You are what you eat & drink

Something New

Mad Honey

The buzz about ‘mad honey’, hot honey and mead

Would you eat honey that could send you mad – or even kill you? Here are three kinds of honey that pack a punch

Honeycomb. Photograph: Stanca Sanda/Alamy

After years confined to squeezy bottles and jars at the back of the cupboard, honey is finally getting the attention it deserves. It has always been revered for its health properties, even credited with promoting weight loss in this year’s “honey diet”, and there has been a spate of DIY beekeeping in a bid to combat dwindling numbers. But it is getting noticed for other reasons these days. New Yorkers are going crazy for an infused chilli version, and UK chefs and bartenders have rediscovered the joy of mead, that ancient – and very alcoholic – tipple. But by far the most intriguing example is Turkey’s “mad honey”. Here are the honeys that pack a punch.

Deli bal (or ‘mad honey’)

Jars of honey
Jars of honey. Photograph: Alamy

This amber-hued mutant’s effects range from a pleasant tingling to dizziness, blurred vision and impaired speech. Worse, it was once used as a weapon of war. In 67BC, King Mithridates’ army left chunks of “mad honeycomb” in the path of the Roman enemy, who gobbled it up, lost their minds and were promptly slain. The honey is also said to have medicinal qualities – from treating hypertension and diabetes to improving sexual performance – when consumed in small amounts. It is more or less confined to the Black Sea region. There, in humid conditions, apiarists herd bees to fields of special rhododendron flowers containing grayanotoxin, and the toxin spikes the resulting honey (incidentally, it is the same poison used by the chief antagonist Lord Blackwood to feign his death in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes).

If you do find yourself in the area and want a taste, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper than supermarket shelves. Ask nicely, and chances are most local shopkeepers will hand over a jar from a stash tucked behind the counter, adding to the old-world mystery of it all. But be very careful: do not spread it on toast, drizzle it over yoghurt or generally treat it like normal honey. A tiny spoonful on the tongue is more than enough; any more and you’re at risk of “mad honey poisoning”, which afflicts a handful of unwitting travellers each year. It is no laughing matter – it causes low blood pressure and heartbeat irregularities, and in extreme – and thankfully rare – cases, can be fatal. This is honey at its most hardcore.

Hot honey

Mike's Hot Honey
Mike’s Hot Honey. Photograph: Erez Horowitz/PR company handout

From the sleepy Turkish mountains we jump to the lively streets of Brooklyn, where “hot honey”, a chilli-infused condiment, is making waves (and has even been tipped as the next sriracha). Leading the way is Mike’s Hot Honey, based on a sauce that owner Mike Kurtz discovered in a rural Brazilian pizzeria. Combining a secret type of South American chilli (which sits somewhere between jalapeños and habaneros on the spicy scale) with honey and a dash of vinegar, this is not for the faint-hearted. According to Kurtz, the reddish liquid initially tastes sweet, before making way for heat – and a slight smokiness – after a couple of seconds.

The home base for Mike’s Hot Honey is Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenpoint, which not only sells the sauce over the counter, but also showcases its versatility by drizzling it over pizza and ice-cream (apparently, it’s even better with ricotta on toast). Unfortunately, neither Mike’s nor any of its US competitors, such as MixedMade’s Bees Knees Spicy Honey or Negley & Son Spicy Honey, have yet made their way to Britain, although you can buy Mike’s online if you’re prepared to wait and don’t mind splashing out (it’s $10 for the honey and $24 for shipping). For the moment, it seems that Britain has only one hot(ish) honey product, courtesy of Hilltop Honey. However, the company likens its honey infused with chilli to sweet chilli sauce, which suggests that it doesn’t quite pack the heat of its US counterparts.

Mead

Gosnells London Mead.
Gosnells London Mead. Photograph: PR company handout

When it is time to put out the fire in your mouth, honey has the answer once again. Mead, AKA honey in alcohol form and the oldest alcoholic drink in the world (as well as being the source of the word “honeymoon”, from the pagan tradition of drinking mead for the first month of marriage), is enjoying a revival after years of being dismissed as beer’s daggy medieval cousin.

