Smoky butternut squash & black bean stew, served with corn bread and a beautiful tomato, orange & coriander salsa. This recipe is based on a fabulous lunch I had at Eden in Cornwall recently where we spent New Year. I’ve made this twice already since then, once in a casserole and then in a slow cooker; both ways work well. My version of this recipe is below and you can throw in other vegetables you have in the fridge such as courgettes and mushrooms.
Yes, I said ‘healthy’ hot chocolate. And darn tasty too. Not loaded with sugar, this is made using our very own chocolate honey – so you get the goodness of raw honey with 100% organic cocoa, stirred into warmed milk *thumbs up*. My cousin messaged me a little while ago to let me know she’d made some hot chocolate using our chocolate honey for her son and he loved it. I had to try it. My kids love it, and I’ve been spreading the word. This hot chocolate packs all the flavour of the honey and cocoa, and anti-bacterial nutrients. Hhhhhhmmmmmmmmm yum.
You can buy Castelete’s Chocolate Honey online: http://tastegoodvibes.com/
It’s been a challenging year yet again. With the hot spring, flowers have produced less nectar for the honeybees to collect. In the summer we started hearing from other beekeepers that their bees were not bringing much in, and this continued throughout the summer. One Cambridgeshire beekeeper I spoke to at the end of the summer, who has around 300 hives, said his yield is 40% down on last year, and last year was not great either. Another Norfolk-based beekeeper urged all beekeepers in the UK to check their hives much earlier this year to start feeding them now, something that we have started to do and will do all winter and into early spring.
We invested in new hives this year and located them on a different farm location, so we have two farms with hives now. We also collected our first swarm earlier in the summer. We received a message from someone who was concerned about the bees as after 3 days the swarm hadn’t moved on. By the time we visited, two thirds of the bees were crawling on the floor under the remaining swarm above. We placed a box on the ground and immediately the bees marched in for protection. It was wonderful to see and we were able to relocate them in a new hive in a field next to bean crop. The swarm has done really well to grow from a small size. You can see the frame they had started to fill. It is still a small colony but we will continue to look after the bees during the winter and to help keep them flying and pollinating.
Part of the challenge of finding a new location for our hives was to find a good spot, ideally partially sheltered at the back of the hive and maximising exposure to the sun. We found a fantastic new spot close to some bean crop, with the prospect of acres more bean crop in 2018. One thing I’ve noticed as I was driving to different locations with the (extremely helpful and accommodating) farmer is that there is a lot of wheat and barley crops, acres of woodland too but light on fields of flowers for bees to forage. As far as the eye can see, it’s green and gold which dominates. When we’ve had such dry weather with less nectar being produced, fewer flowers also has a major impact. So this is something we need to think about as we introduce more hives. Lots of farmers will plant wildflower corridors near beehives but this will only provide food for a limited time.
Mike and I were really delighted to join the local Northamptonshire Beekeepers Association for a Bee Health Course. It was a first class day, superbly organised and extremely well attended with over 100 beekeepers joining for the day. The National Bee Unit were demonstrating many aspects of keeping healthy bees: spotting different types of diseases with real life frames as samples; best practise for cleaning hives and also a presentation from the scientist who dissected the Asian hornet nest found in Gloucestershire. Up until attending this course I hadn’t realised what a valuable resource the National Bee Unit is to all beekeepers. If you haven’t already done so, take a look at their website: http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/
This week marks the start of our new business as honey food producers. We are starting small, building on a number of recipes using the raw honey that we love. Our chocolate honey comes from my own love of raw honey and dark, pure chocolate. It has become a bit of a mini sensation in my kitchen and with the small number of people we have asked to test it. It’s not what you expect, and that’s what people love about it. The art is in getting the right chocolate and honey match. Our first recipe is a raw wildflower honey and cocoa and we will be launching it at our first food festival this Saturday – the Oundle Food Festive, one of the best one day food events in the UK and part of the Oundle Music Festival. We’re really excited to be taking part. This croissant recipe uses seasonal British strawberries, soft cream cheese and a generous drizzle of Castelete’s Chocolate Honey. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Simply use two strawberries per croissant, cut the croissants in half and spread a generous amount of cream cheese. Place the strawberries on top, finish with our Chocolate Honey. Our new website and online shop will be ready soon!
