Cultivated across the world with varied colours, flavours and aromas, honey adds a delicious dimension to both sweet and savoury dishes. The collection of this liquid gold dates back at least 8000 years, and it’s since been prized for its spiritual and medicinal values. While still revered for its symbolic significance in many faiths and proven health benefits, honey remains, above all, an irresistible sweetener the world over.
By
Selma Nadarajah

27 Mar 2015 - 7:42 PM  UPDATED 25 Apr 2015 - 9:14 PM

Recipes

Iran
A popular feature on many Persian New Year tables, these honey, almond and saffron caramels are a speciality from Iran's Isfahan region, known for its honey production. Often used to add an aromatic sweetness to Perisan confectionery, there are many local honey varieties, including orange blossom, thyme and clover, some of which is still collected using traditional beekeeping methods – a combination of log hives, pottery hives and woven cylinders.

Sohan asali

 

Morocco
Morocco has a long history of beekeeping, with most of the country's honey still produced using traditional cylindrical hives made of woven reeds and caked in clay. There are many different varieties, including carob, eucalyptus, lavender and even cactus, but orange-blossom honey is one of the more popular flavours. There is even an annual honey festival in May in the town of Agadir and visitors flock to the nearby town of Argana to marvel at what is reputed to be the world's largest and oldest collective beehive. Tfaya, an accompaniment of honey-spiked caramelised onions, is often added to tagines, but also makes a satisfying meal with just couscous.

Tfaya with lamb tagine and couscous

 

Scotland
This Scottish roast chicken is basted with a sweet honey glaze made from a mixture of mustard, curry powder and local honey made from heather flowers found around the Scottish moorlands. Reddish-brown with a pungent, slightly bitter and smoky flavour and with floral aromas, heather honey is truly one of a kind. Another unusual characteristic is its gel-like consistency that only liquefies upon stirring. Once used to make ale and mead, heather honey is now more commonly used in Scottish whisky and desserts. Due to its limited availability in Australia, we've substituted heather honey with manuka honey, another strong, aromatic variety.

Heather honey chicken

 

Jewish
A popular dessert served for Rosh Hashanah, this cake is sweetened with honey and flavoured with spices, orange zest and coffee. The honey symbolises hopes for a sweet New Year and also alludes to the Promised Land that flows "with milk and honey". Honey is so highly regarded in Jewish culture that it is a permissible food according to Jewish dietary laws, even though bees are considered a non-kosher species. While it is traditionally served plain, we've finished our cake with an orange icing topped with pecans.

Honey cake

 

Italy
Also known as seadas, these Sardinian deep-fried pastries are filled with fresh pecorino and drizzled with honey. They were originally eaten by shepherds as a main course and a way of using up their abundance of sheep's-milk cheese. Sardinia has a long history of honey production, with many producers still using traditional cork beehives. Honey varieties include chestnut, asphodel and thistle, but corbezzolo, a bittersweet variety native to Sardinia, is traditionally used for this dish. As it is difficult to find in Australia, we've used chestnut honey instead.

Sebadas (fried cheese pastries)

 

Korea
As is the case in many countries, honey in Korea is regarded as a highly nutritious food that cures various ailments. It's no surprise then that these fried sweets, known as yakgwa, literally mean 'medicinal confectionery'. Made from flour, honey and sesame oil, yakgwa are often shaped into flowers, deep-fried and steeped in an aromatic honey syrup for up to eight hours. Buddhist monks were said to be the earliest apiarists in Korea and yakgwa were often offered in the royal court at Buddhist ceremonies. Their nutritious factor may be questionable, but these sticky, chewy confections are still a firm favourite for weddings and festivals, as well as everyday afternoon tea. You will need a sugar thermometer for this recipe.

Yakgwa

 

 

Photography Chris Chen.

 

As seen in Feast magazine, September 2014, Issue 35.