This restarted in the US, with more than 200 meaderies popping up in the past decade. And although Britain’s mead market has been slower to pick up, the arrival of Peckham-based Gosnells London Mead on the scene last year, joining stalwarts such as the Cornish Mead Co, seems significant. The drink is made via a similar fermentation process to cider, with apple juice swapped for honey. By substantially reducing the alcohol content from the traditional 16% to 5.5%, Gosnells offers a lighter and more accessible version, which found an immediate fanbase at Maltby Street market in London, The Table in Cambridge and Timberyard in Edinburgh, where it is served straight or in cocktails with gooseberry, sorrel stem, quail egg and vodka. Mead has also been championed by chefs such as Simon Rogan and René Redzepi. Signs are promising.

Between sending you crazy, spicing up your life and cooling everything down again, it seems that honey – in all its forms – has plenty of buzz about it.

Source: TheGuardian


How to cook…

This is a reblog intro from: Chez moi

How to cook courgette flowers

One of the best things about shopping at farmers markets is the potential to be surprised by the fleeting appearance of unusual and special produce rarely seen in supermarkets.  And so it was one morning at the Davies Park Market, when I spotted several trays of bright yellow courgette flowers at one of the stalls we frequent.  I have eaten courgette flowers at restaurants a few times, but had never seen them for sale in their raw, unadulterated purity.  It is unlikely that you would ever find them at supermarkets because the short life span of the delicate flowers makes them unsuited to withstanding supermarket conditions and customer expectations of reasonable shelf life.  The flowers deteriorate quickly, and in an ideal world I would cook with flowers plucked minutes ago from own vegetable garden.  However, finding a tray of 20 bright and still-waxy flowers at the market is surely a close second, especially when some random planetary alignment had earlier made me buy a container of fresh goat cheese from the stall around the corner.

The result was a plate of tender-crisp courgettes attached to stuffed, flavour-packed flowers that would make a special nibble to serve with pre-dinner drinks, or, in my case, a luxurious lunch for one.

Then follows step-by-step recipe and  photographic instructions for:

Courgette Flowers stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

Now, I wonder what wine you’d pair with that?

Any suggestions?


If life hands you lemons…

Do something with them!

garnishlemons

Can be done with oranges and limes too.


Wednesday Whine

Just a quick note.

I am adding a new feature on a Wednesday.

winebanner

A glimpse at what I drink at home and other unsavoury places.

sauvplonkI am not a wine snob, nor can I be considered a connoisseur, but I have a fair idea of what’s ‘plonk’ and what’s not. In other words, I know what I like to drink.

My general criteria for buying wine is the price; I don’t have stacks of money being an impoverished English teacher.

A bottle may take my fancy, it may be the colour of the bottle or the label, I’m a label buff. Being an artist, both in oils and graphic, I have a sense of design.

These need to be sent back from whence they came

These need to be sent back from whence they came

Wines will inevitably be dry, or demi-sec, but not restricted to, they may be either white or red; but one thing is certain, they won’t have a screw-on-top. A screw-on-top is a ticket straight back to the shelf without further consideration.

I live in Brazil, a country that, sadly can produce neither an acceptable beer nor a great wine. But Brazil is fortunate in that it has good neighbours like Argentina and Chile. Then there are also European and South African wines readily available.

So, come and check out Wednesday Whine with me… on Wednesday.


Cauliflower Steaks???

I am not one for vege/vegan foods, I was born a carnivore and shall remain one. But occasionally I see something interesting in my perambulations around the blogosphere that look interesting and fall in the realm of vege/vegan.

Cauliflower steaks are just that.

Pan grilled or roasted - image: Two Peas and their Pod

Pan grilled or roasted – image: Two Peas and their Pod

You can read about them on the image link. Simple instructions.

