Honey tasting

I got honey as a present and I decided to do a horizontal taste testing; and I decided to do it as a series of posts on FB, because why not. This is the collation of those posts…

Are there honey fiends? I guess there must be. I’m not one of them – I mean I like honey but I don’t go out of my way to get really good honey, mostly because I don’t know what really good honey is. But I’m about to experiment and I thought I’d share that here. I’m not very good at comparing tastes over multiple days… so the fact that I got a box of honeys from Beechworth c/my work Kris Kringle this year (totally above and beyond) is a magnificent opportunity to do a horizontal tasting! And then somehow I have three ‘ordinary’ honeys at home (what even?) and I was given a large jar of honey by another friend because she didn’t like it… so: ten honeys. Let’s see what this is like.

First, the supermarket honeys.
1. Capilano “Natural floral honey: Manuka”. Tastes… like honey? Maybe a little bit savoury? I guess this works as a base line.
2. Allowrie “Mixed blossom”. Definitely a bit sweeter and smoother, too (the Capilano has crystallised a little, although that doesn’t impact on the taste). This is nice but definitely not ‘challenging’; I guess it’s a good inoffensive one.
3. Beechworth Honey from the supermarket – no info about blossoms or what have you. Not quite as sweet as the Allowrie, I guess a bit more… tasty? As in, not just straight bland sweetness.
Hey, describing honey is hard, who knew?

For what it’s worth, I’m using little wooden spoons for the tasting – I did a bit of reading that suggested wood was best. And I remember the first Gastropod episode where they talked about the way different materials for utensils make a difference.
4. Golden Nectar Organic Real Leatherwood Honey: c/ a friend because they didn’t like it. Well THAT bodes well… Wow. That is definitely more character-ful than the others. I like it! It’s got… punch, or something. More on the savoury side of sweet (yes I know that’s silly). Not floral. I’m going to assume Leatherwood honey is a fairly distinct taste. It would presumably lend a noticeable taste to a marinade, I guess depending on what else you were using.

And now: the fancy ones. The Beechworth Honey jars are presented in a very nice little box. Each jar is labelled with (I presume) the blossoms the bees mostly fed on to make the honey, and a statement like “Bee… Fruity.”
1. Orange blossom: “Bee… Fruity.” The jar gives this 2/5 stars in terms of mild –> strong. Yes, by comparison with the Leatherwood it’s definitely mild. Sweet although not overwhelmingly so (my mother would tell you my sweetness gauge isn’t to be trusted though). Fruity? … I guess so? Not sure how you judge that. Nicer than the Allowrie.
2. Red Gum: also “Bee… Fruity”, hence why I’m doing it next. It’s got three stars on the mild –> strong scale. The fruitiness is more noticeable here and I’m glad I did it next to the orange blossom because yes, it’s definitely a step up in terms of strength of taste. It’s not as sweet, it’s more interesting to taste, and I like it more than the orange blossom.
Things learned so far: I think I prefer stronger honeys. Good to know.

I may have done these in slightly the wrong order; turns out there are two that are right at the mild end of the spectrum, and two at the 4/5 end. So, mild first:
3. Ironbark: “Bee… Delicate.” Gets 1/5 stars on the mild –> strong system… and yes, definitely more mild than the Red Gum, and completely different from the Leatherwood. A bit closer to the Allowrie in terms of pure sweetness, but more… interesting, I think. Can’t describe why: it’s more than *just* sweet?
4. Creamy Honey: “Bee… Creamy” (obvs). This has a special place in my heart already because creamed honey always makes me think of my Grandma. And this is super, super creamy: the honey doesn’t move in the jar, it has a lovely white layer on top, and I’m already excited about just eating it from the jar (in very small amounts of course). It’s a 2-star honey, and yes it’s quite mild, but it’s also not overwhelming in its sweetness, especially compared to the Ironbark. Super tasty and I adore the texture.

