YOU ALL know that I’m fans of Honey & Co, a teeny weeny but soon to be bigger restaurant in London.
Sarit and Itamar have been over to us twice and we love their simple homesy Middle Eastern food.
Not sure how they do it but they’ve just come out with a new cookbook, their second in less than 12 months.
Their first, Honey & Co won the Sunday Times and the Fortnum & Mason cookbook of the year awards.
This one is on baking.
“Our day is marked by what comes out of the pastry section, and there’s always something good on the way: sticky cherry and pistachio buns in the morning: loaf of rich dough rolled with chocolate, hazelnuts and cinnamon that comes out of the oven fresh for elevenses.
“Lunch is a crisp, crumbly shell of pastry filled with spiced lamb or burnt aubergine, and at teatime there are cookies, cheesecakes, fruit cakes — so many cakes that it’s hard to choose one.
“After dinner there might be poached peaches with roses or something more traditional — sweet and salty kanafeh drenched in orange blossom syrup. There’s something sweet, something in the oven for everyone, all day long — welcome to Honey & Co.”
So it’s not all cakes and sticky buns, there are good things for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, teatime and dinner and even some pretty irresistible suggestions for after dark.
At present, the restaurant in Fitzrovia has just 10 tables it’s what you might call cosy, some of their customers come in several times a day.
The downstairs kitchen is also tiny, how five chefs and three pastry chefs, three kitchen porters and seven waiters and Louisa in the office, co-exist and run up and down the stairs is an astonishing feat in itself.
They are all united by a love for food, a zest for life “even though its only part of what we do the pastry section is the backbone of the operation the driving force and the powerhouse.
“What baking requires represents everything we want our staff to have and our customers to feel — consideration, concentration, experience, patience, of course, but also a lot of passion, greed, an eagerness to please on an industrial scale and a great big heart.
“Our days are governed now by the rhythm of the pastry: weighing, mixing, kneading, shaping, baking, chilling, glazing, serving.”
Of course, it’s not just sweet, there’s an excellent chapter at the beginning of the book on ingredients and particularly the quality of the ingredients for baking, the butter, the cream, the sugar and flour, the vanilla, the chocolate, the nuts, the gelatine.
They quite rightly emphasise the quality you choose has a major impact on the end result, a fact oft-forgotten in our quest for the cheapest ingredients nowadays.
If we’re going to spend time in the kitchen, the end result might as well be as delicious as possible and of course on the quality of the ingredients and the recipe.
There’s lots to tempt us in Honey & Co Baking Book by Sarit and Itamar published by Saltyard Book Company.
At the end of our street is the head office of Caprice Holdings Ltd, the group that operates some of the best and glitziest restaurants in London. Alvin and Kate work there, and treat us as their canteen.
We know Alvin’s weird coffee order, and that Kate will have hot chocolate in winter and sparkling lemonade in the warmer months.
They are both great lovers of cake, and whenever there is a birthday in the office we get an order for one with some silly writing on it — ‘Cheers, all the best’ or ‘shiiiiiiiit’ — often private jokes that only they understand.
This cake is their absolute favourite (they have a horrible nickname for it — ‘the green goddess’ or ‘green velvet’), so this recipe is for them, in the hope that they will never bake it themselves, but instead keep on coming to us for it.
Makes 1kg (2lb) loaf
175g self-raising flour
A pinch of table salt
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground star anise
200g light brown soft sugar
50g caster sugar
175g/185ml olive oil
60g golden raisins
3 courgettes, unpeeled but trimmed,
Zest of 1 lemon
Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas mark 5. Butter a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin and line the base and long sides with a sheet of baking parchment, allowing a little overhang at the sides.
Once the oven is hot, roast the pistachios for eight minutes. Keep them whole and leave to cool a little.
Mix the flour, salt, ginger and star anise together and add the pistachios.
Place the sugars and oil in a large mixing bowl (or you could use a machine with a whisk attachment if you are super lazy) and whisk together until combined.
Whisk the eggs in, one at a time, and keep whisking until you have a lovely emulsified texture, a little like mayonnaise.
Now add the rest of the ingredients, get rid of the whisk and use a large spoon or spatula to fold and combine to an even mixture.
Transfer the cake batter to your lined loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the tin around so that it bakes evenly and leave for a further 15 to 20 minutes.
The end result should have a lovely springy feel. Allow to cool in the tin before removing.
This will keep in an airtight container for up to three days and for up to a week if you store it in the fridge.
110g (4ozs) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g (1oz) caster sugar
Pinch of salt
110ml (4fl ozs) milk
50 g (2 oz) blueberries
Drop of sunflower oil, for greasing
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.
Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.
Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.
Fold in the blueberries gently.
Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop three tablespoons (three American tablespoons + three teaspoons) of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together.
Cook for about two minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.
Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and a sprinkling of caster sugar. (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and diced
500g lamb mince
2 tbsp baharat spice mix
2 tbsp tomato purée
60g tahini paste
a pinch of table salt
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
50g pine nuts
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on a high heat, then add the diced onions.
Sauté until they are soft and starting to colour (this will take about 8–10 minutes), then add the minced meat. Keep the heat high and mix the meat around vigorously to break it into little pieces.
Season with salt and pepper, stir in the spice mix and continue cooking until the meat has browned (this should take about 5–6 minutes).
Stir in the tomato purée and cook for another 2–3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then remove to a bowl to cool a little.
Mix the tahini paste with the water and the salt, whisking it until it becomes smooth. Place a spoonful of tahini in the centre of each dough disc and spread it around a little.
Cover with the cooked lamb, then top with the cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. Carefully lift each lahma onto the preheated tray and bake for 8–10 minutes.
We like to serve this with extra tahini dip and a fresh tomato salad.
Makes about 1kg
This recipe makes twice the amount you need for a single batch of burekas, but it is a versatile dough that freezes well, so it is worth making the full amount and keeping some for another day.
If you prefer, you can halve the quantities; the only problem you face is halving an egg. The best way is to crack it into a little dish, whisk well and then use half. Use the remaining beaten egg to glaze the pastry before baking.
Waste not, want not.
Made throughout the Balkans, burekas are savoury pastry parcels with different fillings, often potato, cheese or meat.
The pastry varies as well, from short and crumbly to layered and crunchy, like filo or puff, or even doughy, more like bread rolls. For home baking, I have found none better than this, the pastry dough that will change your baking life — our famed ‘dough number 4’.
It is easy to make, failsafe and extremely tasty. At Honey & Co we use this for a few of our breakfast bakes, and it is great for canapés and pies.
Alternatively, you could buy ready-made puff pastry and just make the fillings. It is cheating but the burekas will still be delicious, and no one need know.
You can prepare your burekas in advance and freeze them; just remember they need to be thawed before baking so that the filling is nice and hot by the time the pastry is cooked.
The fillings here are a few tried-and tested suggestions. If you experiment with different fillings, be sure to over-season slightly, to make up for the fact that they will be wrapped in pastry.
500g plain flour
½ tsp caster sugar
1½ tsp table salt
1 tsp baking powder
250g cold unsalted butter, diced
125g full fat cream cheese
125g/ml double cream
Place all the ingredients in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment, or in a food processor, and work them together to form a nice smooth dough.
(You could of course do this by hand, in which case you will need to rub the butter into the flour and other dry ingredients before mixing in the cream cheese, egg and double cream).
The idea is to keep everything cold and not to overwork the dough — you want some flecks of butter running through, as this will result in a lovely flaky texture once baked.
Form the dough into a ball, press down to flatten it, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. You can prepare the dough up to 3 days in advance of baking — just keep it wrapped in cling film in the fridge until you need it.
If you are making a full batch but only need half for now, divide it in two, wrap both pieces in cling film, then put one in the fridge and the other in the freezer.
It keeps well for up to a month; simply thaw before rolling and filling.
It’s Blueberry Time: Irish blueberries are in season and in abundance this year so for goodness sake, check the label and don’t bring home blueberries that have travelled thousands of miles from Chile or Peru.
My seven year-old granddaughter Amelia made the most delicious blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning from blueberries that she and her brother and sister had just picked in the blueberry patch.
Don’t miss the Ballymaloe Garden Fete today and tomorrow – two days of talks, garden tours and demonstrations.
Alys Fowler and Clare Savage will give a talk in the Ballymaloe Walled Garden, Fiann O Nuallain will look at beauty treatments from your garden, Madeline McKeever and Susan Turner will tell us about seed saving, Caroline Holmes will speak about walled garden management and lots, lots more.
Admission is €5, children under 16 are free. http://gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/
Date for your diary: Slow Food Galway will visit Galway Goat Farm on Sunday, August 23, at 12 noon. There is a tour of the farm and cheese and yoghurt making followed by a delicious lunch. For more information contact Kate O’ Malley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 087-9312333.
Don’t miss the Ballymaloe Garden Fete today and tomorrow. Two days of talks, garden tours and demonstrations.
Alys Fowler and Clare Savage will give a talk in the Ballymaloe Walled Garden, Fiann Ó Nualláin on beauty treatments from your garden, Madeline McKeever and Susan Turner will tell us about seed saving, Caroline Holmes will tell us about walled garden management and lots lots more.
Admission is €5, children under 16 are free and includes admission to all events. Check out: www.gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/ for further information and the complete programme.
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