Honey … Sweet, Syrupy & Sticky
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.
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.
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.
Honey-mustard glazed Salmon – serves 2
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,
These recipes were published in The Sunday Times. (February 3rd, 2013)
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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.
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