Spring is a very short season here in Jacksonville and already, the last of the spring days are almost over. The trees that lost their leaves only a month or two ago are back to being green and the wild flowers popping up on peoples front lawns have began to wilt. The lavender, that I haven't gotten around to planting out yet and that is in most places a summer blooming plant, is already at full flower and it won't be long before it goes back to sleep until the start of next year. Although I am looking forward to the afternoon storms and the constant excuse to be at the beach, I am a little hesitant about facing the wall of humidity that is about to hit us, as well as the impossibility of growing in the garden anything pretty or somewhat seasonal. I would love the spring weather that we have now to last the entirety of the summer. I want to preserve it.
A very wise man once told me that honey, in it's purest most raw form, is natures very own medicinal remedy for preservation. That in the past, insects and animals have been found swimming in it and although thousands of years old, look as though they had fallen into the honey just yesterday. This same man, would once a month take a trip out to the bush to meet his friend the 'honey man', who would provide him with a 3kg bucket of raw honey, straight from the hive, and most probably made from iron bark flowers or some other type of eucalyptus blossom. Every month, this bucket of honey would be emptied and every month, this man would go back to the bush to his friend and get another bucket. This went on for years. Most of the honey was used in tea. This man drank a lot of tea.
Although old, this man didn't ever look it. Nor did he ever behave like it. The honey quite literally preserved him. With every cup of tea, this man bolstered life. Each cup reminded him that he was only as old as he allowed himself to be. The day he became old was the day that he let down his family. So, no pity was ever shed on his age. No day was ever too hard. No task was too much effort. No happy moment was ever left behind, and no bad memory was ever left without lesson. This man believed in preservation. Of life. Of treasured memories. Of family. Of love.
Yes the days get away from us, seasons change and yes, we can sometimes feel the years take their toll. But hearing people around me, particularly those who are in their late 20's or early 30's joke or complain about 'getting old', well, it irks me. I'm not sure if it's just habitual to complain. Or if indeed they really do believe it. However, I do know that I much prefer to be in the company of those who grasp and preserve the idea of youth, who, despite being 80 years old, still believe that they have the energy and juvenescence needed to make the most of their life. Those who believe in preservation. Those who have honey in their tea.
So, this weeks recipe brings with it an attempt to preserve. To preserve life as in the old/young mans lesson, and to preserve the last of the lavenders flowers from the spring here in Jacksonville.
May every day be filled with the youth of spring.
Lavender + Honey Shortbread
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 40 minutes
total time: 1 hour
yields: 12-16 pieces
1 cup butter room temperature
1/3 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon dry or fresh lavender petals
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / gas mark 2.
Combine butter, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed until combined and creamy. Add in the lavender petals and continue beating until the lavender is well distributed among the mixture. Add in flour, one cup at a time, beating on low speed in between each cup.
Turn dough out into a 23cm / 9 inch ungreased tart or pie pan. Press out dough so that it is even and flat in the pan. Score the surface of the dough to make 12 - 16 pie shaped triangles, so that the shortbread can be easily cut for serving and sharing. Use a fork to prick the dough around the edges and along the scores.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the edges of the shortbread begin to brown and the majority of the shortbread remains pale.
Once baked, let the shortbread sit for 10 minutes before dividing into wedges.