• Sweeten your food with honey and simultaneously do your bit for the environment. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Honey is one of those brilliant, multifaceted food products. Bonus: it has an eternal shelf life.
Caterina Hrysomallis

6 Aug 2021 - 2:28 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2021 - 11:33 AM

--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.00pm, or stream it free on SBS On Demand. ---


Julian Wolfhagen is a beekeeper and the founder of The Tasmanian Honey Company. After more than 40 years in the industry, he's still passionate about making honey.

"Every culture holds honey in a very reverential place and that's because of the health that it brings," Wolfhagen tells SBS Food. "It's high in antioxidants, it has a low GI, which makes it quite suitable for certain types of diabetics. It also has all sorts of probiotic values so it's pretty good for gut health. And it's industrious."

Honey can be used in baking, to make sauces and marinate vegetables and proteins. Wolfhagen personally uses a fair share of honey in his cooking.

"Generally honey is quite adaptable and can be used almost anywhere you're using sugar. The only caveat is that is the moisture content of honey," he says, so you may have to cut back other moisture content in whatever you're cooking.

"The apparent sweetness of honey is higher than sucrose, or normal sugar, so you can also cut back the total quantity of sugar you use," he explains.

"Generally honey is quite adaptable and can be used almost anywhere you're using sugar."

The other great thing about using honey is that (like sugar) it's hygroscopic, he says, "meaning it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. If you're using it for baking, in cakes or breads, it keeps things permanently sticky."

One of Wolfhagen's favourite recipes is a panna cotta with leatherwood honey. "Leatherwood has a spicy flavour that's quite unique and goes well particularly well with dairy, ... you should only use it if you want that flavour to come through."

Honey also goes well with pome fruits (apples and pears); it's good for poaching, glazing and baking. It's also suitable for browning food. "But be mindful the enzymes in honey have the potential to burn," he adds.

When deciding what honey to use, it really depends on what you're cooking. "If you just want some sweetness, you'd go for what is typically a light-coloured honey, like a clover or meadow honey. For a fruity kind of honey, perhaps something with a eucalypt base like yellow-box honey."

If you're looking for a knockout appetiser, try the trusted combination of honey and cheese. Nigel Ward, head chef at the Merivale Group's flagship restaurant Uccello in Sydney, says he uses either a "young sheep's milk pecorino, which might be a little bit hard to come by, or some Roman pecorino". He batters the cheese in a mixture of egg, flour, a pinch of salt and some sparkling water. 

Fried pecorino with honey and summer herbs

Nigel makes the perfect crispy entrée with pecorino - a hard cheese made from sheep's milk.

"Dip the cheese in, chuck it in the oil, and throw some herbs with it," Ward says. He mixes honey, oregano and chilli and crowns the cheese with the sweet and aromatic mixture.

Onto mains. Host of The Cook Up Adam Liaw's go-to traybake dishes is chilli honey-baked chicken, which is "great for a weeknight family dinner". Adam Liaw blitzes honey, garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, chilli sauce and oil in a blender and uses this to marinate the chicken. 

"Then I'll just put it on a roasting tray with a bit of paper," he explains. "People say the paper is for helping clean up, which does make it easy to clean up, but it also has a very important purpose: that it keeps things more moist. You don't get as much evaporation when you put a piece of paper in there, so you actually get a more moist result." 

Chilli honey baked chicken

Adam makes his chilli honey baked chicken - a simple weeknight dinner with a classic sweet and heat flavour combination. 

Anna Polyviou, or the "punk princess of pastry" as Liaw calls her on his honey-themed episode of The Cook Up, grew up eating loukoumades (Greek doughnuts). 

She says what made her family's loukoumades so good when she was growing up was the fact that her uncle provided fresh honey to make the syrup that coats them. Polyviou's modern-day rendition of loukoumades sees them ramped up with caramelised popcorn.

Loukoumades with honey and cinnamon syrup

I used to go to Greek church festivals just to watch the old ladies making these doughnuts like machines.  I was always excited to watch and even more to eat them too. Traditionally they are done and served with walnuts, but I wanted to bring an Anna mini twist. 

Liaw says honey is a delicious ingredient, but it's really a happy by-product of the extraordinary biodiversity that bees create through pollination.

"If we don't protect our bee populations from the threat of things like pesticides, land clearing, and climate change, a lack of honey might be the least of our problems."

Haloumi wrapped in kataifi with honey and lemon dressing

As if haloumi wasn't amazing on its own, we wrap it in stringy pastry, deep-fry it, then slather on a divine honey, pine nut and lemon dressing.

Honey, ricotta and citrus medley

Stefano travels to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in the Mallee district to see local beekeeper Roger Moser and makes this dish using honey from his bees.

Honeycomb candy (ppopgi)

Ppopgi are made with a shape stamped into the middle and the goal is to eat around the outline – if you can nibble the honeycomb or scratch it with a needle into the shape without it cracking, you can treat yourself to another one!

Olive oil, sobrassada and honey on toast

These simple and contrasting Spanish island flavours – local sweet, floral honey and the intensely strong-flavoured sobrassada – is an exquisite combination unique to the Balearics.

Daria's Russian honey cake
“Every household, every mum has their own recipe. A lot of people use dried fruit or walnuts. You can play around with it as much as you want.”
Honey chicken

Honey chicken was one of my favourite restaurant dishes growing up. This version uses Kangaroo Island's unique Ligurian honey but you can easily substitute your own preferred honey instead.

Banana fritters with coconut and honey

These are a cross between a fritter, a pancake and a doughnut: light, and fluffy, and crunchy on the outside. They are a great way to use up really ripe bananas.

Honey scones

These Irish honey scones are a classic recipe and so delicious. The combination of plain and wholemeal flours gives a nuttier taste.