Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Long overdue

Yes, I know it’s been a VERY LONG time since my last post. Long story short, the minute I came back to Singapore from Provence I was swamped with work, both pastry and a big photo assignment, leaving me with little time to sleep, let alone blogging. I did manage to sift through the thousands of photos I took in Provence and sent them off to friends and family, but even that took almost a month to do, which misled some people into thinking that I was in Provence for a month! Ha! Don’t I wish.

Anyway, what brought me out of blogging hibernation is the strong desire to share with everyone the single most awe-inspiring experience out of my entire Provence trip. That one thing that inspired me. Ladies and gentlemen. (drum rolls) Is. Lavender.

Granted, I’ve always been a huge fan of lavenders. My body lotion and handwash are both lavender scented. I have sachets of lavender in my sock drawers. I have bought up just about every lavender product that Loccitane carries, including a linen water that I never use. To sum it up, as long as it’s lavender and purple, I want it. However, self-proclaimed lavender fan that I was, I was not prepared for the lavenders that I would encounter in Provence. Everywhere you turn, there are giant fuzzy purple balls greeting you. A single lavender stalk is pretty enough to look at but an entire field of rows upon rows of purple poof balls were simply mesmerizing. Not to mention they smelled heavenly too. I was falling in love with lavender all over again. I simply had to take a photo of every lavender field we encountered and went to villages for the sole reason of lavender viewing. No matter how many times I saw the same farm-house-in-the-middle-of-lavender-field view, I just would not get tired of it.

During our two-week stay in Provence we cooked more than half of the food that we ate. Our friends were in charge of food, since they are French and know more about French food, and I was in charge of desserts. Given the constraints of equipment in the kitchen, I mostly made tarts: strawberry, apple, apricot, cheese, cherry, etc. One night though, I made lavender ice cream, without an ice cream machine. Out of all the desserts I made in the little house in Murs, that ice cream was, in my mind, the one thing that summed up the essence of Provencal life the best. Granted, I used local fruits for all the tarts but I went into the garden and picked out the plumpest lavender blossom for the ice cream myself. Somehow that act of touching the blossoms and inhaling the fragrance amongst the bees busy collecting nectar made me feel like somewhat like a provencal farmer. Then there’s the hand churning of ice cream, which is the ultimate testament of my infatuation with lavender. I stayed up until midnight taking the custard out of the freezer every 15 minutes or so to give it a stir, at first with a wooden spoon and later on with a hand-held blender on low speed. We didn’t get to eat the ice cream until the next day but it was worth the wait. The freshly harvested flowers gave the ice cream a strong but not overwhelming lavender flavor that was so refreshing and intoxicating at the same time. All that churning made an old wrist injury flare up but there was no doubt in my mind that it was absolutely a necessary sacrifice.

Without further delay, here’s the recipe for the ice cream:

250ml milk
250ml cream
generous handful of lavender flower, plus extra for sprinkling
6 egg yolks
90g caster sugar


Jenn said...

I've always wanted to try making ice cream but for some reason never have. This recipe looks simple and delicious...makes me want to try it out before summer is over!


Anita said...

Wow, Provence is mind-bogglingly gorgeous - you are so lucky you got to go! I can't imagine how lovely it must have smelled. And hand-churning ice cream? You are dedicated!! It looks scrumptious!

Lynn said...

jenn, you should if you can get your hands on some fresh lavender. It's very refreshing.

anita, it is so beautiful that most of the time I just wanted to sit there and stare and not do anything. wanna go back already...

Tickles' Belly Flops said...

Hey there Lynn...

I'm sooo glad you are back to blogging. I was despondant that you've reached blog burn out like I always do after a major Europe travel.

Lookin forward to many more experiences from you!

Arfi Binsted said...

what kind of lavenders do you use, Lynn? I am growing French lavenders and lavenders grown by local nurseries here in NZ. Did you do some treatment firsthand before you use them? I'm really interested in it. I often use lavenders for my bath. It's very simple. If you'd like you can pick some lavenders, then let them soak in boiling water (not on the stove), cover, leave for 30 minutes, then strain into your bath. That way, you'll have the essential oil extracted from fresh lavenders. Have fun!

Lynn said...

tickle, thanks for checking back! This blog entry took me three false starts to write =o(

Arfi, I didn't treat it at all. Just picked it from the garden and plunk into the cream and boiled. Don't know what kind of lavender it was but it's all over Provence. The flowers are rather dry, even when it's fresh, unlike some of the other type of lavender I've seen, which has a plumper flower, but not in as deep a shade of purple as those in Provence.

baobei said...

dont seem to see much Lavender flowers here in Singapore Imust say..

S said...

Hi Lynn

Wow, the texture of your hand-churned ice cream looks sublime. The lavender linen water is great on pillow cases (love falling asleep to the scent of lavender).

Tartelette said...

The photos were worth the wait though! You were in my home country and you did it great justice, as well as making me very nostalgic!