Category Archives: honey

Baked apples (Serves: 3 – Preparation time: 45 mins)

Happy New Year!

I have decided to share a recipe that helps to use up one ingredient that has a tendency to be leftover after Christmas – mincemeat. The recipe below is super easy and can be eaten either hot for pudding with a little cream, or is great served cold as a topping for porridge in the morning for breakfast.

The inspiration for this dish came after a visit to East Sussex to see some of my friends who swear by a bowl porridge for breakfast, topped with fresh apple, yogurt, seeds, nuts and honey before a days hunting, shooting or fishing.  Not being one for porridge normally, I am well and truly converted and the recipe below is my take on their porridge toppings.

The simplicity of this recipe makes it an absolute gem, it takes a matter of minutes to prepare, the key really to this recipe is about how well you core the apple as you want to create a cavity that is large enough to pack all of the mincemeat in.  As the apple cooks it becomes beautifully soft and infuses with the spices and flavours of the mincemeat.

This is definitely a recipe to try and is absolutely fantastic on these chilly winter days.  Enjoy!

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Apple breakfast pancakes (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes)

If you are having friends over for brunch, or if you are looking for something simple to cook with your kids for breakfast that is simple and tasty then this is a great little recipe!  Cooking pancakes should be straightforward and fun – if a little messy…

These pancakes are very similar to drop scones, they should be relatively small, about 10 cm in diameter making them very quick to cook.  I would highly recommend using a non-stick frying pan that has been lightly oiled when making this recipe.  If you use too much oil the pancakes will simply absorb the oil as they cook.  My tip for oiling the pan is to pour a little vegetable oil onto a piece of kitchen towel and then grease the pan all over, rather than pouring the oil directly into the pan.  Also it is always worth doing a small tester pancake to make sure that you pan is hot enough before starting to cooking the pancakes in batches.

The ‘filling’ of the pancakes is a classic combination of apple and cinnamon.  As they cook your kitchen will be filled with the a lovely fragrance that I always associate with autumn and crumbles.  The syrup adds a sweet and sharp element to the dish that makes the pancakes particularly moreish as they soak up the juices.  These pancakes are best served straight from the pan – if left too long they will start to dry out.

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Moroccan spiced shoulder of lamb with apricots (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

One-pot cooking is incredibly convenient for washing up purposes but also in terms of ease.  The idea with this style of cooking is that you can throw everything into a casserole dish, cover and leave to bubble away in the oven without needing to think about it until it is time to serve.    The added bonus with this particular dish is longer you leave it the more succulent and tender the lamb becomes.

As this dish cooks, the juices from both the apricots and lamb seep into the sweet potato mixture turning it into a stuffing that is infused with all the flavours of the dish.  I would recommend serving this meal with simple accompaniments for example fluffy couscous and steamed green vegetables so that you can relish the taste of the lamb.  This recipe would be a good alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, or would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party. Enjoy!

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Prawn dhansak (serves: 5 – preparation time: 1.5hrs)

Mid-week entertaining can be a little bit tricky as you want to be able to talk to your guests instead of being tied to the kitchen.  For this reason when I have friends over in the middle of the week I tend only to cook meals that can bubble away gently in the slow cooker whilst I am at work, or that I can prepare in advance.  This week I had three friends over for supper on Wednesday, and knowing that time would not be on my side that evening I went for the prepare in advance option.

It was my housemate’s boyfriend that first got me into making Dhansak curry and I am delighted that he did!  Dhansak is a lentil based curry that is ever so slightly sweet and can be spiced up according to your own preference.  If prawns are not your thing, substitute with chicken thighs (de-skinned but preferably still on the bone to enhance the flavour) – just add them to the curry at the same time as the lentils and they will poach in the liquid.

One of the great advantages to this type of curry is that it all made in one pot, which saves on washing up – WIN!  I would strongly recommend giving this recipe a go as it is both hearty and fresh tasting, and dare I say it much tastier than a takeaway curry…  Enjoy!

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Another glut – this time figs

We got the call on Sunday, it was from one of our neighbours (JP) saying that they needed help eating their figs.  We gleefully got in the car and headed over.  Not knowing how many figs there would be we took only one small plastic basket.  On arrival JP welcomed us, but upon catching sight of our basket shook his head, turned round and headed in the direction of his garage, muttering as he went “tu apporté un seule panier?” (you brought only one basket?).  Unsure what to do we headed in the direction of the fig tree,  JP quickly caught us up carrying two wooden crates and it became clear why – the tree was absolutely laden with fruit.  Some of the figs were so ripe they disintegrated in your hand as you pulled them from the tree, which meant of course you had to eat them – a burden that of course I took on.  Within 10 minutes we had filled not only our (wholly inadequate) basket but the two wooden crates as well.

The only slight snag with figs, when they are “that” ripe, is that you have to use them incredibly quickly.  Unfortunately we didn’t have any sugar in the house on Sunday and the earliest we could buy some was on Monday afternoon, which meant we lost a fair few.  However, those that we were able to save/use have been incorporated in: a tart, a jam, a chutney, dried figs and several light meals.  The chutney was made with a “throw it in and see what happens approach” – the reason being was that I had some quinces and apples that needed using up and I wasn’t sure what spices would work well.  The end result was surprisingly good and we now have 7 jars stored away though I doubt I will ever be able to replicate the taste again as I didn’t measure anything.

