With Lemon Verbena and Lemon

I love lemon verbena, and I insist we keep planting shrubs, although they don’t thrive in our poor soil and dry island climate. They are never lush, with shiny green leaves, as they are supposed to; their leaves are tiny and come in small clusters here and there, on long woody stems. But I keep trying, so, last year we decided to keep one in a large clay pot, instead of planting it in the ground. It seems to be doing a bit better, and so far, looks green and happy.

Lemon verbena is called ‘louisa’ in Greek –like in Spanish– and I find this romantic name better suited to this exquisite, fragrant plant.

Using the aromatic dry lemon verbena leaves, I make my favorite herbal tea in the winter, while in the summer I soak fresh sprigs in a water jug I keep in the refrigerator, to create the simplest, delicate cold drink, which sometimes I complement with lemon slices, or drops of lemon juice.

The other day, I decided it was time to update my mother’s old yogurt and olive oil cake recipe, now that it seems to have become fashionable, and similar recipes keep popping up in blogs and social media sites all the time.

In our family, this cake was simply called Tou Yiaourtiou (the one with yogurt), to distinguish from another more elaborate festive dessert my mother and aunts prepared with store-bought lady-finger cookies, and an unctuous margarine-based cream –as neither butter nor heavy cream were common ingredients in Greece when I was growing up. Often, the yogurt cake was doused in syrup, as you see in the original recipe. Traditionally scented with plenty of lemon zest, I thought that adding lemon verbena leaves would make it more fragrant and interesting. Apparently, it seems that it does, at least this is what Costas and I thought after tasting this new version.

Keep in mind that this is not a light, airy cake, but has a somewhat dense texture that we love! I suggest you bake it a day before you serve it, so its flavors have time to develop and deepen.


Olive Oil and Yogurt Cake with Lemon, and Lemon Verbena Leaves




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