Chef Alison Henderson showcases Colonsay Wildflower Honey, one of Scotland’s many Ark of Taste products. And shares a very summery recipe with a touch of the Irish.

“In late July, Slow Food Edinburgh and the Chefs’ Alliance teamed up at The Edinburgh Food Festival to deliver a series of tastings and demonstrations highlighting Scottish foods listed in the local Ark of Taste.

I was one of the chefs who did a cookery demo and crucially also discussed the relevance of the Ark.

I chose Colonsay Wildflower Honey and Carrageen (and locally-produced Yester Farm dairies milk, cream and yoghurt ). Although the Carrageen is in the Irish Ark of Taste, it does grow on the West coast of Scotland too. It is very much part of my Irish heritage and experience whilst living and working in County Cork.”

Simple, seasonal and stunning.

“I’m the Cookery School Manager at Colstoun Cookery School, East Lothian, where our food ethos is to produce and inspire others to produce simple, seasonal, stunning food using local ingredients in a sustainable way, mirroring Slow Food’s good, clean and fair ethos.

In keeping with this simplicity, I wanted the flavour of the honey to be centre stage, which it is in this clean tasting, but sophisticated dessert. It captures, I feel, the essence of the seashore with the subtle background mineral notes from the seaweed (used to set the dessert ) and the wild flower elements from the nectar the bees use to produce the honey on this small island off the west coast of Scotland.”

Colonsay Wildflower Honey and Carrageen Pannacotta with Wild Strawberries
(with thanks to Dennis Cotter of Cafe Paradiso, Cork, for the inspiration)

Strawberry dessert

Serves 6
300ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
100g Colonsay Wildflower Honey
150g Natural or Greek Yoghurt
300ml milk
8g carrageen, rinsed

Put the cream, vanilla, honey and yoghurt into a medium sized saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat.
In another pan, bring the milk and carrageen to the boil and simmer very gently until the milk becomes slightly viscous, about 6-7 minutes. It is important not to make the milk too thick at this stage to avoid setting the pannacotta too firmly.
Combine the 2 liquids, and pass the mixture through a fine sieve 3 times to remove all the carrageen.
Carefully pour the mixture into 8 serving glasses or lightly butter 6 dariole moulds and line the bases with baking parchment and fill these. Chill for 8 hours.
To serve, run a knife carefully around the edges of the dariole moulds and carefully unmould or serve in little glasses, topped with foraged Wild Strawberries. Bonnie appetit!

A very special honey.

“What makes Colonsay honey special? Undoubtedly its flavour is unique, but it’s crucially an issue of provenance too and of the need to preserve bee populations.

Colonsay is one of the last outposts where the Native Scottish Black Bee can be found.

Colonsay honey

On the island, it is isolated from other colonies and has reserve status from the Scottish government to retain its biodiversity and prevent cross-breeding.

This pure-bred bee provides a useful gene pool. The strain derives from bees that recolonised Britain after the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago.

It is susceptible to Varroa, as are the Italian bees that beekeepers raise in colonies now within the UK, but is much hardier and adaptable to the vagaries of the Scottish weather.

Certainly, a useful characteristic to possibly breed into the wider population with climate change going forward.”

Be good to the bee-keepers.

“I’m passionate about bees and beekeeping – we have hives at Colstoun, managed by our beekeeper, Brian Pool. Without beekeepers, we would have no honeybees in the UK. Those swarms escaping into the wild die out within 2 years, due to the Varroa virus. We need to support our beekeepers by buying local honey and beeswax candles to allow them to continue what they are doing….preserving honeybees and the biodiversity for generations to come!”

What does Slow Food believe about the ideal relationship between bees and agriculture? Read this to find out.

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