It’s no wonder the digestive biscuit is a long-standing tradition. Its simple, gentle nature doesn’t make overt demands on the palate or the stomach, yet it is sweet and satisfying as an afternoon or evening snack. In fact, Brits love their digestive biscuits so much they consumed 420,000 tonnes of them in 2016!
So for my Herbal Yoga Workshop For Digestion, I decided that an old-fashioned digestive biscuit would be just the perfect treat to serve. And theme appropriately, I wanted to add some of the digestion supportive, tummy loving herbs found growing in the garden where the workshop will be held.
I went with a balance of lavender and lovage for two reasons. First, they are both aromatic herbs whose carminative properties and volatile oils help stimulate the digestive system and ease many common digestive discomforts. And secondly, because I thought the sweet floral notes of lavender and the deeper, more savoury notes of lovage, would complement the rustic oatmeal flavour of the biscuit – perfectly.
In a search of a suitable recipe, I came across How To Cook The Perfect Digestive Biscuit. According to biscuit experts, oatmeal must always be added, as it is part of the classic tradition. I was completely out of whole wheat flour so these biscuits are made ENTIRELY from oat flour (which I ground from oats in my coffee grinder). And as I was also out of butter (which is traditionally used) I used coconut oil. And it worked out just fine. Which is a nice accident, as it’s both non-gluten and vegan.
Today lovage is mostly a forgotten herb, but it was once frequently used in all kinds of cooking. It may be hard to find (although they grow free for the picking in the Wark St. Commons, Banfield Commons and Peoples Apothecary). If you don’t have it nearby maybe you have a friend with an old fashioned kitchen garden? If not, try fennel seeds instead, they are equally delicious and have been used as digestive aids for thousands of years.
Native to the Mediterranean, the Romans loved lovage so much they took it to England where it continued to grow in medieval monastery gardens for medicinal and culinary uses. My grandma never made a soup or a stock without it. Its leaves taste like celery and parsley, and its seeds a milder version of Caraway. Lovage is also a time honoured natural remedy for a number of common digestive complaints, its seeds have been used to help stimulate the digestive system, and as a remedy for gas, indigestion and stomach ache.
Lavender, of course, needs no introduction. Native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, this beloved herb grows in gardens everywhere. Prized for its scent, it is widely used in essential oils and perfumes, fragrances and body products. But in cooking, especially baking (i.e. Lavender Shortbread) it is absolutely divine!
According to herbalist Christopher Hobbs, lavender “Lifts the spirits, relaxes the body, and settles the stomach.” Its carminative volatile oils have been found useful in the treatment of indigestion, stomach pain, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and its anti-spasmodic qualities help to eliminate cramping.
I prepared both these herbs for the biscuits by grinding them with a mortar and pestle, just to loosen them up and make their oils more available to the dough. You can also throw them into the food processor or a coffee grinder, but don’t grind them too fine. This was probably the most time-consuming part (aside from cutting out the cookies) because these biscuits are really easy to make!
I just dumped all the ingredients in the food processor and whirred it around until I got a rough clump of dough. This I patted down into a ball, covered and chilled for 15-20 minutes before rolling it out. Then the biscuits go into a hot preheated oven (425) for 10-12 minutes. But keep watch, they brown quickly – I wished I’d taken mine out a minute or two earlier. Nonetheless, I think they turned out very tasty, and they’ll make a lovely digestive treat for my workshop. If I can stop eating them that is!
Lavender & Lovage Seed Digestive Oatmeal Biscuits
(makes about 2 dozen)
- 1 & ½ cup oat flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2-3 tablespoons of light crushed lovage seeds
- 2-3 tablespoons of lavender buds
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (this is optional, baking powder was traditionally used to help “puff up” your biscuits, but the ones pictured here were made without)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (also optional – but a good digestive spice)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (or regular or dairy free milk)
- Combine the herbs, oat flour, oats, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, coconut oil and coconut milk in the bowl of a food processor.
- Process for about 30-45 seconds until begins to form a rough dough. (It will be sticky)
- Gather the dough into a loose ball and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 425 F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle a bit of oat flour onto your work surface. Put the dough onto the prepared surface and press down with your fingertips.
- Roll the dough out about 1/4 inch in thickness. Use a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter to cut the biscuits. Using a spatula transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet.
- Use the tines of a fork to prick the tops of the biscuits about 3-4 times.
- Bake the biscuits for 7-12 minutes or until they are golden.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Snack as required.