Unexpected ingredients: Flowers, herbs and spices

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I'm such a huge advocate for using unique ingredients and natural flavours in my baking. My second book Wholesome Cakes, Cookies and Desserts is filled with a range of recipes that use unexpected ingredients in simple and accessible ways.

Lots of people shy away from trying or using very fragrant ingredients in their baking but they can add really delicate and elegant flavours that everyone can enjoy. I thought I'd share a few recipes of mine with everyone so you can try them at home and see how easy and delicious using fresh herbs, spices and floral notes in your baking can be!

LEMON AND LAVENDER COOKIES

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These little shortbread cookies are delicately flavoured with lemon zest and dried lavender petals and are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of Earl Grey tea in winter or in summer.

Makes 18 small diamond shaped cookies

Ingredients:

120g butter, softened

45g golden unrefined icing sugar

150g unbleached stoneground flour

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 tsp dried lavender petals

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp golden unrefined caster sugar

Method:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, zest, lavender and sea salt, and combine until it just comes together.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius fan bake. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to a 0.5cm thickness. With a sharp knife, cut out diamond shapes or any shape you like (you can also use a cookie cutter).

Place on the baking sheets approximately 2cm apart. Sprinkle with some golden sugar.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until just golden around the edges. Let the cookies cool and firm on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Store in an airtight container or cookie jar in a cool, dry place for up to one week.

VEGAN COCONUT, STRAWBERRY AND BASIL CAKE

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People often associate basil with things like pasta sauces but, in this recipe, the fragrant leaves balance perfectly with the lightness of the coconut and the tangy sweetness of the strawberries.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

For the cake...

150g spelt flour

150g spelt flour

75g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt 

75g desiccated coconut 

100g unrefined golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

125ml coconut oil, melted or rice bran oil

250ml coconut, almond or oat milk

20 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

200g fresh strawberries, diced

For the vegan coconut glaze...

125g icing sugar

50g desiccated coconut

3 tbsp coconut, almond or oat milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Top with...

Handful of fresh basil leaves

5-6 fresh strawberries, chopped

fresh flowers (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius fan bake. Line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, coconut and sugar.

Add in the vanilla, oil, milk and chopped basil leaves. Stop your mixer once all of the ingredients are combined; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the tin and dot in the diced strawberries, pressing them down lightly with a spoon.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until golden in colour, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minuted before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the vegan coconut glaze. Beat all the ingredients together until smooth. Spread the glaze on the cooled cake and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow it to set.

Top with basil, more strawberries and fresh flowers.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.

APPLE AND ROSEMARY CRUMBLE

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I always associate crumble with winter, and the rosemary adds such a comforting, cosy flavour to this one which is perfect served warm with a dollop of mascarpone or greek yoghurt.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the filling...

6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunky slices.

50ml maple syrup

leaves of 2 small springs of fresh rosemary, washed

85g sultanas

zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble...

60g ground almonds

60g spelt flour

25g pumpkin seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

60g oats

40g dark muscovado sugar or coconut sugar

pinch of sea salt

1/4 fresh rosemary, finely chopped

60g butter, melted

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius fan bake.

Place the sliced apples and maple syrup in a saucepan and cook gently until the fruit begins to soften, approximately 10 minutes.

Place the fruit in an ovenproof dish and allow to cool. Mix in the remaining filling ingredients.

To make the crumble, put all the crumble ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer, and combine until a coarse, breadcrumb-like texture is reached.

Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or untl the crumble starts to look golden on top.

Serve warm with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.

Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Happy baking! xx