Lavender and herb crusted roast lamb shoulder

LavenderCrustedLambShoulder © J Horak-Druiff 2011

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I often wonder how any non-English native speaker learns to speak English with any proficiency.  First there is the non-phonetic pronounciation (I mean, c’mon, did YOU know how to say Leicestershire, thoroughly or psyche the first time you saw?); then there is the lack of consistency (through, rough and cough should rhyme, right? And if it’s one mouse many mice, why not one house many hice?).  And even if you make it through those, there is the English language’s maddening addiction to idiomatic expressions to contend with – rumour has it there are over 15,000! 

A foreign colleague once told me that the most maddening thing about trying to do your job in English is the fact that those of us who speak English as a mother tongue are forever using idiomatic expressions that make no literal sense at all to the uninitiated.  Beating about the bush.  (What bush?  There are no shrubs in the office?)  Barking up the wrong tree.  (Huh?  Who let the dogs out?  Or in!).  Never look a gift horse in the mouth. (First dogs and now horses too?)  It’s not over till the fat lady sings. (Singing in business meeting?  And who are they calling fat anyway??).  I see her point.



One of my personal favourite idiomatic expressions is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  It’s remembering this expression that led me to find out that a chap working security on our office building came to his country to do a Masters degree in Economics; and that the chap who rings up my lunch at the till in the nearby supermarket has a burning ambition to start a blog about Nigerian politics.   But even I occasionally fall prey to the lure of the visual.  In fact, I remember falling in love with a book a couple of years ago purely on strength of the image on the cover.  I had never heard of the author or the book, but the image of a field of lavender stretching away under an overhanging tree, the dense masses of blossoms filling practically the entire frame, completely captivated me.  The book was Encore Provence by Peter Mayle and the entrancing landscape was, of course, Provence.

Something about the sight of those lavender fields captivated my soul and left a lasting impression.  When we got married, a sprig of lavender was the only decoration on the invitation; and atop our carrot cake wedding cake was a small beribboned bouquet of fresh lavender.  Clearly, I need to move to Provence: it is today the world’s largest lavender producing region. The Romans first brought lavendedr into the area: Roman soldiers knowing of lavender’s value in wound healing, planted seedlings wherever they travelled during their many military campaigns. By the early 20th century, the value of lavender essential oil in perfume making had been discovered and local shepherds were collecting it to sell to famous perfumeries of Grasse. Just before World War I, perfumers and the French government saw lavender production as a means of keeping people from leaving the area so they cleared the almonds orchards and planted lavender – hence the many acres of land under lavender cultivation in Provence.



I have since visited Provence – exploring the villages perchés dangling spectacularly over their precipitous drops; eating fragrant, steaming bowls of Bouillebaisse by the sea in Nice; marvelling at the nose of the parfumier in Grasse; taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Gorges du Verdon; and eating my body weight in glistening onyx-black olive tapenade.  But sadly, I have never visited at the right time of year to see the fields of lavender in full bloom. Note to self:  must rectify this oversight!

I was, however, intrigued when the kindly souls at the Vaucluse Tourist Board (Vaucluse being a department in Provence) offered to send me some culinary lavender from Delices du Luberons in Provence and challenged me to come up with a recipe using it.  The first time I ate lavender was at the spectacularly lovely Riverbend Lodge near Addo Elephant park in South Africa – I think it was used in a creme brulee – and I was instantly smitten.  The taste is not for everybody and if you use too much it is easy to create a dish that smells and tastes like… well, granny’s handkerchief drawer (not the effect one would be going for at a fancy dinner, I suspect!). But used in moderation, lavender flowers add an intriguing note to ice-cream, cakes and desserts.  I, on the other hand, had other plans for my lavender.  Rosemary is a classic lamb pairing, and like lavender it has a pungent flavour and can be overwhelming if used to excess.  So… what’s to stop me combining lamb and lavender?  This recipe is childishly simple and truly delicious.  Don’t be alarmed if the herbs smell like a sweet lavender potpourri when you crush them:  cooking brings about subtle changes in the flavour of the lavender and integrates it beautifully into the other herby flavours.  The sweetness of the lamb is perfectly offset by the tang of the herbs and mustard.

And as we like to say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – idiomatically speaking!

For other lamb dishes by bloggers, see:



DISCLOSURE:  The dried lavender flowers were a free sample sent to me by the Vaucluse Tourist Board.





