Lavandula. The botanical name for the perfumed lavender plant. Also the name of a glorious Swiss-Italian lavender farm located in Shepherds Flat, in rural Victoria. Ten minutes north of Daylesford, and just outside Hepburn Springs, Lavandula is a little slice of the Mediterranean in the Victorian countryside. If you didn’t know better you would swear you were in Provence in France or even Tuscany in Italy. This magical place was one of the highlights of my recent visit to Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges.
Operating today as a boutique lavender farm, Lavandula was originally built in the 1860’s by Italian speaking Swiss immigrants from Ticino in Southern Switzerland. For over four generations it was run by the same family as a dairy farm. Twenty years ago a local, Carol White, bought the property and was inspired to restore the buildings and re-create the traditional mixed farm lifestyle of those earlier settlers. Generously she has opened up the property and its gardens to the public.
Lavandula is just delightful to visit. It has four original buildings made from local stone — the homestead, an old post office, the dairy and a barn. There’s also a charming olde worlde cobbled courtyard shaded by grapevines, rows of Lombardy poplars and a 30 metre suspension bridge across the bubbling Jim Crow’s Creek. A perfectly pastoral tableau nestled amidst olive and chestnut groves, vineyards and the wonderfully expansive lavender fields from which the property takes its name.
But wait there’s more! There’s a fabulous café. Of course there is, after all this is a food blog. The La Trattoria Café. Occupying a stone loggia. Shaded by ash trees. Serving honest, simple, rustic food.
Lavandula’s productive garden supplies La Trattoria with fruit, nuts, berries, olives and vegetables. Herbs and green salad leaves are picked daily. The café makes all its own jams, pickles and chutneys, cordials and sauces, and bakes its own scones, biscuits and cakes. And I am not ashamed to say that the draw card for our visit was afternoon tea. More specifically Lavandula’s superb Lavender Scones.
Washed down with Lavender Lemonade and a pot of Lavender tea.
I can honestly and unequivocally say that those scones were the best scones I have ever tasted. They were fluffy and light with just a hint of lavender. As luck would have it I am in possession of Stephanie Alexander’s excellent food bible The Kitchen Garden Companion: Dig, Plant, Water, Grow, Harvest, Chop, Cook published in October 2010 by Quadrille Publishing. There on page 365 is Lavendula’s Lavender Scone Recipe. The trick it seems is to use a discrete touch of lavender and a light hand.
Unfortunately, just last week I dug up my lavender bush to make way for my father’s tomato plants but that is another story and another post. No worries though, as about 50 metres up the road someone has planted lavender in a garden bed on the nature strip adjacent to the roundabout. Its been there for years and I have only just noticed it. How serendipitous! Only in Paddington.
For those of you interested in maybe visiting Lavandula or perhaps having a peek at their website, here are the details.
Where: 350 Hepburn-Newstead Road, Shepherds Flat via Daylesford, Victoria, Australia
And for the avid cooks out there who just have to try these amazing scones, I’ve taken the liberty of posting Stephanie’s wonderful recipe here. Thank you Stephanie and I hope you don’t mind.
Lavandula’s Lavender Scones
From: Stephanie Alexander’s The Kitchen Garden Companion: Dig, Plant, Water, Grow, Harvest, Chop, Cook. Quadrille Publishing. October 2010.
Makes 8 – 10 scones
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
1/2 cup thickened cream
2/3 cup milk
jam and double cream to serve
PREHEAT oven to 240 C
SIFT flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and then add lavender.
CUT cream in with a pastry scraper or broad spatula.
MIX in milk quickly.
SIFT a little flour over a chopping board and over a baking tray.
TURN dough onto floured board.
PAT into a rectangle. Cut with decisive cuts into approximately even-sized 6 cm squares.
SEPARATE and place dough squares onto floured baking tray.
BAKE for 5 minutes or until browned on top.
REDUCE oven temperature to 180 C and bake for a further 10 minutes.
LINE a large mixing bowl with a dry tea towel and place cooked scones inside.
FOLD ends towel over scones to stop them becoming too hard.
SPLIT and serve with the best jam and thick double cream.