Last honeys: the strong ones.
5. Macadamia: “Bee… Warm.” I mean. Macadamia. What’s not to be excited about? 4/5 on the strength-o-meter so I’m assuming I’ll like it. Aaand… it’s nice, but not that exceptional. Tested it against the supermarket Beechworth Honey and it’s definitely more interesting than that – which is why doing a horizontal tasting is the only way I can figure this stuff out. I’m a bit surprised that it’s a four on the strength rating, I wouldn’t have thought it was that much stronger than Red Gum.
6. Stringy Bark: “Bee… Bold.” Well that’s an ambitious claim for the honey, isn’t it? I would give it to Leatherwood for sure. This is also a four on the strength meter. And oh yes, that’s a delight. Not as strong as the Leatherwood – it would have to be a five, or maybe a six, out of five – but definitely punching the standard supermarket honeys in the face.

Well, now to figure out how to use these I guess. Aside from just stealing spoonfuls when I need something sweet.

Acts of Kitchen: Christmas!

AoK_logo_v2In which I do another Christmas episode, asking a variety of people what they like (or dislike) about Christmas food. I hope you enjoy the variety of reactions!

The first time I did this.

(Karlee on making gingerbread houses.)

Simple: the food

UnknownYesterday I talked about the book itself; today, the food. This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’ve tried a good enough variety from the book now to say that they are mostly simple recipes, in the sense of being straightforward. They’re not all fast (which isn’t something she claims for them, either, but what some might assume), but there are few complicated steps. I like variety that Henry is including in the recipes – taking advantage, as she says in the intro, of the new ingredients available relatively easily in Western shops or online.

Some of the things I’ve tried:

Huevos rotos: basically braised eggs with fried potato and seasoning. I am so in love with this idea.

Cumin-coriander roast carrots with pomegranates and avocado: like it says on the tin, also walnuts. Very very good.

Cool greens with hot Asian dressing: the Asian there should be “Asian” (lime, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic – generic Asian), but this was very tasty: any green veg you like (avo, peas of various description, cucumber, leaves…) with the dressing. Very good with the roast lamb (see below).

Salad of chorizo, avocado, and peppers with sherry dressing: turns out I had no sherry but red wine vinegar was ok. Also, fried bread (basically croutons)! Excellent in a salad!

Lamb and bulgur pilaf with figs and preserved lemon: leftover roast lamb has rarely been this good. Chickpeas, walnuts, spice… also bulgur makes a great pilaf, will make again.

Orzo with lemon and parsley: I couldn’t find orzo but it was still fine. Very, very simple.

Turkish pasta with feta, yoghurt and dill: the only dish I haven’t loved. Caramelised onion, buttermilk and Greek yoghurt, topped with dill and feta. I think I just didn’t love the yoghurt with the onion. It was very easy though.

Bacon and egg risotto: yes, that’s right. So good.

Slow-cooked lamb with pomegranates and honey: this is the lamb I paired with the Asian salad. It was very tasty and, of course, easy, since you just whack it in the oven when it’s marinated a bit. I like the pomegranate molasses with the garlic. Served with Greek yoghurt it’s superb.

IMG_1851St Clements and rosemary posset with blackberries: yes, apparently posset is what you call it when babies return some milk. Pretty sure this came first though. It’s boiled and then steeped cream (with peel and rosemary) and then mixed with citrus juice and left to set. I served it with blueberries. It was very nice and straightforward, although I do wonder if there are more interesting things to do with cream.

There are still a LOT of recipes I want to make and haven’t had a chance to. I’m very much looking forward to using this book to death.

Acts of Kitchen: Renate and German food

AoK_logo_v2In which I reminisce about food I had in Germany and Austria, and Renate talks about the food she makes in her German home.

I think this is the soup that Renate mentions: Griessnockerl (Austrian recipe, but hopefully similar to the German version)

Frikadellen (German meat patties)

Kaiserschmarrn (torn pancakes)

Germknodel (steamed dumplings)

Chocolate

IMG_1839I like chocolate. I also like receiving parcels, and I like trying new things. Therefore, a chocolate subscription box seems like an excellent idea, and there’s an Australian one I have just signed up for: Bean Bar You. Each month it’s four bars from different manufacturers around the world – with one from Australia each time. Since I didn’t know there were that many Australian chocolate makers, I am intrigued! It is on the slightly pricey side, thanks to postage and all, but these are chocolates made usually by small businesses, using (so far; I’ve only had one box) less than industrial processes – so it’s artisanal, right, and you pay for that. And for the moment I’m really enjoying it.

