Note: As mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been nominated for a Wellingtonista award, and while it’s seriously exciting and happiness-inducing to be amongst some distinctly high-profile nominees, it’s also quite nice to be voted for, so I can hype myself up into thinking I might win. As well as myself, you can also vote for other Wellington-related things you like, or nothing at all – the only compulsory fields are your name and email address. What I’m trying to say is that if you do vote (here here here) it’d be really great and I’d appreciate it heaps and heaps.
I recently got sent some honey – two jars – from the astute folk at Airborne
. I was caught off-guard when they contacted me, am not sure where I stand on “accepting then blogging about free stuff” because it hasn’t really happened till now. Some people are hardline about this, refusing to accept anything, and I suspect I’d want to avoid it too – this is my blog and I’ll talk about what I want when I want – but damnit, I liked the idea of free honey and was 99% sure it would taste good and not compromise some kind of policy I haven’t even got the kind of clout to be developing in the first place. To find out more about Airborne, by the way, their “Why Choose Us”
page is a reassuring read – these people treat their bees and their honey well.
So, two jars arrived – a large jar of thick, creamy Kamahi
and a smaller jar of liquid, clear Tawari
. And, thought I, here’s the chance to try all those recipes with lots of honey in them! But for some reason I either couldn’t find anything, or the stuff I could find, I was all “eh” about, so I decided to just make up my own stuff instead. (That said, Mum, if get the time could you please email me the recipe for those honey buns we used to make? From that handwritten recipe book I think?) (Edit: Thanks heaps Mum!)
At the vege market down the road there’s this amazingly good tofu at $4 for a large block, scored into four ‘fillets’ as I call them. However no matter how much I try, I can never quite finish it before it starts to go all orange and creepy. There’s only so much dense, filling firm tofu I can get through in a couple of days. On top of that we somehow ended up with three heads of brocolli, because I forgot that we had it and then bought some more. I hate wasting food but I’m also very forgetful, so this just sometimes happens. This following recipe however takes some neglected brocolli, some teacher’s pet asparagus, and some tofu that was somewhat past its best (not at the ‘unsafe’ stage or anything, just not looking so happy to see me when I opened the fridge) and turns it into a feast.
Honey Miso Roast Vegetables
I used a square of firm tofu, a head of broccoli, and a handful of asparagus. Use what you have – the veges need to be able to withstand some roasting. Cauliflower and kumara would be pretty perfect here too.
2 teaspoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon clear honey (I used Airbourne’s Tawari)
1 teaspoon (or more) sambal oelek or other red chilli paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
Set your oven to 200 C. Chop your vegetables and tofu into fairly similar sized smallish pieces. lay the chopped vegetables on a baking-paper lined tray and spoon over the miso-honey mixture. You could also pour the mixture into a big bowl and toss the veges through it, but I couldn’t be bothered with the extra dishes. Roast for about 20 minutes or until everything looks burnished and cooked through. Eat over rice or noodles or just as is.
Don’t be alarmed by the dark, miso-toffee bits that appear (strangely delicious too, I couldn’t help peeling it off the baking paper and eating it) as whatever clings to the vegetables and tofu will taste incredible – sticky, savoury and full of complex, fragrant flavour. The tightly clenched branches of brocolli stretch out under the heat and become deliciously crisp, while their stems remain juicy and tender. The flavour of the asparagus intensifies under the caramelly, hot honey and the tofu becomes…totally passable.
Obviously with honey some kind of pudding or baking attempt is only right. It was relatively recently that I learned about frangipane, a buttery, almondy mix for filling pies and tarts and so on. I had an idea that honey could be a good exchange for the sugar. So I did it.
Honey, Almond and Dried Apricot Tart
1 square of bought puff pastry (I guess you should try and get good quality all-butter stuff. The ingredients on my Edmond’s ready-rolled sheets said “butter” but I have heard terrifying rumours of some awful sounding substance called “baker’s margarine”.)