What I found worked best with the figs was creating a simple starter with some cured ham (no cooking involved).  Here is the end result:

Figs with Cured Ham

Ingredients:  (per serving)

  • 2 figs (quartered)
  • 1 slice of cured ham
  • small piece of red onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • Olive oil (for drizzling)
  • balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze (for drizzling)
  • Black pepper

Steps:

  • Place the pieces of fig on the plate, scatter over the onion and drape over the cured ham.
  • Drizzle over the honey, a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Season with freshly ground black pepper.

 

 

The Beekeepers Apprentice

This year I have undertaken the role of a beekeeper’s apprentice as my father has a small apiary at the bottom of one of our fields.  At the start of the year we had three hives which required very little attendance, other than making sure they had enough syrup during the cold winter months.  The fun really started when around April when the decision was made to artificially divide the hives in the hope that this would stop the hive from splitting and then swarming later in the year.  Well… that was the theory…

I spotted the first swarm on the first truly hot day of the year in the middle of May, fortunately my father was in the house when it happened, and with his help and guidance together we caught the swarm in a box – before then re-housing it in a ruchette (little hive).  The following day there were two more swarms.  So once again we donned our bee-suits and caught them both before once again re-housing the swarms in separate ruchettes.  I vividly remember half way through rehousing the second swarm (which is done by placing a white sheet in front of the ruchette with a plank of wood leading up to the entrance – so they can quite literally walk into their new home once you’ve upended the box of bees on to the sheet) my father turning to me and asking me if I could try to spot and then catch the queen (please bear in mind there tend to be thousands of bees in a swarm) whilst he popped back to the barn to get something.  I set about this task during his absence and with the help of the workers bees who tend to bow with their tails in the air when a queen is in close proximity, I managed to catch not just one queen but five queens (please note this is NOT normal).  After a lot of deliberation we decided to let all the queens go and watched them all head on up into the Ruchette – which with the joy of hindsight and a little bit of research on Google was entirely the wrong thing to do.

I suspect you might have already guessed what happened next…

 

       

The following day when both my parents were out at a friend’s birthday lunch, I popped down to check the hives at midday to find three swarms.  With no option other than to catch the swarms myself I armed myself with the swarm catching kit (aka 2 wine boxes and a wicker waste paper basket) and set about catching and attempting to re-house each of the swarms.  To say I had one or two problems was an understatement!  One of the swarms decided they did not want to enter the new ruchette but instead they would rather remain in the wooden box – so after two attempts I decided to leave them in the box.  One of the swarms did enter the ruchette but two hours later decided they would rather swarm again and  take up residence on a branch 3 metres away.  So I had to catch and re-house them twice.  As for the third swarm that was placed in the wicker basket I decided after all the excitement of the second swarm I would leave them be (excuse the pun) until my father’s return.

Similar events occurred the following weekend (typically when my parents were away visiting friends leaving me in charge of the smallholding and all its occupants).  Below is an email I sent to my father whilst he was away to update him on the “Bee situation”…

To: Dad

Subject:  Bees

Dear Dad

 Well this is how yesterday went.  Saw big swarm – put it in a box very easily.  Went to get Ruchette, with Susan’s [A Beekeeping Friend who was somewhat of a life saver] help kitted it all out and went and put them in the box.   Meanwhile another sneaky swarm was forming so after rehousing the first, went and put 2nd swarm in box.  Left them until 7pm – both swarms were still in situ so I rang Susan!  Susan had fortunately just reorganised her bees, so told me to pop over and collect her display hive.  She gave me more wax and cardres…  I then came home and sorted it all out, and put the bees to bed – which was in fact a much bigger swarm by the time all the bees had gone into the box than I would have thought.  So I then put those bees to bed (please note as I did so I saw what looked like a new young queen – who must have gone into the ruchette as the bees flooded in…)

So this morning, I am going to remove one of the feeders from a ruchette and give it to the second new swarm.  Will look at the big hive at the same time…

Love Ant

P.S  I dislike your bees immensely right now!!!

P.P.S Lambs and I are not on speaking terms as they have taken a chunk out of my index finger.

After all the excitement of the swarms during May, things calmed down considerably and the only thing that needed to be done to the hive was place a super on top to allow the bees to start making their honey which they have been doing all summer.  At the end of last week it was decided that the honey harvest was to happen and so, over the course of one afternoon, we spun the honey out of the frames using a centrifuge which has left us with roughly 82kg of honey…

I apologise for the length of the blog and don’t blame anyone who scrolls straight down to the recipes, which surprise, surprise involve honey as an ingredient…  Over the last couple of days I have made a number of dishes but there are really two that stood out.  The first was a play on an upside down cake and the second can really only be described as a fancy cheese on toast starter.  But without further ado here are the recipes.

