Honey is something that fascinates me as a food. Bees get a bit of a bad rep as we are often stung as a child and this traumatic experience often spoils our outlook on them as we grow up.
But, this amazing product has an extraordinary history. Egyptian tombs have been excavated and found to contain perfectly edible honey as it has, essentially, an eternal shelf life.
Few edibles in their raw form can hold this claim; rice, sugar and salt are just a few, but let’s face it, we aren’t going to put a spoon in a jar of rice and chow down on it!
Honey is ‘hygroscopic’ (sorry for the science mumbo-jumbo), which means it has an incredibly low amount of water in its natural state, so very few bacteria can exist in this environment and are essentially smothered by it and just die off.
As a foodie, I find this utterly fascinating.
It is such a versatile ingredient and can happily feature in any course in any meal, savoury or sweet.
Recently my son Rupert and I spent a wonderful day at my sister’s house in North Wales. The reason for our visit wasn’t just to take in the wonderful surrounds, but to help collect and spin some honey with Rupert and his cousins!
My mum and sister have been keeping bees for the last 3 years and I’m sure they would agree that its not been an easy journey. However, they seem to greet each new challenge head on and this year they have managed to collect a substantial yield from their busy bees.
Mum & Soph set up the Bees with a grant from the ‘Snowdonia National Park Authority’. They have four hives of native Welsh Black Bees, no smoke is used with their bees and they endeavour to disturb them as little as possible, just taking enough honey for themselves (and us lucky few who manage to persuade them for a jar or two!) so the bees have plenty of honey stores all year round and don’t need to be fed syrups.
This year’s warm June saw the hawthorn blossom the best we’ve ever seen, so this years spring honey is mainly made up of hawthorn, sycamore and dandelion nectar. If you have never tasted raw honey straight from the cone, then I am sorry for you! It is truly amazing and so different from the processed stuff the supermarkets feed us.
I’m sure many of you are aware of the decline of native bees in the UK. I found this statistic on the Saveourbees.org.uk website, which I found very sad.
In the 1950s there were over 50 species of native bees in the UK, yet now there are just 25 as the rest have become extinct. I, along with my family wish to preserve the beauty of our natural habitat and the bees are an important part of this.
So having helped to spin this beautiful nectar from our lovely bees, I wanted to create an easy recipe that we can all do at home, with basic everyday ingredients.
We all know that Andi is the chef in our house, but I try to hold my own when feeding the family, and this recipe is a firm favourite of everyone. A recipe that can be prepped in minutes and is adaptable to different ingredients your fridge has to offer.
We had these in our fridge but you shouldn’t feel afraid to mix it up with what you have in yours, or what the season has to offer.
For the following recipe we used:
250g Steve’s (world famous!) red onion marmalade
500g mixed heritage tomatoes
200g feta cheese
60g rocket leaf
400g golden beetroot
A handful of fresh thyme
And the ‘pièce de résistance’, Honey!
Use a sheet of puff pastry…..ok, I’m sure even Mary Berry would approve of my shop bought pastry. Let's face it, we all have better things to be doing with our time!
Cut the pastry into circles (I used a plate to cut round) and score another circle an inch from the edge, be careful not to cut all the way through. Egg wash, score within the inner circle.
Bake for about 15 minutes until it’s a light golden brown. Pull it out and push down the centre of your circle, leaving about an inch margin (like a little hug for the filling).
Evenly distribute all the ingredients into the pastry circle and place it back into the oven for around 15-20 minutes (place the thyme on top whole and remove it after it comes out the oven) until your ingredients are crisp and golden, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown… Let's face it, no one wants a soggy bottom!
Once your tart is baked, top it with rocket and drizzle with honey, et voilà! A delicious meal for the whole family.