Carina is a regular contributor to The Scotsman magazine, and her latest column, for June, talked about Victor’s love of bees, and gave some ideas for using honey in your cooking. Read it below….
This is the fourth year we’ve had our bee hives. Victor does love his ‘girls’. As a fully paid-up member of the Scottish Beekeepers Association, he’s passionate about how valuable these beautiful and highly intelligent, highly buzzy little things are to the environment, and to his breakfast cereal – not to mention the contribution of that fantastic honeycomb to the cheeseboards in our restaurants.
We have three hives at home and two at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Rural and urban hives do a vital job wherever they are. Last year we were so lucky and the hives were a great success. I use the word ‘luck’ because nature plays such an enormous part in the fortunes of the hives and the beautiful honey that they share with us. However, this year we’ve learned the hard way that skill is as important as luck when it comes to honey, when our Queen Bee passed away.
At first we were worried it was something we had done – Victor has been very upset at the thought. Marvellous Margaret, Victor’s new bee buddy, thought perhaps we might have placed the ‘Queen Excluder’ in the wrong place over the winter in one of the hives which would have stopped the queen from travelling up from the brood to the supers, where the honey is.
However, we’ve since discovered, to our relief, that old queenie wasn’t killed: she just died of old age. Queen Bees have a life space of three years, on average, and we think this one may have just run out of energy. Either way, we were quite sad at her loss but a new queen and a new colony will be in situ soon. Thankfully, the other hives are thriving so still lots of honey for all our lovely customers coming their way.
So in honour of our queen bee, our bee keeper, and our honey, all my recipes have a little bit of the sweet stuff today.
Potting Shed Honey Bread
Makes 1 x 450g loaf
- 150g wholemeal flour
- 350g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 heaped tsp salt, plus extra for sprinkling
- I generous tablespoon of honey
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 300ml warm water
- 50g unsalted butter, for greasing
- 1 shallot, finely sliced, then roasted with 1 tbsp olive oil at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 until golden
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
This is a deceptively easy recipe. Baked in clay pots lined with greaseproof paper, it makes a lovely statement for a picnic or outdoor party.
Either line 10 well-washed clay flowerpots with good-quality greaseproof paper or grease a baking tray or a 450g loaf tin.
Sieve the flours, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Add the water and honey and mix well, either in a mixer with a dough hook or by hand. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.
Grease a clean bowl and put the kneaded dough in it. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size – this should take around 45-60 minutes. Remove the risen dough from the bowl and gently knock it down, then flatten it slightly.
Carefully work the shallot and rosemary through the dough by folding the dough over a few times. Cut the dough into 10 pieces and form into balls. (If making a single loaf, omit this stage).
Place in the flowerpots or on the greased baking tray. If making a single loaf, place the dough in the greased loaf tin. Cover with clingfilm and a clean towel and leave to prove for another 15 minutes, until doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 230oC/450oF/Gas 8. At the bottom of the oven, place a deep baking tray with a cup of hot water splashed into it. This will help the bread to form a nice crust. Uncover the dough and sprinkle a little salt on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes for the rolls or 25 minutes for the loaf, until golden brown.
If you are using clay pots, turn the rolls out after 20 minutes and continue cooking on a baking tray to ensure they are cooked all the way through. The rolls can be transferred back to the flowerpots for serving.
Cool on a wire rack.
Golden Beetroot Soup
We had a beautiful little crop of golden beetroot and this soup is just perfect for it.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions cut into small chunks
- 25g fresh ginger, very finely chopped
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 400g golden beetroots -peeled and cut into small chunks
- 600g butternut squash -peeled and cut into small chunks
- 750ml vegetable stock (adding 1 litre of stock will make this more soupy)
- 2 tbsp full-fat natural yoghurt
- 1 fresh lime
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- 1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely sliced
- Small handful of fresh coriander
- Drizzle of honey
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole pot. Add the onion and fry until soft, then add the ginger and cook for a few minutes until the flavours have released.
Add the beetroot and squash and cook for a few minutes until they are coated in the oil. Season with salt.
Add stock to just cover the vegetables for a stew consistency, then lower the gas to a simmer. Place a piece of greaseproof paper over the pot and cover with a lid.
Simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. The squash should start to disintegrate, while the beetroot will stay firmer giving a lovely texture.
When you are ready to serve, gently marble in the fresh yoghurt. Then add some finely chopped spring onions, coriander, sliced fresh chili and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
A light carrot cake with honey frosting
Makes one cake
- 3 large organic free-range eggs
- 150g dark brown sugar
- 275ml sunflower oil
- 2 tsp of mixed spice
- 300g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300g finely grated carrots
- 50g coconut
- 100g sultanas
- finely grated zest of one orange
- 1 tablespoon milk
You need to assemble this recipe quite quickly, so be organised and weigh everything out before you start.
Beat the eggs, sugar, and oil in a large bowl until the mixture changes colour.
Then, using a metal spoon, fold in the sieved flour and baking powder. Add the coconut, orange zest and carrots, then add the sultanas to the mixture. Finally, add the milk to soften the mixture slightly.
Transfer to a lined 23 cm round cake tin and bake at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 for 55 minutes to an hour.
The cake is ready when a knife come clean from the centre of the tin
When ready, transfer to a cooling wire and allow to cool.
- 400g icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar
- 100g cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
Beat all of the ingredients in a bowl until creamy and silky. Ice the cake when cool and serve.