And if you google cauliflower steaks, there’s a heap of information out there.


Atomic Buffalo Turds

Reblog from Patrons of the Pit

A Hint of Warm: Jalapeno Poppers

“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Atomic Buffalo Turds. Yup, that’s a fact. That is what the under ground grilling community calls them anyways. Now I can’t quite figure out why they call it that, for I have on occasion made the acquaintanceship of a buffalo, and I can assure you that their back end tokens look nothing like what we’re about to cook! But who cares I guess. The name is catchy if not down right deplorable. And it is kind of fun to serve up a plate of declared buffalo turds and see how your guests thus roll their collective eyes. You might, I suppose, be better off calling them by their politically correct name, jalapeno poppers. In the end, it doesn’t matter I guess, because good is good, and these things are fabulous if you haven’t had the opportunity. Cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon and smoked on the pit. Glory! Lets get after it!

Read the rest of this great post on the link above.


Carolina Reaper

Would you try the world’s hottest pepper?

A man in South Carolina has won the title of growing the world’s hottest pepper, according to Guinness World Records. His ‘Carolina Reaper’ peppers have a stem resembling the tail of a scorpion and a heat factor that’s about the same as pepper spray. Would you try one?

The Carolina Reaper pepper, made by Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Co in Fort Mill, South Carolina, is the world’s hottest, according to the Guinness World Records. Photograph: Jeffrey Collins/AP


Can you eat a Christmas Tree?

real-christmas-tree-sm240x360Many people need a real tree to complete the Christmas spirit. So, what are you going to do with it now?

Throw it away? Recycle it? Cook it?

Yes, I said cook it!

No, I haven’t slipped a cog, I haven’t lost it.

Try this.

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How to cook chump of lamb roasted with Christmas tree – recipe

Don’t just throw out your Christmas tree – eat it. The chef at Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham shows us how to keep the festive cheer alive by roasting lamb with a few aromatic branches

David Everitt-Matthias’s Christmas tree lamb. Photograph: David Everitt-Matthias

This is one of the dishes we put on after Christmas in the restaurant. It uses the Christmas tree both as aromatic and as a bed to cook the lamb on, giving a wonderful scent to the meat and keeping Christmas cheer alive in our minds. We serve this with potato mousseline and either red cabbage braised with cranberries, or buttered sprout tops with toasted brown breadcrumbs, grated chestnuts and lots of black pepper.

Chump of lamb roasted with Christmas tree

(serves four)

Four 250g lamb chumps, trimmed
Salt and pepper
50ml olive oil
60g unsalted butter, cubed
Four 4in/10cm branches of Christmas tree, plus a few extra Christmas tree needles, for flavour
200ml lamb jus (or good quality stock)

For the potato mousseline:
1kg Desiree potatoes, peeled [waxy pink-red skin]
125g double cream
100g unsalted butter
Salt and white pepper

For the lamb

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Season the lamb chumps. In an oven-proof pan, heat the oil and half the butter and, when hot, sear the lamb on all sides. Remove from the pan, add the Christmas tree branches to release their scent, turn over and lay the lamb on top, fat side up. Roast for 15-20 minutes, remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

Pour the lamb stock and a few Christmas tree needles into a saucepan, bring to a boil, to reduce, then whisk in the remaining butter little by little. Season to taste, pass through a fine sieve and set aside.

For the mousseline

Cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces of about 6cm square. Rinse them, then place in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt.

Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until tender.

Drain, and place on a baking tray and pop them into the hot oven for two to three minutes, to dry out. Meanwhile, put the cream and butter in a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer until reduced by half. Push the potatoes through a sieve (this is how restaurants get that super-smooth mash) into a bowl, then beat in the cream-and-butter mix, and season.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of mousseline on each plate, carve each lamb chump into five pieces and lay on top of the potato. Dress with your chosen vegetable (red cabbage or sprout tops) and spoon over the lamb jus.

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So, you can have your Christmas tree… and cook it too!