2017: we decided in the New Year to invest in some new hives, book on some courses and to immerse ourselves more in beekeeping.
One piece of sage advice is: to get good at beekeeping, you need to have more equipment to grow your colony. That means: more hives, more supers (supers are the shallower boxes that sit on top of the brood box – the supers help provide essential room for a growing colony, they help with swarm control and it is where the surplus honey for beekeepers can be harvested).
We purchased new hives from Simon the Beekeeper. Our first hive was a beautiful cedar national hive, now well-worn, but still functional (and looks lovely too). We have just located one of our new hives on another farm and will post an update once we have established our bees there. Our new hives are called National Density Polyhives and are less expensive and thought to be healthier for bees as they offer good protection, so we wanted to try them out. Mike has been busy painting them and putting the frames together in readiness.
Back to our first hive on the farm nearby. This is our second Spring as beekeepers and still we have lots to learn. We had extremely warm weather this Spring and it has created some early swarms. A couple of weeks ago our mentor, Jeff, said he left the lid off our hive to see if we could attract a swarm. We decided to stop by today to see how the hives (our hive as well as Jeff”s) were doing. We had no intention of opening the hives as it’s too cold (around 15 degrees).
This soup is sensational! I’ve been making this soup for a few years after reading it in the Drop Zone Diet by nutritionist and biochemist Jeannette Jackson. It fresh, spicy, satisfying and packed to the brim with goodness! Jeanette says “The adzuki beans offer a good boost of protein, whilst the tomatoes are ready to work their antioxidant magic!”
One of the key elements is to select the best tomatoes – for this recipe I bought beautiful vine tomatoes from our local farm shop Farndon Fields. Also, don’t be tempted to add more of any one ingredient. I’ve done it a couple of times, thinking “oh it will be fine”. But with added celery it overpowers the soup and any extra adzuki beans is too much – 80g of beans provides the optimum texture for this soup.
This is yet another fantastic recipe by Jeannette, the author of the Drop Zone Diet and a perfect, flavoursome, wholesome soup to bet you back on a healthy track as we head into Spring.
As a family, we all enjoy a good curry. Since I gave up meat and poultry in the summer, I’ve been experimenting with new curry recipes. We often eat fish curries, but I wanted to try some new vegetarian recipes. This one is inspired by my husband who first introduced me to the idea of putting an egg in a curry. With the butter beans, this is a dense, satisfying dish. The spinach is delicious and a perfect addition, along with the egg and butter beans, to boost iron levels.
I use a tikka curry paste (Patak’s in this case) and a dollop of crème fraiche. Strictly speaking, if you are looking to boost your iron, leave out the crème fraiche and replace with a dairy-free alternative. Served with a glass of orange juice or a sprinkle of pomegranates will also give you the essential Vitamin C to help your body absorb the plant-based iron in this recipe.
Pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin, what could be better for Halloween? This is a real centre piece and crowd pleaser that I have been making for years and my kids still love it. There are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to get this right. Before you do anything, pick the right pumpkin. It should be fairly stable so it will sit nice and upright on the table. This recipe uses a medium to large size pumpkin. I also save the rinds from parmigiana or grana padano and pop them in the freezer ready to add to this recipe (it adds a beautiful rich flavour to the soup).
One of the many great things about beekeeping, is the beekeeping community are very generous with their knowledge and time. We always offer our time to Jeff to help out where we can as a way to thank him for his help and it also means we can get hands-on experience at beekeeping.
Today we travelled about 30 miles across the countryside, to a secret location! One that is home to a borage farm (borage flowers are loved by bees and the nectar produces the most delicate, light honey). The borage had just been harvested by the farmer and it was time to harvest the honey. The glorious golden frames, thick and heavy with capped borage honey is the most wonderful sight!