Heaped 1/3 cup ground almonds
40g butter, melted
About 20 soft dried apricots
Set your oven to 220 C, and place the square of pastry onto a baking paper-lined tray. Lightly score a 1cm border around the edge with a sharp knife (don’t cut right through). Once in the oven, this will puff up and look really pretty.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the honey. Stir in the ground almonds and melted butter. This will make enough for the tart plus a generous amount for you to taste (it’s delicious!) Spoon carefully over the centre of the pastry, spreading a thin layer across to meet the edge of the margin you’ve scored (as per the picture.) Carefully pull or slice the apricots in half or – if you’ve got lots of apricots, just leave them whole – and arrange on top of the pastry. Paint a little melted butter or egg yolk round the margin if you like. Bake for about 15-20 minutes – as long as you can leave it in without burning.
The first time I made it, I was doing the dishes and forgot to check on the oven. All the sugars in the honey and apricots couldn’t take being ignored, and the tart was a blackened mess (did this stop us eating it? Erm, no). It was late at night, the kitchen was covered in frangipane-smeared implements (myself included), and the ingredients aren’t the cheapest, so I may have yelled “I’m never doing the dishes again! It’s a sign! I hate everything!” Or something to that effect.
The second time I made this tart earlier in the evening and with new enthusiasm, I watched it like I was judging gymnastics at the Olympics – focussed, scrutineering, coldly assessing for any stepping outside the lines. I can’t have eaten nearly enough delicious frangipane mixture though because there was too much on the pastry – it billowed up and spilled over. I quickly turned the oven off to halt the frangipane pilgrimage to the edge of the oven tray, but this meant that the centre of the pastry sheet didn’t have time to get light and flaky. It wasn’t uncooked, just sadly damp, floppy and uncrisp.
While this was happening Tim was watching footage of the Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall, who can’t have slept in the past week, showing a map of where the 29 miners were thought to be, deep in the stomach of the earth. The projector cast shadows across Whittall’s face, and I looked at the tart and thought “oh well”. So we ate it, and it was fine – delicious in fact, with what I considered a bonus breadth of cakey frangipane to pull off the tray contemplatively. Yes, the underside needed longer in the heat, but the soft dried apricots were warmed to an heady, jammy perfumedness, while the fruity, creamy Kamahi honey somehow amplified the fresh, Christmassy flavour of the often dull ground almonds.
While it may need some tweaking here and there, you can feel free to go ahead and make this recipe. Although, while I ended up with deliciousness I’ve only made this recipe twice and it was somewhat fail-y both times…don’t blame me if you get frangipane all over your oven/walls/hair.
For any international readers, the Pike River mine explosion last Friday caused the disappearance, followed by confirmed death after a second explosion on Wednesday, of 29 miners on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I was a bit naive and was saying “I hope they’re staying calm” to which people would reply, “if they’re alive”. The sickening sadness that their families, friends, colleagues and community went through, and continue to go through, makes the heart ache. If you read the newspaper (and it’s usually the narrow columns to the left and right of the page that relay the saddest stories in the briefest of paragraphs) you’ll see that tragedy happens everywhere and every day. The scale and public nature of this disaster means it has particular resonance across the country though. With that in mind – with anything in mind really – a burnt or awkward tart is something I can shrug at.
On Thursday morning, the Kamahi
honey was spread thickly across hot toast, cut from a loaf of Rewena, the honey slowly filling the pools of butter that gathered in the bread’s crevices. The simplest solution of all, and it was so good. And, at a stretch, a kind of an early prototype version of the above tart. Actually I bet honey and apricot jam on toast (just spontaneously riffing here) would be amazing.
Title via: YES, quoting Billie Piper’s Honey To The Bee here. It’s strange how, while not one note of the rest of her music appeals to me, I have an intense and unapologetic love for this one song. The swooning rapturousness with which the bizarre lyrics are delivered, the slow-dripping melody, and the late-nineties technological charm of its video make for quite the experience.
Mariah Carey, Emotions
from her album
of the same name. Listening to her non-stop brings me no closer to the secret of what makes her so flawless.
The Damned, Eloise.
Next time: most definitely the Chicken Salad Lorraine, plus we’re off to Tiger Translate tonight so there’ll probably be a breathless account of that too.