As we vacated our holiday bed and breakfast in Italy this year, our host presented us with a pot of home-grown honey. It had been manufactured by his own bees in his little plot of heaven just south of the Carnic Alps. I was delighted to take home a piece of the land; a concentrated product of the wildflowers and blossoms so abundant in the region. It just so happens that, this August, I’m celebrating the simple joy of using honey in both baking and cooking. The wild honey from Italy only reaffirmed my appreciation for the varying notes and characteristics of this golden nectar; when honey is done right, no two batches should taste the same. Honey should taste of the flowers it is made from, of heather, orange blossom or wildflowers. It can be pale and delicate or dark and treacly but I like it, best of all, when it comes tucked in the sticky hexagons of a chunk of honeycomb.
It’s common to use honey in the kitchen, but I see it most often used to sweeten tea or for topping porridge and toast. Honey-infused cakes and biscuits possess a delicate sweetness, working well alongside vanilla or the tart pop of berries. I am, however, rather partial to lending its floral sweetness to savoury dishes. I like to mix a spoonful with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds to coat salmon and chicken, a drizzle or two brings out the sweetness of roasted root vegetables and it can work wonders when baked into a loaf of brown bread. Honey also pairs beautifully with fresh, soft cheeses and, in particular, the unique tang of goat’s cheese.
This combination can be explored in a myriad of ways, though there is no shame in simply smearing both onto a chunk of bread. When I think of honey and goat’s cheese I think of accompanying fresh figs, crisp radishes and balsamic vinegar. These are flavours so deeply associated with summer it’s hard not to imagine the drone of a passing bee as you feast. By whipping the cheese and honey together I find the flavours to be truly melded; earthy and creamy, followed by a lingering, perfumed sweetness. Somehow aerating the cheese elevates this combination into something light, almost angelic.
Honey-whipped Goat’s Cheese Dip
160g fresh goat’s cheese
40g cream cheese
2 tsp honey
pinch black pepper
- Combine the goat’s cheese, cream cheese, pepper, and 1 tsp of honey in a bowl and beat until smooth and slightly aerated.
- Dollop the cheese mixture into a serving bowl and refrigerate.
- Chop the walnuts and lightly toast in a dry pan. Leave aside to cool.
- To serve, drizzle the cheese with the remaining tsp of honey and garnish with the toasted walnuts and sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Enjoy with crunchy raw veg such as radishes, carrots and cucumber or spread onto fresh baguette, crackers or crisp-breads.