I’ve had a couple of great honey moments over the last few days. Firstly, going back to one of my all time favourite places in London: Honey and Co. I love understated restaurants like this, there’s no ponce or finery to detract from the fabulously tasty Middle Eastern food. I’d escaped from my work just off Regent Street in the mid-afternoon and wandered through Fitzrovia to Warren Street. I always feel like a tourist when I work in London, it’s great to explore new areas- I’d never found Fitzroy Square before – it’s glorious… but back to Honey and Co.
Husband and wife team, Itamar and Sarit, are originally from Israel, they worked for Ottolenghi amongst others, and long dreamed of having their own neighbourhood restaurant. Now they have it, Honey and Co, and it’s heaven (lots of reviews here) Others have said it before, and it does sound corny, but the food really does ooze love and care.
By the time I got there, around four, I was ready for a cup of fresh mint tea and a small slitherette of something sweet. The window sill is always crammed with cakes but these are no ordinary cakes, they’re not M&S cakes either, they’re one off, eat-with-your-eyes-but-just-wait-’till-you-taste-and-they’re-simply-sublime-cakes. The warm, kaffir lime and mango cakes were recommended. Itamar had bought a box of kaffir limes a few days before and these were the first results. They’ll be too late to make it into The Baking Book which is out next month, and if any of you don’t already own the first Honey and Co, Food From The Middle East cookbook ( v.v. inspiring and a great read too) then you’d better buy the pair. My next visit will be for lunch, and not just a cake.
I have to admit I’ve never really known much about honey. I always buy a pot of local stuff when I visit my sister in Devon but I’ve never thought too much about tasting and using a variety of honeys. I know that I adore heather honey and I’m not so sure about chestnut honey and that’s about it. Now we have a selection of four delicious honeys on the go (LOVE the lemon blossom honey) as a result of one of my latest book purchases, Spoonfuls of Honey by Hattie Ellis. There’s a great glossary on bees and honey, tips about keeping the bees happy in your garden, a guide to different honeys and masses of savoury and sweet recipes….altogether a very lovely book and, most importantly, one I really want to get into the kitchen with.
Imi and I decided to make some Madeleines from the book yesterday for her to take to her friend Lettie’s party. She gets very excited about making presents and spent as long decorating the box as making the cakes. But, just in case this all seems a bit syrupy, gorgeously homey-mother-and-daughtery you’ll be pleased to know that we did have a near melt down at the spooning into the tin stage. I dared to suggest that Imi could perhaps be a little more careful and sparing with the mixture and then had to take a hold of myself and STAND AWAY from a very stroppy child for a few tense minutes.
Madeleines – (recipe from Spoonfuls of Honey) makes 20-24
100 g unsalted butter, + extra for greasing
2 tbsp honey (Hattie recommends a medium/dark honey such as heather – I’d just fallen in love with the blonder lemon blossom honey and they still tasted GOOD)
100 g caster sugar
100 g self raising flour
50 g ground almonds
pinch of sea salt.
Melt the butter and honey together (I zapped mine on low in the microwave)
Whisk the eggs together with the sugar with an electric whisk. Hattie recommended 10 minutes in order to triple the volume, an 8 year old’s wrist was apparently going into spasm after about 5 so that’s all we managed.
Fold in the flour, almonds and salt. Now Hattie suggests leaving the mixture in the fridge to rest for a couple hours making it easier to spoon into the tin as it holds its shape better. We were running out of time so it only got 20 minutes. (Maybe this led to our slightly messy pan filling?)
Preheat the oven to 180ºc/Gas 4
Grease the madeleine tray and put a couple of teaspoons of mixture into each mould. Bake for about 7 minutes (check after 5) remembering, as Hattie says, that the madeleines will be browner on the bottom than the top.
Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes in the tray (Imi managed about 3 max!) and then unmould onto a wire rack to cool.
You can keep these in a tin for a couple of days but the fresh cakes, were (as they always are) simply the best.
I can see these elegant little cakes becoming a regular in my repertoire (I’m not much of a cake maker but I could memorise this recipe), they were so easy and worked brilliantly despite our shortcuts.
I did hesitate before buying another cake tin but as Hattie says “a madeleine mould is an object of beauty”. If you ask me the madeleine itself is the Juliette Binoche of the cake world; an absolute breath of fresh air in a world of fancy cup cakes and frosted doughnuts.
There’s so much left to say on the honey subject too; we have a bottle of gold dust from the Nepalese honey gatherers that Peter brought back from his filming trip 20 years ago, but more on that at a later date.