Use a wee sweet Scottish friend to help you through the darker months and satisfy those sugar cravings the natural way, writes Graeme Pallister
With winter drawing nearer, the flavours and natural sugar-highs of summer berries will soon be just a faded, cheerful memory. So might I suggest a sweet wee friend to get you through the darker months and satisfy those sugar cravings the natural way? Scottish honey.
When I was younger, I was not this product’s No 1 fan. I was more of a golden syrup enthusiast. However, once bitten (or stung for that matter) there was no going back. Honey’s rich, sublime flavour is unlike anything else and is extremely versatile, as it complements so many other ingredients and dishes (although a cheeky spoonful smeared on a hot crumpet is as close to heaven as you can get on earth).
Not only does honey taste great in cooking, it also boasts an impressive list of health benefits and medicinal uses. The best part of a sore throat is a hot toddy – a blend of honey, whisky and lemon. And I’m thankful to say that my Scottish culinary forefathers and mothers decided that such flavour ecstasy should not be wasted on a cold. Adding raspberries and crowdie cheese to the whisky and honey combo gave birth to cranachan.
Just about every civilisation on earth has benefitted from the enjoyment of honey. I’m exceptionally proud (and extremely biased of course) when I say that you cannot beat our very own Scottish heather honey. So, here’s to our bees and our beekeepers.
Fruit teacake, cut in half
50g soft goats cheese
50g mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp heather honey
½ tsp truffle oil
1 tsp olive oil
a selection of freshly picked herbs such as parsley, mint, tarragon and coriander
2 chicken breasts, skin on
100g vermicelli rice noodles
small thumb fresh ginger, thinly sliced into batons
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into batons
several springs of coriander
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp heather honey
25g unsalted butter
salt and pepper
100ml full fat milk
40g flaked almonds, toasted in the oven
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp of your favourite honey
a selection of fruits or berries
TOASTED TEACAKE WITH WHIPPED GOATS CHEESE AND HONEY WITH TRUFFLE OIL
This is such a wonderful way to enjoy honey. It’s a really versatile and fun recipe that can be enjoyed as part of a posh champagne lunch or even as a snack with a mug of tea in front of the telly. You can make this dish without the truffle oil, but it’s worth investing in a bottle, as it’s sure to prove a great addition to your larder. Also, I prefer to leave the herbs whole as then you get a unique flavour with each bite.
1 Toast the teacake on one side until brown.
2 Mix the cheeses together and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
3 Arrange the herbs on the tea cake, top with the cheese and drizzle with the honey and oils.
HONEY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN BREAST WITH GINGER RICE NOODLES
Eastern cooking is becoming a standard part of the British diet, and the fast street-food styles of Thailand are influencing a number of home-cooking recipes – especially when it comes to chicken. This meat is also fantastic as part of a salad and makes a great addition to a barbecue (although we probably won’t be having one of those for a while).
1 Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
2 Place an ovenproof frying pan on the stove and heat thoroughly. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add a little oil and butter to the pan and gently add the chicken, skin side down. Once golden brown, turn and place the pan into the preheated oven for approximately 8 minutes.
3 Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the instructions and just before they are ready, add the carrot and ginger. Cook for the remaining 30 seconds, strain, and keep warm.
4 Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a medium heat on the hob. Add the honey and lemon juice and baste the chicken continuously, allowing the sauce to reduce to glaze. Make sure that the chicken is well-coated.
5 Place the noodles on a warmed plate and top with the chicken and the coriander.
SEASONAL FRUITS WITH ALMOND MILK SNOW AND HONEY
Sometimes simplicity is the best direction for a chef –- certainly when you’re on your day off and cooking for your family. This will make the children smile and give them a healthy fruit boost at any time of day, even for breakfast. It can be created throughout the year with any stone fruits or berries, or try it with a sweet plum compote or cherries when they’re in season.
1 Heat the milk to a simmer. Add half the almonds and the sugar and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse until cool.
2 Strain the milk and place into a freezer-safe container with a lid. Freeze until solid.
3 Using a fork, scrape the surface to form ‘snow’.
4 Place some berries or fruit in a glass, top with the snow and remaining toasted almonds then drizzle with the honey.
Graeme Pallister is the current CIS Chef of the Year and a member of the UK Slow Food Chef Alliance, of which he is a passionate supporter. He’s chef patron of 63 Tay Street and executive chef at the Parklands Hotel, both in Perth. Pallister believes in keeping food local, honest and simple and last year launched a blog to celebrate Scottish food, localhonestsimple.co.uk