Rachel Bennett

Posts Tagged ‘honey’

Bread, honey, and a troubled heart

In Food on January 5, 2014 at 20:54

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After the excesses of Christmas, January brings a welcome return to simple food. For myself this manifests as a renewed interest in hearty soups, good whole grain bread, and mounds of winter greens dripping in olive oil and redolent of garlic. It is the sort of food that is consummately nourishing, restorative meals to bolster body against those interminable winter nights and assuage all manner of melancholy.

For myself there are many such foods that provide a kind of existential succor, but only one reigns supreme. When the day lies heavy on my heart, I reach for a loaf whole grain bread, a thick slab of butter, and a pot of golden honey.

This morning I awoke to the gravity of life pressing down relentlessly against my chest. I slumped out of bed and into the kitchen. I could think of nothing else to do so I put on an apron and pulled out the flour. Several hours later I hoisted three loaves of bread from the oven. For a moment I forgot my woes, closing my eyes and inhaling the scent of September wheat fields, listening for the crackle of crust as it cooled. I cut a slice, carved off some cold butter to cover it, and drizzled the whole with honey.

On this occasion, the honey was particularly ambrosial. Given to us by our wonderful neighbors, Don and Jane, it came from their own bee hives at Firstlight Farm. It was raw and thick with the taste of wildflowers and sun-warmed caramel, a hint of wax clinging ever so slightly to the teeth. It was, I reflected, a perfect honey for hot toddies, a cure for the cold, and a sweet, enveloping balm for the troubled heart.

For a moment I am six years old and a booming voice is heading my way. “When I was One, I had just begun. When I was Two, I was nearly new.” Mum is bustling about in the kitchen, dogs panting by her feet, ever hopeful. The rhyme is drawing nearer to me. “When I was Three I was hardly me. When I was Four, I was not much more.” My brother Willie bounds through the kitchen chasing a zooming tennis ball that narrowly misses the window.  “When I was Five, I was just alive.”  Dad is beside me now, eyebrows moving in rhythm to the words, his rumbling voice louder and victorious as he finishes the rhyme: “Now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever, So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

I am no longer six and there are pains not even bread and honey can dissolve. But I must eat, and they are at least a blanket against the bleakness.

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Caution, Flapjacks

In Food on July 1, 2011 at 22:55

I had a hankering for flapjacks, those gooey chewy oaten morsels that couple so well with an afternoon pot of tea. During summer I rarely crave such rich, bolstering fare. However, given that the sunshine seems to have rudely stood us up this year in the Pacific Northwest and a dull chill lingers in the air, I decided that flapjacks were perfectly fitting.

They are also ideal for those times when you want to bake something lovely—to fill your home with the redolence of honey, grain, and spice—but can’t quite work up the energy for an elaborate concoction. Flapjacks take all of ten minutes to prepare, requiring nothing more strenuous than melting butter and sugar together and languidly stirring in some oats.

The only trouble with flapjacks is the need to restrain your greed: they cannot be eaten straight from the oven as they will fall to pieces if attacked before cool. Yesterday I was, as usual, unsuccessful in the restraint department and ended up eating flapjack crumbles with a fork. Ah well, it may have been a bit messy but tasted just as good.

Later, feeling the need to sample the cooled version as well, I ate a flapjack too vigorously and it wrenched a filling from my tooth. So I was doubly punished for greediness and now cannot eat any flapjacks because of the gaping hole in one of my molars. So beware, flapjacks are easy to make, delicious to eat and ostensibly innocent but they have a dark side. Eat with caution.

Gingerjacks

A twist on classic flapjacks, these are chewy and sweet with a vibrant gingery kick. Enjoy with a cup of strong tea or coffee on a grey and blustery day.

Ingredients
200g butter
200g sugar
150g honey
50g dark molasses
400g rolled oats
a pinch each of salt, ground ginger and cinnamon
100g crystalized ginger, finely diced

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and grease an 8-inch square baking tin.
2. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and molasses together over a low heat.
3. Add the oats, salt, spices and crystalized ginger and mix well.
4. Tip into the baking tin, smooth the top and bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbly, dark golden and browning slightly at the edges, (covering with foil if it begins to brown too soon).
5. Allow to cool for an hour or so and cut into squares.

