Feb 3 2013

Honey … Sweet, Syrupy & Sticky

Posted by     22 Comments    Posted under: The Sunday Times weekly column

And always … sublime

I remember my first taste of honey; sticky, sweet and sensational. We had parents that fled the city and bought a small plot of land on the outskirts of Galway, wanting to give their children freedom to play in a field, get lost in a wooded lot or be at one with the sense of calm that can only be found when footing turf at the bog. A word forbidden from our line of daily chat was ‘bored’. Summer holidays were spent careening down the country byroads on our bikes, never knowing where we were going, and yet never feeling lost.

Late one summers evening, one of my brothers and I pushed our bikes past an old cottage down a dead end lane. We knew it led to nowhere but still rambled onwards, wondering if the landowner might chase us out of there if discovered trespassing on his land. As we looped back around, disappointed that we had made no discovery, we came face to face with not one, but two farmers, wondering why we had taken liberties on their stretch of road. In their hands they held a bucket loaded with honeycombs of crackling gold. They encouraged us to eat a chunk of it, right there and then, stating it was ‘the finest’ and we would never be able to buy anything as gorgeous as this Irish gold they held so dear. We rambled far from our homes and took ‘sweets’ from old men that accosted us in their driveway; a shame the world has changed so much that even now, living in the countryside of Galway, we cannot allow our children the same freedom.

That taste of honey is still with me and I must have been only eight or nine years of age. The crunch of the honeycomb exterior, the way the honey clung to my lips and fingertips as I rode my bike home and the crystal clear clarity of the honey as it sat puddling on a plate on the kitchen countertop later that evening; beautiful Irish gold.

Honey is one of the handiest sweeteners to use in the kitchen. We have a rule around here that when a dish does not taste ‘finished’ right before we serve dinner, it usually needs a squeeze of lemon, a knob of butter or a spoonful of honey. When the kids are coughing the winter away we send them to bed with a glass of honeyed water and cinnamon to soothe their chesty colds, and then make sure to double the dose the next morning before they go to school. When it comes to sharing recipes for honey, we did not have to look far at all.

The first recipe is for a breakfast smoothie. This time of year, it is hard to get excited about eating our greens. The garden is still dormant and the salad greens have not started to sprout just yet. We like to blitz up a yoghurt shake for breakfast and a spoonful of honey lends the perfect sweetness to the glass giving a much needed protein boost for the start of the day.

The second recipe is just gorgeous. Cheese and honey are great partners and there is no shortage of recipes out there for you to choose from. Halloumi is an excellent firm piece of cheese to cook with. Honey drizzled upon it makes for a sweet and salty match made in heaven for your plate and palate.

Honey-mustard is something we have easy access to in Ireland. There are several different varieties available to consumers, but making your own is as easy as adding a spoonful of honey to your favourite mustard. Fish and mustard might seem like an odd combination; but it always works. Our third recipe, for a beautiful piece of Salmon is sure to be a massive hit at your next dinner party. When it cooks, the exterior will crunch up caramel-like when using honey and I am certain your guests will be asking for the recipe. Enjoy.

Honey, sweet and steeped in historic fact, should be the natural sweetener we reach for on a daily basis. Up until recently, and maybe a final fallaway from the remnants of the celtic tiger days, manuka honey was all the rage in home and restaurant kitchens. While there is not anything wrong with this honey, (well, the price can be exorbitant), health benefits are mostly obtained when you introduce and keep local honey in your daily diet. Recently, friends of ours in Tipperary  (Oldfarm pigs, pork and more), purchased a few hives and they are getting ready to set up their dormant bees for a season of sweet success.

We started to look into how local honey needs to be in order for us to reap the benefits of adding honey to our diet, and that of the children’s, and it turns out that ‘local’ means the radius in which the bee flies. An average hard working bee can fly three to four miles away from the hive covering 30,000 + acres. This is best honey for you to choose; from your neighborhood. It might seem a little strange, but bee keeping is growing in popularity, and now, even the rooftop gardens in large metropolitan cities like New York have hives dotted along the skyline.

Honey breakfast shake 4 copy

Honeyed breakfast shake  – 2 pp

This time of year we are itching for the days to get longer and the dreary dark mornings to show a glimpse of dawn before 8:00am. The desire to let our bodies to wake with morning light instead of the alarm clock consumes us and we count the days for the clocks to change so we can spring forward into a newer and lighter season. This breakfast shake will help you shake off the remnants of the winter blues and help get you ready for your day at work or school. It will also help the kids get their day off to a nutritious and delicious start.

