Friday, February 5, 2010

The sweetness of honey

I've been obsessing over honey. It's been like this since early Spring.

Written late Sept- 2009:
I see blossoms, I think bees and then I get all gooey over honey. And today while I was out for a stroll in the early Spring sunshine, praying desperately that some would inch its way into the depths of my winter weary soul, it happened- hovering just on the edge of hearing, the first thrumming hum of the blooming weather.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust, but once I fixed focus on the little white flowers, I started to see them, fat bottomed bees darting in and out of the corners of my consciousness.
It's a happy moment when you tune in to their pollen collecting world.
My focus has recently been tuned of course. Affected by the beautiful honey story of Grace Pundyk and her sticky sweet journey in The Honey Spinner.
When you drift off to sleep on the back of an Arabian honey tale, no wonder you dream viscous dreams and wake up with nothing but honeycomb on the brain.
Back in the present- many months later and swamped by stories of city dwellers hoarding hives in backyards, on roofs and trucking them hither and thither on friends properties- I am still swimming in honied dreams. I have a pot of Tasmanian Leatherwood that I eek out into my chai tea and sneak spoonfuls of when no one is looking- it's pungent, herbal and buttery qualities lingering on the tongue.
I burn through various un-heat-treated and organic varieties, trying new ones at each trip to the market.
Christmas saw my sister gift me with a jar of Salvation Jane honey, the comb and all packed into it's glass jar. Patience has taken to chewing on nuggets of it, but only when he thinks I can't see.
We've had honey cakes, honey toast, honey tea and honey gin. You'd think that we'd be getting over it by now. But there's no sign of the obsession slowing.
I'm a stickler for supporting Aussie organic varieties, but can't help nabbing a Dabur for comparison from our local Indian grocery store (it was relegated to the 'cooking' pile).
I'm still looking for a jar of Australian native bee sugar-bag honey. But I'm not looking too hard, trying not to find it until I've whittled down at least some of my heaving honey stores...

But something still haunts me, tickling at the back of my mind.
I want to grow my own honey, start my own hives. I want to nurture a little colony and be gentle in what I take and leave for the bees. I want to label my own jars and gift them to friends and family. I want a stockpile of gluey golden gold.
One thing stands in my way... Patience and his allergy to bee-sting.
I'd like to say 'harden the fuck up'- but considering that he could potentially die if he swats one out of his way, perhaps this is a little inappropriate. And life without a hive is a damn sight easier than life without Patience.

Still- if I can't grown my own, the next best thing is to drown myself in it in the kitchen. And here is a favourite way to do it.
This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion. 
But a test here and there has helped me tweak it until it's just right for my palate.

Loukoumathes with Ironbark honey from Tasmania:  
You have to make sure that the paste is really good and smooth and it's important to have the oil nice and hot, otherwise these little Greek darlings just won't puff up the way they should.
This is one of those recipes that once you've mastered, you can whip up just about anytime to much applause. It's easy and impressive. And with the right honey... oh so sticky divine.

  • 1 tps instant dried yeast
  • tiny pinch salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • olive oil for deep frying
  • Tasmanian leatherwood or other strong flavour honey to serve
  • icing sugar and cinnamon to dust over for serving


Mix the try ingredients (bar the cinnamon and icing sugar) thoroughly in a medium size bowl. Add the water a little at a time until you have a smooth paste. It's important to get it well past the dough stage to a reasonably runny paste with no lumps.
Heat the oil in a deep fry-pan and when really hot drop in spoonful (about a tablespoon) of the batter/paste. Fry until golden brown, turning to get even crunch.
Drain on paper towel and serve with a good dribble of leatherwood honey and a sprinkle of icing sugar and cinnamon to taste.
I like to serve these piping hot with a cup of mint tea. Delish at any time of the day.
Makes between 12 and 16 depending on the size you go for. I usually end up with fewer, bigger puff balls.

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