Honey is one of life’s natural gifts, it sweetens all that it touches and also provides us with nutritious health benefits.
Honey, lemon and ginger drink was the go-to when we were sick as children.
I put it on the menu in The Cake Café the day we opened and it is still as popular today, nearly 10 years on.
Bees are ingenious creatures who produce honey as a food source within the complicated structure of their hives.
When first created, the honey has a high water content, which could make it unstable, so the bees beat their little wings and fan the honey to dry it out.
The beautiful hexagonal combs taken straight from the hive are filled with a golden, sweet liquid dripping with natural sugars and flavours of the countryside.
Honey is most often used in sweet baking or drizzled over yoghurt for breakfast but it works very well in savoury cooking as well.
A little sweetness goes a long way and brings out the flavours of the other ingredients.
A spoonful of honey peps up a tomato sauce or adds flavour to the skin of a roasting chicken.
Bees pollinate most of the flowers and plants we see in our gardens, hedgerows and fields.
Over the past decade, however, beekeepers have noticed marked changes.
A syndrome that nobody seems to be able to get to the bottom of called colony collapse disorder has become more prevalent.
There are various reasons suggested for its advancement, the increasing use of pesticides being the most lightly. Whatever the cause, the results are dismal.
A hive is simply abandoned by the seemingly healthy bees, they disappear leaving a ghost hive in their wake.
Since the bees are responsible for pollinating about one third of the human food supply our existence without them will be very bleak.
When buying honey it is good to look at the label carefully, many honeys are blended or created in places where the bees are fee on sugar.
To get the best quality look for local honey from a trusted beekeeper.
For the honeyed nuts recipe you can make extra batches and use them in salads or as nibbles.
Also the spices can be experimented with, a little smoked paprika works well.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
300g of chorizo, sliced
1 tbs of honey
4 tbs of balsamic vinegar
a large handful of black grapes, halved and any seeds removed
salad leaves for four
a generous handful of pine nuts, toasted
crunchy bread for four
Heat and pan and fry the slices of chorizo until they are starting to brown.
Remove from the heat and add the vinegar and honey to the pan straight away.
Allow them to bubble away in the hot pan and to coat the pieces of chorizo.
Place the leaves into four bowls and sprinkle with the grapes and the pine nuts.
Spoon the chorizo and the juices from the pan over the leaves and serve with the bread on the side.
Eat straight away as the hot dressing will start to wilt the leaves.
Rice for four
4 chicken breasts, sliced into four long strips each
juice and zest of 3 limes, 1 extra for roasting
2 tbs of honey
2 tbs of light soya sauce
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbs of creme fraiche
1/4 of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
a bunch of coriander, chopped
Put the rice on to boil in lightly salted water and drain when cooked.
While it is cooking, push each of the strips of chicken onto a skewer.
If you are using wooden ones soak them in water first.
Mix together the lime juice and zest, the honey, soya sauce, chilli and rapeseed oil.
Place the skewers into a ovenproof dish large enough to hold them and pour the sauce over all of the skewers.
Quarter the remaining lime and place it into the dish as well.
Place into an oven heated to 180 degrees and cook for 10 minutes, turn the skewers and cook again covering them well in the sauce.
Cook for a further 15 minutes or until cooked through.
While they are cooking mix the preserved lemon and garlic into the creme fraiche and season using cracked black pepper.
Sprinkle with the coriander.
Serve the skewers with the rice and some of the sauce poured over and the creme fraiche and quarter of a roasted lime on the side.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
These nuts can be used instead for topping a salad or just eating as they are.
1 tbs of rapeseed oil
1 tsp of nutmeg
1 tsp of cake spice
2 tbs of honey
140g of almonds
140g of hazelnuts
140g of cashew nuts
250g of camembert, preferably in a wooden box
herbs of flower petals to decorate
Mix the spices and half of the honey into the oil.
Toss the nuts in the oil and spread them onto a large baking tray.
Roast in an oven heated to 140 degrees for fifteen minutes.
Stir the nuts, drizzle with the rest of the honey and put them back in the oven for a further ten minutes.
Bake the cheese in its box at 180 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes until it is completely soft in the centre.
Pile the nuts on top of the cheese and serve straight away with chunks of the bread on the side for scooping up the warm gooey cheese.
I changed the granola recipe that we use in The Cake Café and Slice recently and I am much happier with this newer version.
The treacle adds a nice richness.
400g of porridge oats
100g of desiccated coconut
30 mls of honey
90 mls of olive oil
2 tsp of treacle
20g of light brown sugar
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of ground cardamom
75g of dried apricots, chopped
50g of golden raisins
150g of hazelnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
100g of pumpkin seeds
Mix the honey, treacle and olive oil. Stir in the salt and sugar until they dissolve.
Add liquid mixture to mixed oats and coconut, stirring as you do. The mixture might feel a little dry but you just need a very light coating.
Spread on to one or two baking trays and leave to dry in a warm oven at 160 degrees for about an hour.
Stir the top layer every 15 minutes or so, breaking up larger chunks as you do.
Bake until all of the oats are golden.
Once the oat mixture is cool stir in the other fruits, nuts and seeds.
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