Spoonfuls of Honey by Hattie Ellis – Review
By Ryan Madin
Honey has been a staple of the human diet for millennia. Made from nectar concentrated to a sweet stickiness by tens of thousands of bees working together in the hive, honey can be found in cooking all over the world.
For many, honey is honey, picked from supermarket shelves, or farm shops and used in a variety of ways. But, once you start to delve into the intricacies, and explore its many uses and properties, you begin to see that the world of honey is as complex and diverse as fine wine. Which bees, which flowers and even where the honey is from all affect the tastes, textures and aromas of honey, and like wine, certain honeys work best with certain food and drink. To help guide you through this complex world of honey, Hattie Ellis has produced a beautiful book all about nature’s sweetest gift.
I have always loved honey, ever since I was a child. One of my earliest memories is picking out a different small tester pot of honey each week whilst shopping with my parents (despite their dislike for it), and hurrying it home to try. Whenever I’m somewhere new I pick up a pot, from the dark pine honey of Thassos, Greece, to the silky smooth local variety of Elsecar, Barnsley. I can’t get enough of the stuff. However, I must admit my main use for it is spread on toast and crumpets, or stirred into mint tea on an evening, and occasionally for use in a recipe.
Spoonfuls of Honey has opened up a literal world’s worth of possibilities for my honey obsession. The first half of the book delves into what honey is, how it’s made, and tells us all about the bees that make it. Hattie goes on to explain the varying types of honey, how different flowers and plants make different honeys and how those honeys differ. The value of honey and bees on our natural world is explored, as well as guides to attracting more bees to your garden, buying honey and even how to properly taste it.
The second half of the book is devoted to how to use your honey, with over 80 recipes in which honey either supports or plays a starring role. These recipes show how honey can elevate a dish into something truly special. A teaspoon of honey sweetens and deepens a tisane or stew and adds lustre to a sauce. Sweet tarts, cakes and roasts are burnished by its glow. Syrup-drenched baklava, glazed chicken wings and sticky ribs are made special with a touch of honey. Glistening threads are drizzled over crisp fritters or slices of Italian cheese such as pecorino. A spoonful of honey keeps breads soft and fresh; cakes and gingerbreads made with spices and honey improve as the moist crumbs soften and the flavours meld over time.
The recipes in Spoonfuls of Honey are easy to follow and the book covers everything you could need, from breakfasts and snacks, to lunch and supper, teatime baking, sweets and drinks. With dishes spanning the globe, some of my favourites include, Baklava, Amlou (Moroccan Honey Butter), Roman Honey-Baked Ham, Chorizo with wine and honey, and the gorgeous Turkish Pine Nut, Yoghurt and Orange Cake.
Spoonfuls of Honey is a treasure trove of exciting recipes and knowledge, and should be a well-thumbed essential on any honey lover’s bookshelf.
Spoonfuls of Honey: Recipes From Around The World by Hattie Ellis is published by Pavilion Books, £12.99