ArchiveMay 21, 2023


Watch out when you buy your next pot of honey…

Nearly half, (46%) of the honey sold in the EU market is fake, according to a recent investigation by the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud office.

It is adulterated with cheap sugar syrup made from rice, wheat or sugar beet. Honey fraud is lucrative and apparently difficult and expensive to detect but EU countries led by Slovenia are pushing back and demanding action against the unfair competition of faux honey which as one EU official put it is basically ‘sugar water’ and is damaging the livelihoods of small beekeepers, misleading customers and discouraging would be apiarists.

The perpetrators are sophisticated fraudsters, and it seems continually ahead of the investigators in many countries.

According to Safe Food, there is no evidence to indicate that adulterated honey causes any significant health risk but this is scarcely the main issue.

The consumer has clearly been duped, paying dearly for faux honey that has been adulterated not just with sugar syrup, but also artificial colourings and additives to falsify the true botanical and geographic origin of the natural product. Much of this fake honey is imported from China, Turkey and Ukraine.

At present, honey is one of the most adulterated foods on the planet, but mostly goes undetected.

Be particularly wary of cheap honey labelled a blend of honey from EU and non-EU countries. 

Slovenia wants an end to ‘trafficked honey’ and ‘honey laundering’.

Really pure natural honey is laboursome to produce and needs to cost €7.50 or more for a jar depending on size.

Pure honey is a wonderful food with many health benefits. Its flavour and components vary significantly depending on what the bees are feeding on. You’ve all heard of the much sought after Manuka honey from New Zealand, famed for its health benefits but wait for it… research on Irish heather honey found it contained similar powerful antioxidants called phenolic compounds at a fraction of the price.

These help to prevent cell damage in the body and are important to overall health and well-being.

Honey is known to have antibacterial properties and a unique pH balance and has been used for thousands of years for healing wounds and burns.

Despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory, there is a widely held belief that local honey helps to alleviate hay fever but even if it doesn’t help it certainly won’t harm provided it is pure honey.

From earliest times, Ireland has been known for the quality of its honey hence the name, ‘the land of milk and honey’. The name Ballymaloe means the townland of sweet honey, meal means honey in Gaelic and luath is soft or sweet. These place names entered into the language over 2,000 years ago and usually reflected a particular attribute of the area.

Beekeeping was first recorded in Ireland in the 17th century, there’s been a surge in popularity in recent times and the number of beekeepers with many young people becoming involved. 

The island of Ireland produces a wide variety of honey. Early in the season, the bees collect pollen from a variety of trees, flowers, furse bushes, whitethorn, dandelion, rapeseed, wildflower, heather, apple blossom, ivy. Each has its own unique flavour and can be used accordingly.

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association and The Native Irish Honeybee Society are rich sources of information and support for beekeepers and the public. There are local beekeepers in virtually every parish in Ireland –

So where to find real honey…go along to your local Farmers’ Markets or a shop in your local village where everyone knows everyone!

Here are a few delicious ways to enjoy honey apart from my favourite way to slather it on hot buttery toast.

Apricot, Chamomile and Honey Scones 

Taken from ‘Love Is A Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon and Night’ Claire Ptak’s new book published by Square Peg 

I’ve never been a huge fan of chamomile tea, but it’s one of my favourite baking flavours, particularly as vanilla is so ubiquitous.  I especially love it paired with apricots – they harmonise to be greater than the sum of their parts.  Add clotted cream and a perfectly buttery scone and it’s difficult to do better.

Makes 6 large scones 

For the compote:

1kg firm, ripe apricots, halved and stones removed 

½ vanilla pod 

1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers (or 2-3 teabags, opened, depending on size)

150g caster sugar 

For the scones:

280g plain flour 

1 tbsp baking powder 

2 tbsp caster sugar 

½ tsp fine sea salt 

115g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes 

100g double cream

100g whole milk 

For the egg wash:

1 egg white, beaten 

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp caster sugar 

clotted cream to serve (or use whipped cream or mascarpone)

Honey for drizzling 

First make the compote – put all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss together well.  Macerate for 1 hour to dissolve the sugar and draw the juices out of the fruit.  

Tip into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apricots have broken down a bit.  Allow to cool and then transfer to a container to chill in the fridge.  This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 (170°C fan) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. 

In a food processor; combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, then add the cold butter, blitzing until it resembles a coarse meal texture.  (You can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter).

Drizzle in the cream and milk, mixing until the dough just comes together (be careful not to overmix).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a cube shape and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  

Once rested, roll to a thickness of 2cm, then cut into 6cm rounds and place on a tray.  Chill for 20 minutes in the freezer, then remove and transfer to your lined baking tray.  Whisk together the egg wash ingredients and brush this over the chilled scones.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until springy and golden at the edges. 

Allow the scones to cool slightly before filling with compete and a dollop of the cream.  Add a drizzle of honey and serve immediately. 

Turkish Cereal

A delicious gluten-free breakfast cereal and an addictive nibble.  This recipe was given to us by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey & Co Restaurant in London.

95ml (scant 3 1/2oz) vegetable oil – coconut oil
110g (4oz) honey
110g (4oz) dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mahleb seeds or replace with freshly ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom pods
1 x packet puffed rice (160g/scant 5 1/2oz)
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) pecans, roughly chopped
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) sunflower seeds
50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds
30g (1 1/4oz) sesame seeds
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) almonds, very roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to fan 170°C/gas mark 4.

Line a couple of large flat baking trays with baking parchment.