 

 

 

One More Pot of Honey

In Food on May 30, 2011 at 21:23

“Stands the church clock at ten to three?  And is there honey still for tea?”
– Rupert Brook

I heard a story once about an old woman, a very old woman with hands big and cracked from their craft. She spent her life as a sculptor and even after laying down her chisel and soapstone for the last time, she always appeared to be covered in a decorous layer of powder and clay. One day a friend came to visit her in the old people’s home. “There comes a point,” she said, cracking into wheezing chuckle, “when you wonder if its worth buying another tube of toothpaste.”

It is a disconcerting thought, and one that, I will admit, rarely crosses my mind at 25 years old. I was reminded of this story, however, and its evocation of tenuous brevity when I opened the cupboard yesterday in search of honey (to slather on a slice of my monumental sourdough bread). I fished out the jar, all but empty. As I scraped around the interior like a thwarted Winnie the Pooh, I wondered, a stew of emotion in the pit of my stomach: should I buy another jar of honey?

It was a familiar feeling, a bittersweet cocktail of anticipation tinged with sadness, and I have felt it too often in the past few years of restless uprootings. This time it hit me with a honey pot. With three weeks before I leave London, it is time to being the dismal process of eating down the larder.

It starts slowly, with things like tomato paste and mustard, but as you near departure the cupboards become increasingly barren. Then it spreads to your fridge, to the crusty lumps of parmesan and knobs of butter, until, by the day of departure there is nothing left but a forlorn pint of milk and a couple of shriveled carrots you have steadily avoided.

On the bright side, this process of eating down your provisions can include surprising bonuses: forgotten bottles of wine or the pound of dark chocolate bought in bulk one desperate day. This time, for instance, I am faced with a last half bottle of Laphroaig that I’ve been sipping in parsimonious rations for the past few months, and a measure of delicious if brain bogglingly potent truffle honey – this would not do for the morning toast.

Between indulgent whiskies and undressed pasta, it is a liminal phase—a tangible thinning of the web that binds you to a place and time. And yet, with three more weeks, gray skies and the elusive English summer nowhere in sight (I was warned of this), I need a little honey for my tea; just one more pot of honey for the road.

A soup for Every Season: Honeyed Cream of Carrot and Chili

In Food on November 30, 2010 at 21:09

I awoke this morning and began the lackluster routine of rousing myself from the depths. Today however, I flung open the curtains to a swirling world of white, the staid pattern of roofs, brick, and twisting gray road sparkling with a shifting veil of flakes. The first snow of winter never ceases to afflict me with a childlike giddiness. I gasped and danced a disheveled jig by the window.

Perhaps this reaction is caused by happy memories of snow days, when you woke to the sound of the phone ringing in the shrouded, dawning light. You scarcely dared guess the reason. Tiptoeing to the window you offered up a silent prayer and parted the curtains. There, a glistening blanket greeted you, softening the contours of buildings and fences, beckoning, untrammeled and pristine with possibility.

Sadly, the snow this morning in London was not sticking to the ground, but it was enough for me that the air was soft and with unhurried flakes. After I’d exhausted the pleasures of my jig, I proceeded with the morning, my mind wandering however, to what I wanted to eat in honor of the snow. Hot Chocolate was a given, but I also required real nourishment, something to complement the weather, to bolster my body against the glacial air. The fridge obligingly provided an answer. Carrots, fresh ginger, a generous helping of red chilies, a spoonful of honey and a clementine for good measure—I had a heap of flavors ideal for simmering into a warming winter soup.

For this recipe, I heartily encourage experimentation and substitution. This is generally my own philosophy to soup as it’s an ideal realm for creative cooking; you can add or subtract most elements to suit your taste and generally produce something wholly satisfying. And if you’re in the mood for some real heat, as I was, add extra chili and ginger for an even more invigorating elixir.

olive oil
1/2 onion
bunch of carrots

a few potatoes
a knob of fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
2 chili peppers
1 clementine
sprinkle of thyme
squeeze of lemon
1 tablespoon honey

chicken or vegetable stock to cover (about a pint)
Half and half (single cream) to finish

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add a slosh of olive oil and while this is heating, roughly chop the onions, carrots, potatoes and ginger, mince the garlic and chilies, and peel the clementine. Add all these to the oil, sprinkle on the thyme, stir and cover with stock. Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon, spoon of honey, and whiz in a processor. Finish with salt, pepper, and cream to taste.