Bees are small but important creatures. As well as producing honey, they are critical in pollinating food crops. In recent years a worldwide movement has introduced beehives into cities, often placed on rooftops.
In Australia, many city restaurants use their roof space to harvest their own honey. Some hives produce an incredible amount, often with unique flavours from the diverse flowering plants found in city gardens.
A friend had a hive in his suburban backyard. The whole family embraced it until his daughter learnt a lesson the hard way: when bees are dying in the hive, worker bees remove them to keep the hive clean but most still have enough life in them to sting.
Honey is a key ingredient of nougat, traditionally eaten at Christmas in Spain. But I love a piece of it any time. Nougat is surprisingly easy to make - enjoy it with an espresso coffee. The honey mustard dressing is excellent with a salmon gravlax salad or juicy free-range ham.
Rice paper, for lining
185g good-quality honey
330g glucose syrup
280g castor sugar
60g egg whites (about 2 x 60g eggs)
250g blanched almonds, toasted
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Lightly grease a 15-centimetre x 25-centimetre tray and line the bottom with rice paper.
Place honey and 185 grams glucose syrup in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Stir over low heat until well combined, then cook until the temperature reaches 130C on a kitchen thermometer.
Meanwhile, put sugar, remaining 145 grams glucose syrup and 50 millilitres water in another small, heavy-based saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, then cook until the temperature reaches 170C.
While the syrups cook, beat egg whites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. As soon as the honey syrup reaches 130C, slowly pour it into the egg whites, beating continuously. When the sugar syrup reaches 170C, slowly add it to the egg whites and continue beating the mixture, then stir in almonds and lemon zest.
Quickly pour mix into the prepared tray. Cover nougat with more rice paper, cutting the sheets to fit. Press on the sheets to flatten nougat.
Leave at room temperature for 12 hours, then cut into 12 pieces. The nougat keeps in an airtight container for up to a month.
Makes 12 pieces
1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp strong honey
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
200ml olive oil
1/4 of a lemon, juiced and zested
Salt and pepper
Whisk together the mustards, honey, vinegar and egg yolk. Whisking all the while, slowly add oil until all mixed in.
Add the lemon juice, zest and salt and pepper to taste. The dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Makes about 300ml