Combine the oil, honey and sugar in a medium saucepan and set on a high heat. Mix well and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to avoid it burning on the base.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Once the honey syrup is bubbling, carefully pour it over the dry ingredients in the bowl.  Use a large spoon to stir, turning the contents of the bowl over a few times until everything is well coated with the syrup.  Transfer the mixture to the baking trays and flatten it out a little so that there is an extra there is an even layer of cereal.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove one tray at a time and mix the cereal around to make sure everything is getting roasted and crispy.  Return the trays to the oven for an additional 5-6 minutes, then remove and leave the cereal to cool entirely on the trays before breaking into large clusters.

Once the cereal is cold, transfer it to an airtight container.  This keeps for well over 2 weeks, if you don’t get addicted and eat it all before then!

Sausages with Honey and Grainy Mustard and variations

Super easy and delicious.  Everyone including children love these honey and mustard sausages, even if there are lots of other fancy bites.  They are brilliant to nibble with drinks.

Makes about 30

450g (1lb) good-quality cocktail sausages

2 tbsp Irish honey

2 tbsp Irish grainy mustard (such as Lakeshore wholegrain mustard with honey)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Prick the sausages and cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally until cooked and golden.  Baste several times during cooking.

Mix the honey with the mustard. Toss the sausages in the honey and mustard mixture and serve hot or warm. 

Sesame and Honey Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of sesame seeds to the above recipe and omit the mustard.

Honey and Rosemary Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of freshly chopped rosemary to 4 tbsp of honey.

Sweet Chilli and Lime

Use 4 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce and the juice of ½ – 1 lime, depending on size.

Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs with Honey and Mustard and Aioli

These can be cooked on the BBQ, grill or in the oven.

Serves 8 or 4 hungry people

8 organic chicken drumsticks or thighs


5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Maldon sea salt

Aioli – optional but a delicious accompaniment. 

Just add crushed garlic and chopped flat parsley to mayonnaise

Slash the drumsticks in 2 places on each side.  If using thighs, just cut through the skin side.  Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and toss the chicken in it so that all sides are evenly coated.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more.  Drain.

Sprinkle the drumsticks with sea salt and grill over medium coals, turning regularly until no trace of pink remains – about 15 minutes.  Alternatively, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, roast in a preheated oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked.

Serve with Aioli. 

Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

One of our best loved recipes and a favourite for dinner parties.

Serves 6

8 large organic or free-range chicken thighs or 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

a generous pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g (3 1/2oz) unskinned hazelnuts

70g (scant 3oz) honey

1-2 tbsp rosewater depending on strength of rosewater

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

sprigs of coriander

Mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice and water in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. 

Spread the hazelnuts out on an oven tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Chop roughly and set aside.

Reduce the temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a roasting tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably.  Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and put the tray in the oven for about 35 minutes or until nearly cooked.

While the chicken is roasting, mix the honey, rosewater and nuts together to make a rough paste.  Remove the chicken from the oven, spoon a generous amount of nut paste on to each piece and spread it to cover.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and the nuts are golden brown.

Transfer the chicken, the juices and toasted nuts to a serving dish and garnish with the sliced spring onions and coriander leaves.


Replace the hazelnuts with 100g (3 1/2oz) pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a delicious alternative.

Chilli Honey

This delicious, sweet, perky chilli honey is a delicious condiment to drizzle over pizza, bread, toast….

Makes 1 x 360g (scant 12 1/2oz) jar


1 jar (360g/scant 12 1/2oz) runny honey

2-3 tbsp chilli flakes, depending how hot you like it

pinch of salt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Pour the honey into a small saucepan, add the chilli flakes and a generous pinch of salt.  Warm gently on a medium heat, just as soon as it begins to simmer, turn off the heat and stir in the cider vinegar.  Pour into 1 or more sterilized jars.

Store in a cool dark place, no need to refrigerate.

Labneh with Medjool Dates, Pistachio and Honey

Serves 4-6

Labneh (see recipe)


6-8 Medjool dates

50g (2oz) Iranian pistachios


rose petals or wood sorrel leaves (optional)

To Serve

Put a generous 2 tbsp of labneh on each plate or in shallow bowls.

Stone the Medjool dates and slice into rounds or lengthwise. Scatter with some slivered pistachios and drizzle each with honey.  Sprinkle with rose petals or wood sorrel if available.  Serve.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labneh

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens.


The labneh should be like softly whipped cream.  If thicker, simply stir back in some whey. 

Bernie’s Lithuanian Honey Liquor

Bernie Ter Braak who attended our summer 12-Week Course in 2013 kindly shared this recipe with us.

Makes 2.2 – 3.4 litres (scant 4 – 6 pints) 

2 tbsp orange peel

1 tbsp lemon peel

3 sticks cinnamon (break lightly)

4-5 pods of cardamom, lightly crushed

1 nutmeg, lightly crushed

3-5 cloves (leave whole)

1 tsp fennel seed, crushed

3-4 allspice, lightly crushed

1 tsp black pepper, lightly crushed

1 tsp white pepper, lightly crushed

3-4 thin slices white ginger

3-4 thin slices red ginger (if available)

1 tbsp or 3 sticks of vanilla

a pinch of saffron (for colour)

1.3kg (3lb) honey

1.1 litres (generous 1 3/4 pints) of water

750ml (1 pint 5fl oz) vodka

Put the water into a large pot.  Simmer the dry spices until fragrant.  Add the moist spices.  When blended, add the honey, simmer but do not boil.  When the honey is dissolved, remove the spices (strainer).  Remove from any flame source and add the alcohol.  Allow to cool and bottle in sterilized containers. 

Some people drink this right away, but it is highly recommended that you allow it to mature in the bottle in a dark, cool place, for at least 6 months.  The longer it ages, the better it gets.


Past Letters