Honey, Reine Claude Plum and Apple Upside Down Cake (Serves 8-12)


Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 250g cooking margarine
  • 250g sugar
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cardamom pods (shells removed and seeds crushed)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 15 plums (stoned and halved) – I used Reine Claude
  • 2 medium apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 5-6 tbsp honey (runny)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.  Line and grease a 30cm cake tin.
  2. In a bowl, beat to together the margarine and sugar until soft.
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture slowly (adding a little flour if the eggs start to curdle).
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and beat together thoroughly.
  5. Pour the honey into the bottom of the cake tin, using the back of a spoon to help evenly spread the honey around the bottom of the tin.
  6. Add the fruit in the pattern you would like (remember it will become the top of your cake).
  7. Finally pour over the batter and place in the over for approximately 50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  8. Serve with crème fraiche.

Fancy Cheese on Toast (Serves 3)

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of melba toast
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • small handful sliced almonds
  • 6 fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp runny honey
  • Black pepper (seasoning)

Steps:

  1. Cut the cheese into 6 slices.  Place a slice of the cheese onto each of the melba toasts.  Place under a hot grill for 1 minute.
  2. Whilst the cheese is under the grill, heat the almonds in a frying pan on a hot heat for around 1 minute.
  3. Remove the cheese on toast from the grill and plate up – by placing two of the toasts on each plate, scatter over a few almonds, drizzle over ½ tsp of honey, place a coriander leaf on each of the toasts and season with black pepper.  Then serve quickly so you can enjoy them whilst they are still warm.

BBQ marinades and recipes

It is so hot outside – the heat-wave is well and truly here!  Right now I think it is about 41C outside, subsequently, having a BBQ for lunch was really the only option.   All the family are here this week, which means big quantities of food are needed.  Having raided the deep-freeze last night for various types of meat, this morning all I had to do was make some marinades.  Deciding what marinade for the chicken would be was a no-brainer – honey and mustard is a classic marinade we have used on chicken legs for years, because the honey caramelises so nicely on a BBQ.  The more important question was what to marinade the spare ribs in?  I woke up this morning thinking some sort of Chinese plum sauce might be nice, but unfortunately we didn’t have any already made up, so I decided to try and make it.  The result was a sticky plum sauce that worked really nicely.   To balance out the vast quantity of meat I decided that vegetable skewers might not be a bad idea.  Aside from the plum sauce that took about an hour to make (but now that’s done I have 7 big jars of the stuff ready for use later in the year) the rest of the preparation for the BBQ took no time at all.

I am pleased to say that there was hardly any scraps left over from the BBQ other than a few bits of salad, so all in all a job well done by all members of the family.

ImageChinese Plum Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3kg of plums – stoned and halved (I used Prune d’Agen)
  • 4 garlic cloves – crushed
  • 900g white sugar
  • 300ml cider vinegar
  • 200ml soya sauce
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp pepper
  • 2” fresh ginger – peeled and grated
  • ½tsp cloves – crushed into a powder
  • 2 small dried chillies – chopped finely

Steps:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large sauce pan and mix well together, place on a medium heat and bring up to the boil.
  2. Leave on a rolling boil for roughly 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit catching on the bottom of the pan.
  3. After boiling for 40 minutes – remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before blending the mixture with either a handheld blender or a liquidizer.
  4. Place back in the pan and bring back up to the boil.
  5. Leave the sauce to boil for roughly 5 minutes before placing in sterilized jars.

ImageSpare Ribs in Chinese Plum Sauce (fed 8 people very well / if a little too well)

Ingredients:

  • 2kg Spare ribs
  • 400ml Chinese plum sauce

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C fan.
  2. Place ribs on an oven tray and pour over half the plum sauce, making sure that each rib has got the sauce on each side.
  3. Cover with tin-foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and set to one side until your BBQ is hot.
  5. Once your BBQ is ready, place the ribs meat side down and place some of the remaining sauce on the back of the ribs, let the ribs cook for about 3-4 minutes or until nicely caramelised, then turn over and do the same again.
  6. Just before you are ready to serve turn the ribs one last time and cook for just a minute.

Image

Chicken in Honey and Mustard

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 Chicken legs
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 3tbsp whole grain mustard

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C.
  2. Mix together the honey and mustard in a bowl.
  3. Place the chicken on an oven proof dish and pour over the mixture, making sure that all of the legs are coated.
  4. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove the tin foil and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked or the juices run clear.
  6. Once your BBQ is hot place the chicken legs on the BBQ for 4-5 minutes on both sides to give it that nice BBQ flavour.

ImageVegetable Skewers

Ingredients:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 1 ½ Red Peppers
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 4 Courgettes
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1 tsp dried coriander leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Steps:

  1. Cut all the vegetables into bit sized chunks and place in a large dish.
  2. Squeeze over the juice of the lemon, scatter over the coriander leaves and garlic and finally pour over the olive oil.  Mix everything together well and then make up your skewers ordering the vegetables as you please.
  3. Once your BBQ is hot place on your skewers, turning them regularly so that they don’t burn and cook for roughly 15 minutes.