The use of lavender has been recorded for more than 2,500 years. Did you know that Egyptians, Phoenicians and the people of Arabia used lavender as a perfume but and also for mummification? They did so by wrapping the dead in lavender-dipped burial clothes. The ancient Greeks called lavender Nardus or Spikenard, named after the Syrian city of Naarda. The English word derives from the Latin lavare (to wash) referring to the properties of the plants. Lavender is one of the most recognised scents in the world –fresh, floral, clean and calm. The plant thrives in sunny, warm, well drained soils and its wonderful cyan flowers appear –depending on the area- from June to August. This fragrant aromatic and relaxing herb can be used in baking, lotion making, gourmet cooking, tea making, tinctures and more. Its popular essential oil is cleansing and refreshing and has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on skin, body and mind.

A number of refreshing ideas on how to make the most out of the lavender dried flowers:

Herbal tea: add chamomile as well, steep the herbs in hot (not boiling water) for a few minutes and add honey if desired.

Marinades: can replace rosemary in most savoury recipes – just use double quantity of lavender. The aromatic oils of the lavender compliment meat or fish in a lovely herbal-smoked way. Also, when the dried herb is combined with lemon juice and olive oil, works lovely with pork or lamb. Marinate for several hours before grilling for a delicious rich flavour.

Infused vinegar: add a handful of the lavender buds to 2 cups white wine or apple cider vinegar. Let the mix sit for up to 6 weeks, shaking every few days. Strain before use.

Salad dressing: whisk together 6 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp balsamic or apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp each mustard powder & dried lavender flowers.

Fragrant custard: Infuse the warmed milk -for the custard- with 1/4 cup chopped lavender flowers to each 2 cups of liquid. Heat the mixture to boiling for an hour or two, than strain out the lavender; the fragrant milk can be used in various desserts such as fruit tarts, eclairs or biscuits.

Drinks: mix the flowers in drinks or spice up your favourite cocktails.

Skin toner: prepare a skin spray with diluted mineral water infused with dried flowers.

Air freshener: simmer the dried herb in a pot of water with some citrus peels.

Perfumed sachets: add lavender buds to a muslin bag inside your wardrobe or, place the bag under the pillowcase at bedtime for relaxing sleep.

Pop by our stall at Borough Market and try our wonderful wild lavender –straight from the mountains of Epirus or order online!

Mandarins are much loved from chefs and bakers around the world, for their wonderful essential oil. Following Greek chef’s Evie Voutsina tip -this time of the year that they are at their best- you can grate their skin, store it in the fridge wrapped in cling film and use it throughout the year in various cakes, sauces, breads etc. This risotto is the perfect first course during winter time; it can also work as a side dish for a simple roast chicken and sautéed spinach or as a main dish with a green salad. Let us know how you found this tangy, fruity, colourful, silky dish.

Serves 4-6 persons

Preparation: 25’ Cooking: 15’ approximately


300 g butternut squash (without the skin)

1 almost ripe quince

1 big red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 glass of white wine

½ cup evoo 22°C

80g almonds toasted and chopped

4 table spoons of black Corinth raisins

skin from½ mandarin (ideally organic) and a bit more for decoration (if desired)

2 table spoons of parsley finely chopped

sea-salt and freshly ground pepper

400g/ 2 tea cups of (risotto) Carolina rice or Arborio

5 ½ cups of boiled water

Cut the squash as well as the quince in small cubes. With a spoon grate the inside of the mandarin skin; cut the skin in strips and reserve them in a small bowl. In a heavy skillet or large pan, heat the olive oil over moderately high heat and sauté the onion a few minutes until softened transparent. Afterwards, put in the rice, the butternut squash and the quince along with the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes. All the rice grains should be well coated with olive oil and opaque. Season the mix with salt and pepper and add the white wine stirring constantly until it is completely absorbed. Put in the raisins as well as the clementine skin stripes.

At this point, begin pouring in the water, about½ cup at a time, stirring and letting each addition absorb before adding more. As the rice begins to swell and after about half of the water has been added, taste for doneness. The rice should be al dente. Continue adding water as necessary. Depending on the desired texture you may mix it at a slow or quick pace. When it’s almost ready, check the seasoning and as a final touch add the parsley and the almonds. Stir and remove it from the fire. Serve immediately, garnishing each plate with clementine sections.

Tip: You could alternatively roast the butternut squash as well as the quince first -with their skins- and when they’re ready you only need to flesh them out and add them to the risotto. It might seem like an extra step in the cooking process, but actually makes it easier.

* Inspired by Voutsina E. (2009, January), Mandarin: fragrant and noble, Gastronomos, 87.

By Lida Papamatthaiaki

In the UK, Shrove Tuesday (13th February 2018) is also known as Pancake Day because it is the one day of the year when almost everyone eats a pancake! Shrove Tuesday is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday and is the final day before the start of Lent, a Christian festival leading up to Easter Sunday. The name Shrove comes from the old word \shrive\” which means to confess. On Shrove Tuesday, in the Middle Ages, people used to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before Lent began.

Lent is a time of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.

Check out our simple Greek pancake recipe with no butter.

Makes: 15 pancakes

2 cups flour
2 cups of milk
4 eggs beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbs olive oil

Greek pancakes or tiganites are relatively small and light, a delight served with honey, jam, cinnamon or sugar and lemon.

It is a good idea to sieve the flour first if you have time. Then mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl beat eggs. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix, pour the eggs and 2 tbs of olive oil and start whisking. Then gradually add the milk into the centre, still whisking until the mixture has become smooth with no lumps. Brush the pan using the remaining olive oil and fry the pancakes 2-3 minutes on each side until light golden. Brush with more oil between batches. Serve with your choice of honey, jam, grape molasses or sugar and lemon or cinnamon.