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The birds and the bees..


The birds and the bees..


Well, I'm just discussing the bees actually.....the birds can wait for a while. I thought it'd be nice to talk about all things buzzy (and I really, really like bees and honey!)

So we're all heaving a sigh of relief that winter is creeping away and warmer weather should be just around the corner - Ok, ok, some of us are heaving sighs; others are gearing up for their busiest times of the year. Apologies to all those farmers working round the clock to bring us foodstuffs of all shapes, breeds, varieties and sizes - and, no, I wasn't prompted by someone sitting in my immediate vicinity to write that (honest!).

We all know bees hibernate through the winter - no one sees a honey bee zipping round on a frosty December morning; if they did then the bee would not be long for this world. Bees hibernate through winter in a cluster in order to keep the colony at a constant temperature. They do this by vibrating the flight muscles on their wings to raise the internal temperature. Interestingly (well, I think it’s interesting) a hives’ temperature is around 35 degrees Celsius; similar to human skin (37 degrees). As the bees on the outside of the cluster cool they burrow in to warm up and the next layer of worker bees take over the status of 'bee duvet'. As the external temperature warms up outside they start to send out foraging parties looking for early blossoming plants and trees. A couple of well known garden favourites, snowdrops and crocuses, contribute to the pollen gathered by early foragers.

Once spring's in full bloom the bees can gather enough pollen to refuel and start replenishing their honey supplies. Did you know that the colour and 'runniness' of the honey depends on the blossom the bees have gathered pollen from? If the pollen has been gathered from garden flowers the honey tends to be clear and runny, from heather honey (sometimes referred to as 'the King of honeys') it can be clear and almost jelly like in consistency. Honey made from our very own rapeseed sets hard, so hard in fact that a drop in temperature can make it hard for the bees to munch on through the winter.

Honey has been gathered for millennia and is still used in medicine and cooking. It keeps indefinitely - edible honey has been removed from the tombs of the Pharoahs - not sure I'd want to spread 3,000 year old honey on my toast but it's still amazing!

I always have honey in my food cupboard; it’s such a versatile sweetener – We musn’t forget our ever popular Honey and Mustard dressing, which gets used for all sorts of spring and summer salads. The kids have honey drizzled on their porridge, I have it in my coffee and, of course, I bake with it! In my quest for all things honey I had a good rummage for my favourite honey recipes and I came up with this beauty - easy to make and very, very more-ish (but don't tell the bees!).

Orange, Pistachio & Honey Cake

So this particular cake lasted, ooooh, approximately 15 minutes! It's lovely to look at, easy to make and it tastes absolutely delicious.

You will need:
220g self raising flour
220g golden caster sugar
150ml original cold pressed Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil
75ml milk
4 medium eggs
zest and juice of one orange

For the drizzle:
150g honey
300g unsalted pistachio nuts

Simply mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl then mix together the oil, eggs, orange juice, zest and milk in another and add the wet ingredients slowly to the dry ingredients, mix and place in a lined tin. We used a 20cm by 26cm rectangular tin. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 40 minutes or so (this will vary according to your oven!), take out and leave to cool.

To make the drizzle warm the honey in a pan - take care not to let it boil! When its warm and runny add the pistachios, stir through, pour on the cooled cake and leave to set. Simples!