Using honey in cooking is a fine art. There have been plenty of dishes on a menu which I’ve felt moved to order because of it’s honey contents which often come to you in a sticky, sweet mess where you’re almost sure someone has just squeezed half a bottle of Rowse over the top and served it straight to your table. Not very clever. Not very tasty.
Honey is often used as a healthy replacement for sugar. And so it is.
But honey doesn’t need to be added just to sweeten – it can be added to offset, complement, cut-through, add-depth, and lift other ingredients. It can also add texture, thickness, and stickiness. And as for colour, it can add a deep gold to any ordinary sponge.
And that’s before we get to all the different variation of honey flavours – from the warm, nutty, slight bitterness of Manuka to the zesty, blossom-y taste of a traditional, light batch from a flower-filled county like Kent.
Honey can be used in very inventive, creative ways that no bee would have foreseen. And exploring the honey-cooking spectrum was the ambition for our Cooking With Honey event that took place last Wednesday in the Wolff Olins’ kitchen.
Led by the Sam Youssef, our very own chef, and three culinary-keen generators – Wendy, Ana and Nene – we were taken through five recipes that could constitute an entire meal, or in our case, feed an army (there were 25 of us…). This included a ‘Gold Rush’ whisky cocktail, honey-glazed gammon, honey roasted almond and parmesan salad, zingy beetroot and honey syllabub, rosemary and salt bread sticks, and a carrot and a beetroot dip.
Highlights included the two dips that the Generators led us through the making of – one carrot and cumin, and the other a beetroot and feta. The vegetables were slowly roasted in the oven and then blitzed in a the food blender with spices before adding feta and honey to loosen and lift the taste. Smothered over the honey-glazed gammon or one of the breadsticks (until it sagged under the pure weight) was pure heaven.
The most popular dish was the fish that had been coated and lightly baked with honey, chilli flakes, and lime. Simple but delicious. And on the pudding front, the syllabub was a perfect end. Nice and light, and topped with a beetroot and honey coulis which turned the zesty whipped cream into a pretty pink. We all left to go home (some of us rolled) feeling pretty full but armed with our own mini-recipes book to recreate the dishes at home.
Big thank you to Sam and the Generators for hosting such a great evening!
Yelena Ford, Strategist at Wolff Olins