‘Harry Potter’ was the first suggestion. But sadly, although it comes under many guises, an ingredient is not one of them. So I deliberated, cogitated and pondered, thinking long and hard about my choice for ‘H’.
There are many ingredients that I frequently use, that fall under this letter. I love to spice up my food with Habenero; Hake and Haddock are both amazing fish and let’s not forget Hare, Hazelnuts and Harissa. I could go on, but I settled on a more versatile ingredient. It is one that we have all probably eaten at some point. But one, when I was younger, I thought was disgusting!
I remember going to a family wedding at the age of about 5 or 6. We were staying with an elderly couple who enticed me with a helping of warm toast. However, much to my disgust, upon it was a certain ingredient that seriously offended my young taste buds - and I hated it. I was used to Jam and Marmite (ironically not to everyone’s taste). But so abhorrent was this flavour to my young self that I do believe I made it perfectly clear to all in the neighbourhood! To this day, I cannot put my finger on what it was that I didn’t like, but it is one of those memories that sticks with me still.
Now - fast forward 32 years and here I am about to espouse how amazing it is. If you haven’t guessed it yet by the toast reference – this week’s ingredient is Honey, the product of Bees.
For example, Manuka honey is a very prized form of honey. It is alleged to have multiple health benefits above and beyond just keeping allergies at bay . However, on a depressing side note, it was reported that more was sold in one year than was actually produced. It shows that what you buy isn't always as it seems. We noticed a lot, when living in America, that often although a product was branded “Honey” it could also contain sugar or cane syrup, just to bulk it out. Its always a shame when something so simple needs to be messed with. (and actually hints towards what I have written about for the letter “I”).
So, after much digression, I get on to discussing Honey as an ingredient. Then I realise there is little time to actually do so. However I can offer a small amount of my 2 cents worth. Great on Porridge. Awesome on toast. It’s a lot sweeter than regular sugar which means that often less of it can be used in place of more sugar (ideal for those cutting down). Its myriad of different types can add distinct and different flavors to a variety of dishes. Toss a few figs in honey and then roast them. Use a honey with a distinct flavour (thinking Honey Blossom), and you can add an extra depth to the dish.
So I thought I’d leave you with a simple recipe for honeycomb. Well, simple is definitely subjective in this case. It isn’t something you can do off the cuff and has a tendency to go wrong more often than when it goes right! it is one of the few recipes that you need to follow properly. But, it’s a simple recipe
120g Glucose Syrup
400g Caster Sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp Baking Soda
1. Be ready. Line a tray with Baking Parchment (At least 12inx12in)
2. Put all the ingredients, with the exception of the Baking Soda, into a thick bottom pan
3. Start on low until all the ingredients have dissolved then turn up the heat to medium high
4. Allow the mixture to begin boiling, then when it starts to turn a golden colour, remove from the heat
5. Immediately add the baking soda and mix quickly then immediately pour onto the baking parchment (At this point the mix will increase in size dramatically. It may even look like it's about to pour over the top so make sure you are working near the tray). The mix will also be extremely hot so avoid getting fingers in it
6. Allow to stand for at least an hour before trying
So what can go wrong?
a. If you cook it too quickly you can burn the mix and it will taste foul. Make sure to dissolve the mix before turning up the heat.
b. The baking soda doesn't mix properly. The first few times I made this I got scared of how quickly it increased in size, so I stopped mixing. If you have a long enough spoon you can stir it in thoroughly and not get burnt by the mix
c. The mix is too soft. Normally this is because the mix has been pulled too quickly and hasn't got to the golden state that you require
d. Mix is extremely hard and not crunchy. This is probably down to the fact you have over worked the mix when adding the baking soda. If you don't move to the baking parchment quick enough the air bubbles will break and the mix will lose its lightness
e. You have a burnt mouth. Probably it looked so delicious that you tried eating it from the spoon..... Please don't. Let it cool
Hopefully you take the time to make this. I really love it. We make it at home and dip it in white chocolate. It tastes so good..
Thanks to those of you that have taken the time again to read through this. A bit long this week so my apologies and also for the occasional "Americanism" that may sneak in. I spent 5 great years out there so a few do crop up
Have a great week
So, with this big hole in my knowledge of culinary history, I duly packed my bags and headed off to the Internet to find myself a plethora of ginger information. Safe in the knowledge that it would take some time to sift through fact and fiction, I was hopeful that I would get to the roots!!!
The use of Ginger can be traced back almost 5000 years. It has also been suggested that it may have even been used before history began being recorded - somewhat of a paradox that my mind cannot fathom! Many cultures in Asia consider it as a cure for a series of ailments (allegedly one of the best hangover cures; but this has yet to prove successful for me!)
Although predominantly cultivated in Asia, ginger found itself transported to other continents very early on. This was mainly due to the belief in its medicinal properties (particularly good for digestion) as well as its flavour in cooking. It appears that the Romans first brought it to Europe 2000 years ago and it’s never really left. Although still mainly produced in the Asian region, we are major consumers of this adaptable ingredient. On a side note, I discovered that Queen Elizabeth I was the inventor of the Gingerbread Man. However, as this little nugget of information comes from the Internet, I would probably take it with a pinch of salt…..
What I love most about Ginger is the heat that comes from it as well as the flavor. It has an almost spicy quality which is definitely evident when it’s dried and ground up. But served fresh, Ginger is an absolute delight. You need to take a small amount and dice it up finely then mix it with some diced chilli, shallots, coriander, lemon juice and olive oil. (I wouldn’t recommend biting into a whole piece as it will bring tears to your eyes!) You then season it and use it as a dressing for a spinach salad or toss it with cooked pak choi. Make sure you use fresh though as the crystalized ginger we often see is great for cake baking but not as an accompaniment for your main course. Similarly, slices of pickled ginger are great for cleaning the palate when eating sushi but not as good for making stir fry.
When cooking at home, we have ginger in our food at least twice a week. I like to include it into at least one dish on my menus – and even sneak the odd ginger snap into my tea now and then . . .
Well, here endeth the lesson on G for the week. We are starting to look busy over the coming months in Weymouth and Dorchester. If you are interested in using us to host a dinner party or wedding event, then be sure to contact us. We also offer excellent private chef services for the whole of Dorset and even into Somerset and Hampshire. Check out the rest of our website