HERE in the UK we are using the week to pay homage to that wonderful sweet sticky substance that is made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Yes, National Honey Week is here and it’s time you too got stuck in.
Besides keeping the peas on your knife (only joking, Mr Debrett, I know that’s what ketchup is for) honey has many culinary uses. It can add an amazing new level to dishes, and having been more liberal with it than usual this past week I can confidently say it’s incredibly versatile.
A few years back I remember a phase where practically every client had me out looking for manuka honey, produced by bees in New Zealand and said to have particularly good medicinal properties. A friend bought some, handing over £30 for the jar with high expectations of it containing the elixir of life. A few spoonfuls and days into the jar they decided that although it was delicious, they would have been just as happy in life and wellbeing with a jar produced by local bees – and at least £20 better off.
Depending what the bees forage on, the honey produced will vary greatly. For instance, heather honey in comparison to chestnut honey couldn’t be more different. This week, as I was cooking lots of game, I decided to use mostly Scottish heather honey, which naturally pairs well with that “of the hill” herby flavour of the wild meat. I noted that as we kept the jar by the salt, pepper and olive oil, ingredients that are constantly used, the honey became almost a fourth staple seasoning. As it is thought that overheating honey destroys some of its benefits I generally try and add it at the end of cooking or raw on top. Though this view does make me wonder why honey, lemon and a wee dram of hot whisky makes such a good medicinal drink…
When buying honey it is really worth checking out the label and answering these questions – Is it from the UK? Is it a blend? Has it been pasteurised or is it raw? All of these factors will not only affect taste but also the benefits it can give you. There is a great company, Hive & Keeper (hiveandkeeper.com) which I just love the concept of. It is set up to sell unique jars of honey from different beekeepers dotted around the UK (sadly the majority of honey currently sold here is a blend and a lot of it imported). So you have the choice and can buy jars of honey made in Clapham Common in London or maybe a jar produced in North Lincolnshire (a perfect idea for Christmas prezzies). With bees foraging within a three mile radius of their hive every batch will be unique.
The garden at home has three hives and earlier in the spring I thought it would be a wonderful idea to plant a wild flower meadow around the apiary along with rows of lavender. Secretly thinking I was the next Gertrude Jekyll I ignored the sceptics and enthusiastically scattered seeds into the rocks and stones around the hives convinced that when I returned in a few months there would be a flourish of life and colour. The beautiful wildflower meadow pictured here is not what I returned to and instead there was an impressive jungle of weeds.
Apparently in a good year bees can produce two or three times more honey than needed to keep them going through the winter. Even though many gardens may have looked a perfect bees playground many bee keepers have found the 2015 harvest has been very poor with a wet, windy and cool summer to blame.
Despite the rest of the garden putting on a magnificent display our little darlings did not make enough honey for us to take any. I’m not really cross but if they don’t buck up their ideas for next year I am considering swapping them all for a llama.
For more information on bees and what you can do to support them visit the British Bee Keepers Association – www.bbka.org.uk
This week I want to share with you my Honey, Lime and Yogurt Sorbet recipe. I served it with a tart lemon tart with orange and vanilla pastry but it would be perfectly happy starring on its own.
3 tbs honey (preferably local to you)
3 limes – zest and juice
2 egg whites
1 tsp cater sugar
Mix the honey, lime zest and juice together (if the honey is hard gently heat it until runny enough to mix). Stir the honey mix into the yogurt. Churn in an ice cream maker till almost frozen then spoon into a large bowl. Whisk the egg whites and sugar until soft peak stage then fold through the frozen yogurt. Freeze completely (this will take at least 3 hours).
To get good balls of the frozen yogurt dip your ice cream scoop into hot water between every serving.
Copyright © 2015 Philippa Davis : www.philippadavis.com