What you will need

1 ripe avocado (peeled and stone removed)

2 medium apples (cored and diced)

480 ml yoghurt (Glenisk Greek plain)

80 ml of honey (more if you like it sweeter)

How to prepare it

Cut the avocado into chunks then place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. You can substitute bananas or mangos for avocado if so desired, and a handful of spinach works well in this one too. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a slice of kiwi fruit or pour over granola for breakfast. This is an excellent way to get your ‘five a day’ of fruits and vegetables and the kids will never know what is in it.

 

Halloumi 3 blue copy

Honeyed Halloumi – 2 pp

Pronounced: Ha-loo-me … one of those bland looking cheeses at the grocery store, and I am sure you have seen it because it is widely available in Ireland. Cut up and eaten ‘raw’ it can taste a bit rubbery (best to grate it) but sliced and sautéed this beautiful salty cheese turns into a right meal maker when placed atop a bed of greens. We find a drizzle of pomegranate molasses or local honey helps this cheese become the showstopper at lunch time.

What you will need

240 g mixed salad greens

1/2 lemon, juice only

2 tsp olive oil

6 slices of Halloumi cheese (1/2” thick)

1 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp Aniseed, toasted

How to prepare it

Place salad greens in a bowl and toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Arrange the greens on a plate and set aside. Using a non-stick pan, sauté the cheese 3 – 4 minutes on each side in a medium hot pan. Place cooked cheese on top of salad greens. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle toasted aniseed on top. Best enjoyed immediately while cheese is still hot.

 

Salmon Honey mustard 4 copy

Honey-mustard glazed Salmon – serves 2

Introduction

Mustard and honey …. it would be difficult to go wrong with any recipe that calls for those two ingredients. A few months ago, we received a jar of honey-mustard from a local chef here in Galway (Jess Murphy – Kai Café). At first, this mustard (Moutarde de Montjoie) seemed a little too sweet and syrupy for us to use liberally, so we negotiated it with caution. At first, we drizzled a little over breakfast sausages as they sizzled and were delighted with the succulent results. Since then, we have dabbled and drizzled this sweet sticky stuff on many products and have to say this one of our favourite ways to use it.

What you will need

400 g fresh salmon (200 g per person)

30 g butter, melted to brush on salmon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lemon, (1/2 for juice only, other half sliced into circles for garnish)

60 ml honey

60 ml whole grain mustard

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 red onion (peeled and sliced)

How to prepare it

Brush the (uncooked) salmon with melted butter and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Sauté in a medium hot pan for 4 – 5 minutes on each side, starting with skin side up. Finish in the oven at 200ºF for 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Do not overcook. Sauté the sliced onion in the olive oil and arrange it on your dinner plate. Remove fish from oven and deglaze the pan (with the salmon in it) with the lemon juice. Add the honey and mustard and lemon slices. If the sauce is too thick then add a spoon or two of water to thin it down. Serve immediately, atop the sautéed onions with the pan sauce spooned over the top of it. A side serving of brown basmati rice would be a delicious accompaniment to this dish.

 

Do you use honey more than sugar? Do you keep bees?

Thanks for popping in for a visit and I hope you enjoy the recipes.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

These recipes were published in The Sunday Times. (February 3rd, 2013)

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22 Comments + Add Comment

  • Hi Mona, yup, love the sweet stuff. If I have a choice I’ll go for honey every time. Love the touch of sweetness you’ve added to the Ha-loo-me (hehehe). Hester x

    • Hi Hester!
      What is not to love really. It seems Irish Bees are having a tough time with the weather — so we are holding out for a great summer
      this year and will (for sure) stock up!
      Hope all is well in the East xx

  • My friend’s Dad produces the most amazing honey from his back garden in the heart of Dun Laoghaire…. proving that urban bees can do their thing too!

    • Margaret,
      I cannot wait to try your honey.
      I am sure, giving the terrain and bog around you, it will be gorgeous.

  • Mona,
    After I made a batch of citrus-honey whole grain muffins, I was looking at the cm left at the bottom of the honey jug (and it’s hard, so it needs to be warmed to use) and thinking that as soon as I’ve used it all up I hope can pick a new one up at the farmer’s market. Not sure how bee keepers keep their jugged honey from getting hard at the same rate as the jug I brought home, as I’m sure the bees are only producing when there are flowers and pollen accessible.

    Might be molasses next, for me.

    I recently had a sample of fried halloumi cheese with honey at the fancy cheese shop in my local Kroger. It’s delicious–you’re absolutely right.

    I have a piece of cooked salmon that I left out of the Superbowl dip last night so I could play with it–I was thinking some sort of sushi, but I’m debating a honey-mustard spread on the rice . . .

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Kirsten,
      Glad you liked the honey piece!
      It is such a versatile product and using it on cereals or baking or on a piece of cheese is a great
      way to use less sugar and enjoy more of a natural product! We have a recipe using molasses for bread
      … I will share that too :0) Thanks for the visit!

