When you hear "lavender", I'll bet the first thing that comes to mind is soap, air freshener or floral water. Quite fitting since the word comes from the Latin lavare which means "to wash". For centuries lavender has been associated with cleansing and purifying as it's believed to be anti bacterial, anti viral and anti microbial. Not the first thing you would associate with things you want to put in your mouth ;)

If you think about it in the remotest culinary sense, it may be herbes de Provence crusting a juicy lamb rack. My only other foray into cooking with the hypnotically perfumed, tiny blooms was a lemon, lavender and tea cake which my husband and I loved. The very same cake though, had my children running for the door.

There are no two ways about it - though most find the sweet and almost herbal perfume of lavender flowers quite agreable per se, when it comes to their use in the kitchen, you either love them or hate them.  I've had the same jar of lavender for well over a year, hardly used because each time I remove the lid, my teenager grimaces and implores that I not make another "car deodorizer cake". *sigh*

Today I rebelled and decided I wanted some pretty, lavender scented cookies to go with my tea, and since I'm the only official cook in the house, no one was going to stand in my way. Besides, anyone who didn't like my deodorizer cookies could always go buy chocolate chip ones. These cookies are a simplified version of shortbread that requires no creaming, no whisking or even kneading. You basically just smoosh everything together until you get a dough which you then shape into a log and slice into cookies. Be sure to use a very sharp knife and cut in a gentle but decisive sawing motion.

You could roll these out and use cookie cutters but I wanted to avoid too much handling of the dough. With cutters, you will always have scraps which beg regathering, rerolling and recutting and subsequent batches will not be as tender as the first one. Besides, this dough is very short and crumbly and does not take well to rolling. Problem solved.

The cookies are quite small, about the size of large postage stamps and are gone in about two bites. Rather dainty and perfect for afternoon tea with girlfriends or just when you want to get out your best china for an afternoon of delicate refinement. The warm and slightly musky sweetness of the ginger somewhat tamed the exuberant perfume of the lavender, so in the end, I got a very nicely balanced mix of spicy, floral and herbal aromas. They went down surprisingly well with everyone at home, even my youngest, but the teenager, not unexpectedly, wrinkled his nose and asked for a ham sandwich. Oh, well.......

15 mins      Cook 20 mins      Makes about 30

200 g (2 cups) plain or all  purpose flour
50 g (1/3 cup) castor (superfine) sugar
2 tsp dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 level Tbsp culinary dried lavender flowers
120 g (3/4 cup) firm butter, dice
2 tsp vanilla extract


90 g (1 cup) icing or confectioner's sugar (sifted)
2 - 3 Tbsp water (I used 2 for a thick, quick, hard setting icing)
Culinary dried lavender flowers for decorating

Preheat oven at 180 C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, sugar, ginger, salt and lavender in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and vanilla. Work the butter and vanilla into the flour until you have a soft dough. You don't need to be particularly gentle - just keep squeezing everything together until everything gels into a dough and once you achieve this, stop immediately

Turn dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper (it tends to stick on most other surfaces) and shape into a log about 30 cm (1 foot) long. Slice log into about 30 evenly thick discs. I like square cookies so I shaped my log into an elongated brick.

Lay slices spaced equally apart on baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until light gold. Remove from oven and transfer immediately onto a cooling rack so bottoms don't get soggy.

When cookies are completely cold, put the icing sugar into a large bowl and slowly whisk in the water until you have a smooth paste that will easily coat a spoon. Pick up a cookie and dip the top into the icing. Gently shake off excess and return cookie to the cooling rack.  Decorate top of cookie with a sprinkle of lavender. Repeat with the other cookies.

Leave icing to set before serving with tea. I like black Darjeeling or Earl Grey tea with these cookies.