Who else is excited about their gardens since lockdown? I’ve been enjoying it so much. My parents were always veg and fruit growers (I have to say I miss the yearly asparagus the most), and for a while there I thought I might not have got the growers gene – and not just in height. One of the first things I planted when we moved was lavender, although not as aesthetically pleasing as I would have liked, she’s a little lopsided, it produces some lovely lavender which is super for so many recipes.
A BUG’S LIFE.
Lockdown has given me the gardening bug, and bugs there are. I’m not a good one with anything small and insect-y. Yup, I’m one of those ones that will freak out at the buzz of anything passing my ear, or an ant on my leg. It hasn’t put me off though, and I’ve got my hands dirty. I’m now waiting on my first tomato, chilli, potato, blueberry and leek. The cucumber and gherkin unfortunately were a hit with someone else. We can’t work out whether it was magpies or slugs. Our investigations continue…
The one thing that I never had time to do though is forage, and I’m loving it. Only today we were out on a walk and a girl was picking something. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what it was. After a quick Whatsapp message to the family, I found out it was chamomile. In the same thread we also discerned that a housefly is fooking massive. Springwatch, eat your heart out. So, keep an eye out for a chamomile inspired recipe in the near future. I’m also looking forward to using nettles. Not quite so looking forward to the foraging of those though.
A POPULAR ONE.
Before I concentrated just on brownies, this lavender and sea salt chocolate tart was a staple in the cafe and at markets. It was a firm favourite amongst a lot of my customers. To this day I still make it for catering and it’s as easy as tarts come. No euphemism there folks. And chocolate and lavender are just a perfect combination. It is honestly one of my favourites. In this recipe I’ve given you the option of using both fresh lavender and essence, but I wholeheartedly recommend trying to find some fresh. Our neighbour has an abundance in their front garden and I have been known to snip a floret or two. But now I have some of my own, says the proud owner of a pot plant that she’s managed to keep alive for more than a month.
So, on with the show. If you want to get shop local then you can check our Mungowell’s Flour which is based in East Lothian. You can instantly tell it’s on a whole other level. You’ll just need a tart case of some sort, and a bit of patience with the pastry if you’ve not made any before. And who doesn’t have patience in this day and age? We have patience coming out of our ears for once! Serve this winner with a dollop of ice cream and you have a winner.
LAVENDER AND SEA SALT CHOCOLATE TART
Just a note about using fresh lavender vs essence . If you are using fresh I recommend leaving in the coconut milk overnight, so make sure this is done the night before. It will definitely give you a stronger flavour.
200g plain flour
220g margarine (this was adapted from a recipe using butter so you can use either)
50 g cocoa powder
220g icing sugar
Touch of water
One 400ml can of coconut milk
400g dark chocolate
¼ tsp of lavender essence (I recommend Uncle Roy’s, another Scottish business) or
Around 8 sprigs of fresh lavender
Pinch of sea salt (check out Isle of Skye sea salt)
If you are using fresh lavender do this step the night before: Grab your coconut milk and empty into a pan over a hob. Bring to a boil (making sure it doesn’t boil over). Add your fresh lavender after you’ve taken off the hob, and leave overnight in the fridge. You will need to sieve and warm up your coconut/lavender mix again the next day.
To make the pastry: pop into a large bowl, and work the flour, cocoa and margarine together until it looks like breadcrumbs. Once this is done (after around 5 mins) you can gradually add the water (one tsp at a time) to bring it into a dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and give it a good knead before wrapping and putting in the fridge to cool.
Preheat your oven to 160*C.
After around half an hour, get your pastry and again put onto a well floured surface. Grab a rolling pin and start to roll it out. The thinner the pastry the better, but make sure there are no holes! Keep using flour on top and under the pastry, otherwise it will stick.
Once you’ve got to around 4mm thick, grab your rolling pin again. Flour it all over, and also the top and bottom of your pastry. Get your tart case, and using the rolling pin, from the top of the pastry wrap it around the pin so you can pick the pastry up so it doesn’t split or crack. It needs to be really well floured to do this, otherwise the pastry will stick together.
Roll over the top of the tart case, and very carefully press into the edges of the case. Always do this first, work from the bottom up.
Once you’ve covered all of the tart case, grab some parchment paper and baking beans (or rice) and pop into the middle of the tart case to stop it from rising whilst cooking. This is called blind baking.
We’ll trim the sides of the tart after baking. Place your tart case onto a tray and put in the oven for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, take out the parchment paper and baking beans, and cook again for another 10 minutes. There should be no darker patches on the case. If there is then cook for another 5 minutes. Then take out of the oven and cool.
Now for the filling: If you are using essence then grab your coconut milk and empty into a pan over a hob. Bring to a boil (making sure it doesn’t boil over). If you are using fresh lavender, you would have done this the night before. You will need to sieve and warm up your coconut/lavender mix again.
Have your chocolate, sea salt and lavender essence (if not using fresh) ready to go in a heatproof bowl, and pour over the heated coconut milk. Stir until fully melted.
Pour your chocolate mixture into the tart case, and give it a wiggle to make sure it’s nice and smooth.
You can add lavender on top of the tart, or a pinch of sea salt to decorate. I also got some edible fake gold/bronze.silver leaf off of Amazon, so not, it’s not tin foil on the top! This gives it an added extra sparkle.
Put in the fridge for a few hours to set and then you’re ready to eat! Cut with a warm knife to get a smooth edge for top notch photos.