Recipes to make the most of the golden elixir
The Honey Fair takes place in Hillsborough Castle today and tomorrow and is the perfect opportunity to embrace this precious elixir.
Honey is a unique product – it doesn’t go off and each jar is of a particular time and place. Bees act as flavour gatherers. As they pick up nectar from different flora and trees it all contributes to the taste profile of the finished jar.
Honey is one of the things that I bring back from my travels – it’s a snapshot in a pot of a landscape, climate, the elements and flora of an area. One of my favourites is chestnut honey from the Abruzzi mountains in Italy. They have a festival there dedicated to chestnuts and the honey is redolent of the tree’s summer blossoms.
Honey is a versatile ingredient that adds pizazz to savoury and sweet dishes. Drizzle some over pungent cheeses – gorgonzola or goat’s cheese with honey is delicious.
Honey in its raw form has already soaked up the essence of the landscape but you can add aromas like chilli, truffle, herbs or flowers to great effect. If you submerge an elderflower head, some meadowsweet or a fragrant rose in honey it will capture the floral elements.
Meadowsweet season is coming to a close soon so adding it to a jar of honey is a perfect way of capturing its scent. The same logic can be applied with herbs and rosemary or thyme infused honey is a superb addition to grilled lamb, vegetables or chicken. Add a bit of lemon or vinegar for balance.
When you cook honey it adds an extra intensity, especially if you caramelise it. In the salad recipe here chicken fillets are fried and then glazed with honey cooked this way and then hit with sherry at the last minute. You end up with beautifully glazed chicken and the resting juices are added to vinegar and oil to make a dressing that’s packed with flavour. Oranges, dates, walnuts and leaves are added for a fresh, zingy and crunchy salad.
For something sweet I’ve included a recipe for a honey cake topped with honeycomb cream and some honey poached rhubarb.
The honey cake is user friendly as it’s conjured up in a saucepan before baking – no beating fats with sugar. Use a fragrant honey for this for full effect. Honeycomb is sugar, honey and glucose boiled to an amber liquid and foamed with baking soda. In the recipe I’ve spread out half the mix to make wafers and some of the rest goes into a cream to pipe on to the cake. Some honey and cider poached rhubarb cuts through the sweetness and adds another texture.
It takes a bee 10 million trips to collect enough nectar to make a pound of honey – pick a good local one and cherish all the bees hard work.
Honey cake with honeycomb cream and cider and honey poached rhubarb
What you’ll need
For the honey cake
100g soft brown sugar
300g self raising flour
Chop the butter and melt in a saucepan with the honey. Mix in the sugar.
Cool for 10 minutes then whisk in the eggs and then the flour.
Pour into a cake tin or individual tins and bake for about 40 minutes in a preheated 160oC oven. Reduce the cooking time for smaller cakes – insert a skewer and when it comes out clean it’s ready.
For the honeycomb
150g castor sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
2 teaspoons baking soda
Place the sugar, water, honey and glucose in a pan and cook to an amber liquid. Avoid stirring too much as it can cause the mixture to crystallise. Add the baking soda and mix briefly. It will foam up so be careful. Pour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Allow to cool. If you want to make wafers, spread out half the mixture thinly with a palette knife.
For the honeycomb cream
350ml double cream
50g honeycomb, crumbled
Whip the cream and fold in the honeycomb.
For the honey and cider poached rhubarb
4 stalks rhubarb cut into 3cm pieces
50g caster sugar
200ml dry cider
Simmer the honey, sugar, cider and water in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb and cook gently until just cooked – about 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
Pipe the cream onto the cool cake, garnish with some rhubarb, raspberries, some shards of honeycomb wafer and edible flowers.
Burnt honey and sherry glazed chicken with date, walnut and orange salad
What you’ll need
8 chicken fillets
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons honey
50ml dry sherry
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
50ml olive oil
6 dates, chopped
Few salad leaves
Brush the chicken with the oil and season with salt. Place on a hot grill pan. Place the honey in a pan and cook until it slightly caramelises and add the sherry. When chicken is cooked on one side for 3 minutes, flip over and brush with the glaze. Continue to do this until chicken is well glazed and cooked through. Allow to rest.
Remove peel from oranges, including the pith and slice or cut into segments. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan and chop roughly. Toss into the oranges with the chopped dates.
Whisk the sherry vinegar with the oil and any resting juices from the chicken. Check seasoning. Arrange some leaves on a platter, spoon over the orange, walnut and dates and add the chicken. Spoon over the dressing.