A week or so back I was contacted by the Provence tourist board with the email subject line being “A (hopefully) interesting proposition”. I open the email and read on with interest but unfortunately it wasn’t a break for two in Provence! Instead they were offering me a box of French products to cook with. The exact contents of the pack were unknown but lavender was more than likely to be included.
Now as you’re all aware I cook more than my fair share of Italian dishes so I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I thought about it though and decided it would be good to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I agreed and a few days later a box was delivered to my house. I opened the box and the smell of lavender filled my home. The box contained dried lavender suitable for cooking with, lavender infused olive oil, bay leaves, goats cheese biscuits and seasoned dried tomato paste. A bit of a random combination I’m sure you’ll agree so they definitely weren’t all going to be in the same dish.
I grabbed my some what neglected and dusty copy of Larousse gastronomique from the book shelf and sat down to research the cooking in Provence and in particular the use of lavender. Unfortunately I found little inspiration or help in this my only French cook book. I’ll admit I haven’t used this book much but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I found it difficult to find a recipe in the book and there was no mention of lavender at all. So I headed off to the internet. I found a few really detailed and useful posts on cooking with lavender and making lavender sugar on prepped. I also found a wide variety of French recipes on delicious magazine’s website.
So far I have prepared some lavender sugar following the directions from prepped and in a week or so it will be ready for me to use and I already know what I am going to make with it but I will leave that for another blog post.With the more savoury ingredients I cooked chicken chasseur last night and I have to say it was delicious. A real eye opener that I need to push myself outside of my comfort zone of British and Italian cooking and try more different cuisines and recipes in general. The smells coming from the kitchen whilst it was simmering away were mouth watering. I suspect a big hit of flavour came from the dried tomato paste. Even before I put it in the pan it smelt fantastic. The ingredients are dried tomatoes, sunflower oil, peeled tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, mozzarella, salt and pepper. I’ve never paid much attention to the tomato pastes available in the supermarkets over here and stuck to simple tomato puree/paste but I’ll be on the look out for something similar in the future. I served the chicken chasseur with some crushed new potatoes and it was the perfect meal for a rainy monday evening.
So that only leaves the goats cheese biscuits (some of which got crushed in the post) so I imagine they’ll make good “croutons” with a salad and the lavender infused olive oil. I have no idea what to do with the oil so if any one has ever used it I would love to know what it works well for.
From Delicious magazine
4 skinned and boned chicken thighs
2 large fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tbsp tomato purée
100ml dry white wine
100ml chicken stock
150g small chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 bay leaf
100g fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
- Open out the chicken thighs and place skinned-side down on a work surface. Sprinkle with half the thyme and some seasoning, roll back into shape and tie at each end with string.
- Heat a deep, non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden all over. Set aside.
- Add more oil if needed, the shallot and garlic to the pan.
- Fry for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.
- Stir in the purée, cook for 1 minute, add the wine and stock, and bring to the boil.
- Return the chicken to the pan with the mushrooms, remaining thyme, bay leaves and some seasoning.
- Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Uncover, stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 30-35 minutes.
- Turn the chicken now and then, cooking until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced.
- Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with mashed potatoes or new potatoes.