Cooking with essential oils – Lavender Scones

The fragrant pharmacy

The fragrant pharmacy

It never really occurred to me that it was possible to cook with essential oils. I’m not sure why, given that I have had the book: ‘The Fragrant Pharmacy: A complete guide to aromatherapy & essential oils’ by Valerie Ann Worwood for sometime. It was published in 1990, so I guess I was a little wary of the chapter on cooking with essential oils and the subsequent recipes. In the back of my mind I thought it was probably published at a time when safety was not at the forefront of thinking and so I simply ignored that chapter. The potency of essential oils are frequently referred to in aromatherapy books and they are quick to point out safety considerations and what oils not to use with certain conditions etcetera, so cooking with essential oils just simply was a no go zone – I  never actually gave it any further thought, consideration or investigation at all. I had the general idea that it sounded unsafe, end of story.

It was my recent purchase of ‘Aroma: The magic of essential oils in food and fragrance’ by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson that had me begin to explore the concept of cooking with essential oils. It was then that I realised that the food industry does sometimes use essential oils for flavouring. An example is the Australian pana chocolate company based in Victoria. Of course many artificial flavours are used in the food industry, however, when they advertise natural flavours, they are often referring to real plant extracts and oils. Here in Tasmania we have essential oils of tasmania that farm and produce a number of essential oils and plant extracts for the food, flavour and fragrance industries.

Aroma: The magic of essential oils in food & fragrance by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson

Aroma: The magic of essential oils in food & fragrance by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson

Essential oils that can be used in the kitchen can be categorised into 4 groups: citrus (eg, lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit), floral (eg, rose, lavender, jasmine, geranium, ylang ylang), herbs (eg, tarragon, mint, thyme, basil) and spices (eg, black pepper, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon).

With the growing interest and demand for essential oils has come the unscrupulous practice of adulterating essential oils. So it is imperative that if you do choose to cook with essential oils that you are sure that they are 100% pure and natural, not synthetic fragrance oils. I personally would not use any bottle of essential oil that you may buy from a bricks and mortar retail shop for ingesting. Mandy Aftel offers essential oils for cooking from her Chef’s Essences range. I have not purchased from doTerra before, however, they seem to be committed to ensuring all of their oils are 100% pure and market their oils specifically for cooking and therapeutic purposes. Within Australia, the company Cosmark Aromatics appear to be a supplier of essential oils approved for use in flavouring food.

Before cooking with essential oils, it is wise to consider some safety aspects such as:

1. Ensure your essential oil is 100% pure and natural and you have purchased from an approved supplier for your intended use.

2. If pregnant or breastfeeding – DO NOT use or ingest an essential oil at all.

3. Store essential oils out of reach of children.

4. If you are allergic to a particular food ingredient, DO NOT consume an essential oil derived from that ingredient.

5. Essential oils are potent. Only a drop or 2 is required to flavour an entire dish.

I still approach the concept of cooking with essential oils with great trepidation! So my first dabbling has been with lavender. The following recipe is for Lavender Scones from Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Their lavender oil is naturally low in camphor and when I asked I was told it was safe for flavouring food and beverages. You can purchase their culinary lavender here.

Lavender products from Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Tasmania

Lavender products from Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Tasmania

They freely provide the recipes to the food they serve in their cafe, online as well as onsite and you can purchase their pure lavender essential oil online as well.

LAVENDER SCONES 

3 1/2 cups self-raising flour

300mls cream

200mls lemonade

2 teaspoons culinary lavender

Sift flour, add culinary lavender and stir. Combine lemonade and cream. Create a well in the flour mix and pour wet ingredients into it. Mix and knead well together. Roll out on floured board. Cut into rounds and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees celcius. (Recipe courtesy Bridestowe Lavender Estate).

To the cream I also added 2 drops of lavender essential oil (lavandula angustifolia) – but this is optional!

P.S. Thank you to George Washington Inn for leaving the comment below. I mentioned using the culinary lavender from Bridestowe, which is of the lavandula angustifolia variety. As George Washington Inn rightly mentions, this is the only variety of lavender that can be safely consumed, as it is low in camphor compared to the other varieties of lavender. It is the low camphor that also makes this variety perfect for perfumery purposes. So, if you are considering using a lavender essential oil or even  lavender flowers in your cooking, make sure it is the lavandula angustifolia variety.

The lavender sprigs in the photo below are from my garden and for decoration only – I have no idea what variety of lavender it is!

Lavender Scones

Lavender Scones

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Tasmanian Lavender Oil – Bridestowe Lavender Estate

Lavender oil is undoubtedly the essential oil that is the most popular in aromatherapy. Highly regarded for its beautiful aroma and wide application, it is considered the must have essential oil in the home for skin care, minor burns from things like spitting fat, bites and stings, insomnia, headaches and for general relaxation.

Lavender is just as versatile within perfumery – blending with almost any other essence. Falling into the green floral category, lavender lends a fresh, herbal quality to a perfume and can act as a bridge between top citrus notes and floral hearts. Lavender is also vital to the men’s fougère fragrance group, characterised by lavender, wood, coumarin and oak moss notes.

There are many species of lavender, however, it is lavandula angustifolia that is the best choice for the perfumer. This species has the least amount of camphor resulting in a far sweeter, floral aroma than the other types. Lavender Absolute is also produced from lavandula angustifolia and has an amazing green colour. The absolute is less floral than the essential oil, offering a far more herbaceous, woody odour that closely resembles the aroma of the actual flowering lavender.

Walking through a field of lavender is just as relaxing as smelling the oil! It was a great delight when I first arrived in Tasmania to discover Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Bridestowe is only a 45 minute drive from Launceston and the Estate has around 44 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of lavandula angustifolia.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate Tasmania

Among the Lavender in summer at Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Tasmania.

Bridestowe was founded in 1922 by London perfumer CK Denny. He came to Tasmania with the seeds of the true French perfumery lavandula angustifolia that occurs naturally at high altitudes in a small area of the southern French Alps. The location of Bridestowe was chosen due to the similarity in climate, red soil and altitude from where the lavender originated.

Planted in contours and mounds to maximise water and soil conservation and to assist with drainage, this method of growing also provides for a spectacular sight! We recently went for a visit as I was interested in how the plants would look in early spring without their flowers.

40 hectares of native and cultivated forest is retained around the farm to ensure abundant bird life and low insect pressures. The plants flower once per year in December and January with the lavender being mechanically harvested in January. The distillery operates 3 stills, with 85% of the oil being exported overseas, in particular to perfume houses. The distillery was closed, but we managed to get a few shots of some of the displays through the window.

Due to the low camphor of lavandula angustfiolia, it is the only variety suitable for culinary purposes. Bridestowe sell a wide variety of food products made from their lavender, from teas, jams, jellies, relish, and syrups as well as selling actual tins of dried lavender for cooking and the essential oil. If you cannot make it there in person you can simply shop online.

If you are lucky enough to visit, they have a wonderful cafe where everything to eat and drink is flavoured with lavender (of course!).

Woodcroft cafe at Bridestowe

Woodcroft cafe at Bridestowe

They also provide the recipes of all the food that they make in their cafe. I recently made their lavender scones – the recipe of which I will share in a future post.