1 small de-boned rolled lamb shoulder (about 450-500g)
2 Tbsp (heaped) wholegrain mustard
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 scant teaspoons culinary lavender
1/4 tsp Maldon sea salt (or any coarse-grainer sea salt)
1/8 tsp black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 190C.

Place the coriander and lavender in a pestle and mortar and crush well (you can also use a spice grinder but do not grind it to finely – you want the mix to have some texture!)  Once you have the desired consistency, add the remaining herbs as well as salt and pepper and mix well.

Smear the meat all over with mustard, then coat with the spices, pressing them lightly into the mustard so that they stick.

Place the meat in a small oven-proof dish, uncovered, on the middle shelf of the oven and pour about 30 mls of water into the dish.  Allow to cook for 40 minutes – longer if you want the meat medium or well donem but I prefer it on the rare side when there is still a little blood seeping out when the centre is pierced with a knife.

Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve with roast potatoes and (in our case) sweet new season Brussels sprouts.



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  1. says

    Oh my! That looks amazing! Keeping my fingers crossed these Vaucluse folks notice me soon!!!
    I used to have great fun teaching my Italian housemate English idioms, slang and well… general bad language. My favourite moment was her looking up from her new copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary and asking me “Sarah, what is this word… fuckwittage?!”

  2. says

    Hmmm…now what does “culinary lavender” mean? Can’t normal lavender that comes from a field be used? I’ve spent many an hour tearing apart with scientific precision what I thought was edible lavender flowers from fluffy dried bouquets, now I’m starting to wonder if I’ll die young of lavender poisoning :o)

  3. says

    So who has got a nice new chopping board then? 😉
    Lavender… not really my thing to be honest. But the dish would make an interesting pairing for a local red…

  4. says

    @Sarah – I have to say – it TASTES pretty amazing too! And LOL, why is it that we always teach foreign friends to swear first in our mother tongue, before useful stuff like “where is the nearest ATM?” 😉
    @Venetia – good question :) All lavender is edible, but if the lavender was grown purely for cut flower purposes it may have pesticides and other nasties on it which you can’t really wash off easily – so better to buy dried lavender specifically packaged for culinary purposes – or pick your own home-grown stuff that you have not used pesticides on.
    @Andrew – nah, it’s actually my oldest! Lived in SA in storage for 7 years 😉 The end product here is actually not that lavendery – so you should like it. Wine pairing would be fun indeed…

  5. says

    We use our lavender to make soap, ironing water and fragrant drawer sachets for the girls delicates drawers. We have never cooked with it. I am not sure I can bring myself to try it, but see that you mentioned in a comment response that it is not that ‘lavendery’ ……… Tis Lamb season here for sure and I love lamb with mustard… maybe we will give it a shot and see how it goes down with the hungry bunch. Best of luck with the competition Jeanne.

  6. says

    Interesting recipe Jeanne. I have tried lavendar flavoured candies and found the taste too florally. A friend recently gave me rose petal jam. It looks so pretty but I don’t like the taste.

  7. says

    The English language is indeed something amazing. But WOW this lamb is a thing of great beauty to me. Love the flavour combo of lavender and lamb. Just cannot do it often enough. Lamb is costing the earth here in SA.I use lavender quite a bit in my baking and cooking. That sample though looks fabulous quality. And I have to say…your photos are amazing Jeanne. Beautiful post. xxx

  8. says

    Well, I can only speak for myself ofcourse but here in Holland we see a lot of English on tv (thank god, no dubbing of the voices or whatever that is called), they try to teach us English in school too but I really only learned to understand the language by reading, reading and then working at an English speaking firm for 9 years. That helped… I actually think that English in so many ways, makes more sense to me then Dutch. I find it easier to express myself in English then it is in Dutch (on paper that is). Now how weird is that? If you would ever feel the need to dive into Dutch grammar, you’d be shocked I can tell you!
    As for this lavender lambshoulder; I have to say from Gizmo that she is very disappointed that you did not wait for her and her hamster friend to join the table. She had to do with a tiny bit of pork this evening and she would have loved a little more lamb… 😉
    But all joking aside; this looks fantastic!! (and if you have lavender leftovers; you should try the lavender brownies)

  9. says

    I can’t say I’ve ever eaten anything with lavender in it- lavender creme brulee sounds good but I’m still skeptical about lavender in savories! IMHO, English is the easiest language to elarn and this comes from someone for whom English is a third language. But I do get what you mean about idioms!!