For each of the chocolates, you get one of these: img_1836.jpg

… which is intriguing and almost confronting for me, because I’m not very good at IMG_1835thinking about smell (“it smells like dark chocolate”) and the difference between texture and creaminess isn’t always easy for me to enunciate, or even notice. But I really enjoyed thinking about those different aspects, actually, and it certainly forced me to stop and think about what I was eating. The first time I had some of each, anyway. I wasn’t always concentrating that hard, don’t worry.

img_1838.jpgAnd it has been worth it, even for just one box. I didn’t love every single one, although there were certainly none that I rejected! I opted for dark chocolate only and it was intriguing to see how different even dark chocolate can be. Of course there were differences in just how dark each was, which contributed, as well as the source of the beans etc. My favourite was the Origin, which is convenient because they’re the Australian brand. I can see myself buying some of their chocolate in future, given the range of dark chocolate they appear to have.

img_1837.jpgBean Bar You asks you to rate and review the chocolate you receive in order to keep refining what they send you, and I’m interested to see how this ends up working. I also got to opt out of chocolate with coffee in it, which made me happy.

 

Acts of Kitchen: Mt Zero Olives

AoK_logo_v2 In which I discuss exciting new things in my breakfast world (weird, right?) and two new cookbooks I’ve received to review, and Richard talks about Mount Zero Olives.

Thai Food Made Easy (with a link to Indian Made 51zOv8lLFgLEasy too)

Apple fridge oats (not the exact recipe I used but I can’t find that…)

Mount Zero Olives! 

The art of French cooking

As many of you will be aware, I am currently travelling. We had a few weeks of camping, and we’re now coming to the end of our month in Europe.

A fortnight before we were due to be in Paris, my darling suggested, out of nowhere, that we look into a French cooking class. Clearly, this was an inspired idea. After a bit of googling we found Le Foodist, which had exceptional online reviews and which had spots available for our last night in the city. We decided not to book for the market bit at the start, because we figured there wasn’t much point when we were leaving 12 hours later, and becuase we thought we might want more time doing museum-y sorts of things.

The food

Our menu consisted of cauliflower soup, coq au vin, and peach Melba (which as an Australian I found hilarious). Our class of  twelve was divided into different working groups at different times to do a range of prep. While doing so we tried different French white wine and two different Bries. We ate everything that we prepared. 

Cauliflower soup doesn’t sound all that exciting. This cauliflower soup, though, was topped with roasted cauliflower florets that had been brushed with curry powder; with boiled mussels – whose broth was added to the soup; and with dots of truffle oil. (I have to get me some truffle oil.) It was exquisite. 

Coq au vin is something I have heard of, and may have eaten once or twice, but I haven’t made it. Making the sauce was a fascinating exercise: using a vegetable base and a large quantity of red wine which reduced to nothing, and then adding stock to turn it back into a sauce. Cooking the chicken was the most interesting part: salt and pepper on the chicken breast then rolling it up with plastic film into a sausage, and then boiling it for five minutes and resting for another five. It was delicious and succulent and this method is going straight to my must-repeat list. For the vegetables, we were introduced to not-melon-ballers: small spoon-like instruments with rounded ends that have a fancy name in French and come in a variety of sizes. These are used to carve balls from things like carrot and turnip. We were introduced to the sensible way to finely chop thinks like shallots. And we were shown how to make the best potato mash ever, which involved a fine sieve and a very large amount of butter.

For dessert, we made raspberry cousli and creme anglais, which then became ice cream, served with delightfully fresh peaches. It was a very simple dessert which was a good accompaniment to the fairly rich main meal.

The course

Our teacher, Fred, was excellent. He was good at dividing us into groups and showing us a variety of cooking techniques. He is passionate about food and French culture (the tag line of Le Foodist is “discovering culture through food”), and sharing his knowledge about food, the regionality of food, about Paris, and tricks for making food work. The premises aren’t huge, but there was enough space for the dozen of us to cut and stir without chopping anyone’s fingers off.  

Highly recommended. I absolutely intend to make chicken in this way when I am home; at some stage I would like to recreate the “au vin” part of the recipe too. I’m inspired to make cauliflower soup that really works – it gives me a reason to plant them again, too.