 


Important Message for New Year

Everybody has a hangover remedy.

At no other time of the year is this more important than New Year.

So, I bring you The Dr Henderson and other dangerous substances.

Make your own Fernet Branca hangover cure

Feeling green around the gills from overindulging? This medicinal shot from Italy – and its variations – will sort you out

The Dr Henderson – a twist on the Fernet Branca. Photography: Jill Mead for the Guardian

In common with many people who work in the food world, I was introduced to Fernet Branca by Fergus Henderson, proprietor of the St John’s restaurant in London.

We were on a trip to Piedmont for the truffle season, organised by the chef and restaurateur Mitch Tonks. Accepting any invitation from Mitch requires a certain amount of stamina: I’ve received many pathetic hungover texts reading simply, “I’ve been Tonksed”. This trip was no exception. One participant described it as a “marine-style endurance test” of eating and drinking.

On day three, I emerged for breakfast distinctly green around the gills. Fergus pulled a bottle of brown, bitter liqueur from his pocket and poured me a shot. Fergus tends to use words sparingly because of his Parkinson’s disease, but he is one of the clearest communicators I have ever met. “Try it!” he urged, and with one hand traced the imminent internal journey of the drink – warming the throat, soothing the belly, bouncing back up and splashing over the liver. And then a shake of the whole body and a large satisfied smile. I downed the shot, and that is exactly what happened.

I have previously suggested in this column that there is no cure for a hangover. That may have been too pessimistic. If you’re feeling “Tonksed” after the Christmas blow-out, try any one of these Fernet-based cocktails. They will sort you right out.

Fernet reviver

The juice of 1 lime
25ml ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger)
25ml Fernet Branca
25ml gin

Combine all the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and pour into a glass over ice.

Dr Henderson (pictured)

25ml creme de menthe
25ml Fernet Branca
Ice (optional

Fernet con coca

Simply combine and pour over ice. As drunk in Argentina.

50ml Fernet Branca
200ml Coca Cola
Ice

Recipes by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter.

000theGuardianLogo

I trust this leaves my followers and visitors fortified and ready for anything this New Year.

Beer before the Sun is Over the Yard Arm

The Yard Arm

The Yard Arm

This is not considered socially acceptable, and is generally a rule that I play by. The old naval term, “the sun is over the yardarm” refers to 11am. I rarely have beer before lunch.

However, in my youth I have done some silly things, like beer on my cornflakes. But those days are long gone… so long gone. My rule is never before midday.

Then last night a post caught my eye; Beer For Breakfast: How to Make French Toast with Beer

Now, I thought to myself, that’s got to be worth a look.

The intro read:

“If you have booze for breakfast, let alone before midday, you are heavily frowned upon. But if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, surely it isn’t complete without some beer! Maybe substituting your morning cup of Joe for a pint is a bit weird, as is pouring it over your cereal, but it is both acceptable and de-bloody-licious to use it to make our French toast.

This isn’t your bog standard French toast where you just mix an egg with some milk, dunk your bread in the bowl and then fry it. This recipe is far more sophisticated, yet insanely simple, and your tastebuds will feel as if they’ve died and gone to heaven, only to realise that heaven is a pub with free flowing ale and no tab!e.

To make this taste sensation, all you will need is:”

You’ll have to check the above link for the recipe and instructions, and then you should have something like this:

I have been a French toast fan since I was twelve and my friend, imported from Scarborough, showed me how to make it on sleepovers, although we called it Eggy Bread. It remained Eggy Bread until my culinary tastes refined in adulthood and I discovered it was actually French toast.

I can report, this morning, that it is delicious, of course being descended from good British stock, mine was accompanied with bacon, pan-fried slices of potato and stewed tomatoes making it similar to a full English Breakfast.

Being as it was post-Coffee, it was accompanied by a large beer handle of Chateau Neuf de Sparkling Mineral Water,

I recommend trying it, nay, I urge you to try it, you’ll never look ordinary French toast in the same way again.

 


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