  • What a lovely memory of your first taste of honey. Yes, it is a shame that our world has changed so much for our children and that we have to restrict their freedoms. Some great uses of honey you have shared here. My Ron would really enjoy that honey mustard glazed salmon.

    • Thanks Paula,
      My brother, the other bike rider, called me last night to let me know that he
      carried that memory as clear as I did! I love that food can make a memory stick so long!
      Hope all is well with you … Only 7 more weeks of classes left in college.
      I can’t wait to be done it all!

  • My brother keeps bees now – and lost a hive before Christmas. Poor creatures, they are in real danger: between losing access to fields of clover, and being infested with mites. But you can’t beat the taste of real, local honey. Just thinking of Greek honey, flavoured by herbs like thyme…. mmmm yummy.

    • How did he lose a hive Karen?
      What happened? I remember you telling me he was keeping bees.
      We need to meet this brother of yours as we share many husbandry interests,
      and, going out n a limb here, but I am guessing he might like food too?
      See you in college xx

  • My sister-in-law has hives in her garden here in Drumcondra, Dublin and her honey has the most wonderful flavour. We reckon her bees go foraging in the nearby National Botanic Gardens….great to get such a delightful ( indirect) return on our tax.

    • Ha ha! I love it Catherine. A great refund on your taxes paid!
      I am looking forward to sourcing more local honey. We are surrounded by bogland
      around here and I am told the honey from the bog is delicous.
      Cld and wet here in Galway with a threat of sleet and ice … Still no snow!

  • I don’t even know if I have ever eaten honey straight from the beehive and honeycomb and can only imagine the wonder as a child! But I love honey in savory dishes and honey-mustard and honey-cheese are indeed two fabulous pairings. Your recipes are divine!

    • Gosh Jamie…it is worth seeking out. I am sure that it can be found during the summer at your
      local market. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
      Honey is – especially in its raw state – my favourite sweetener and I would venture to say will
      be the one the kids reach for first everytime. Thanks for popping in for a visit Jamie…
      I have a few more weeks of class left and then studying for my finals but hope you will take a few days after P2P to come visit us in the West. Xx

  • This is the first year that my father-in-law’s hives will be producing honey and and I cannot wait. He lives a mere 5 miles or so away. I’m wondering if I can persuade hubby though to take a hive in the new allotment scheme as we’ve space for quite a number of hives, that’s only a half mile away. Both honey and apples are my go-to natural sweeteners here before sugar. I must try baking with it more though.
    Would you consider getting a hive yourselves?

    • You know, I want bees. I have wanted them since we moved back home to Galway five years ago..
      But with all the foster kiddies flitting in and out of our home – especially during the summer months – it would not bee ( ha ha ) practical to have them in our back garden at all. Especially as that would be when the Bees are at their busiest. But, my Mum has a nice plot of land within a mile from us so we are looking into a few hives for that field…it is near the bog too. I am just waiting to see how Margaret and Alfie get on with their bees and honey this year … Oh and I want to finish college too before taking on any more responsibility! Hope the eyes are improving xx

  • We always buy local raw honey from various friends of ours who have bees – it is better for you! Love your uses for it here.

    Also wanted to say I enjoyed the Google hangout and agree with so much of what you have to say. My husband was raised on a farm, so I had an advantage coming into the idea of raising our own food. We have the veggies, much of the fruit and eggs covered – now we are working out how to raise our own meat. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences!

    • Hi there –

      I know – knowing where the food comes from is paramount these days.
      The honey recipes are tried and test and that honey on the cheese … omgeeee
      To die for.
      Thanks so much for visiting the blog and listening to the Hangout. I do love Google!

  • I like to use honey because it is much more healthy than using sugar. Finding raw honey is little bit difficult.

  • Interesting recipes, good pictures, very tasty resemble the Mediterranean cuisine which we do in Spain.
    We invite you to visit my blog from Spain, with traditional recipes from the State of Valencia. http://valenciagastronomic.blogspot.com.es
    This week “Pot of beans” and the coming week “Mediterranean vegetable rice” going to lose?
    In my blog you can find a translator to your language

  • Hey, I am a bit late (what’s new) but loved the honey post. Have you tried feta baked with honey and fennel seed? Use a great quality chunk of feta and place in ovenproof dish (preferably adorable). Cook 1/4 cup good honey and a tablespoon of fennel seeds over medium heat for about 5 mins. Pour over feta and bake for 15 mins at 350 degrees. Can be broiled, if preferred. Delicious!

    • Mmmmmmmmmm … That Feta cheese with honey and fennel sounds fabulous!
      Thanks for sharing …. I will get him to make it for us this weekend to aid in my recovery xx

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
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