunning.

  14. Were do yo buy cooking lavender in england please

    1. Hi Kevin. I live in the Netherlands, not the UK.