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Chef Alliance meets Ark of Taste: Alison showcases Colonsay wildflower honey

Chef Alliance meets Ark of Taste: Alison showcases Colonsay wildflower honey
Chef Alliance meets Ark of Taste: Alison showcases Colonsay wildflower honey
Slow Food Edinburgh and Chef Alliance teamed up at The Edinburgh Food Festival (26th – 30th July) to deliver a series of tastings and demonstrations highlighting Scottish foods listed in the Ark of Taste. We did a cookery demo and crucially also discussed the relevance of the Ark (other than to deal with the immediate weather here in Scotland), particularly for the product we were using.
I chose Colonsay Wildflower Honey and Carrageen (and locally produced Yester Farm dairies milk, cream and yoghurt ). Although the Carrageen is in the Irish Ark of Taste it does grow on the West coast of Scotland too and it is very much part of my Irish heritage and experience whilst living and working in County Cork.
I’m the Cookery School Manager at Colstoun Cookery School, East Lothian, where our food ethos is to produce and inspire others to produce Simple, Seasonal, Stunning Food using Local ingredients in a Sustainable way, mirroring Slow Food’s #goodcleanfair food.
In keeping with this simplicity I wanted the flavour of the Honey to be centre stage, which it is in this clean tasting but sophisticated dessert. It captures, I feel, the essence of the Seashore with the subtle background mineral notes from the seaweed ( used to set the dessert ) and the wild flower elements from the nectar the bees use to produce the honey on this small island off the west coast of Scotland.
What makes Colonsay Honey special? Undoubtedly its flavour is unique, but it’s crucially an issue of provenance too and of the need to preserve Bee populations.
Colonsay is one of the last outposts where the Native Scottish Black Bee can be found, on this island it is isolated from other colonies and has reserve status from the Scottish government to retain their biodiversity and prevent cross-breeding. This pure bred bee provides a useful gene pool. The strain derives from bees that recolonised Britain after the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago, it is susceptible to Varroa as are Italian bees that Beekeepers raise colonies now with in the UK, BUT is much hardier and adaptable to the vagaries of the Scottish weather, which could be a useful characteristic to breed into the wider population with Climate change going forward. 
I’m passionate about bees and Beekeeping, we have hives at Colstoun, managed by our Beekeeper, Brian Pool. Without Beekeepers, we would have no honeybees in the UK. Those swarms escaping into the wild die out within 2 years, due to the Varroa virus. We need to support our Beekeepers by buying local honey, beeswax candles to allow them to continue what they are doing….preserving Honeybees and the biodiversity for generations to come! 
Colonsay Wildflower Honey and Carrageen Pannacotta with Wild Strawberries ( with thanks to Dennis Cotter of Cafe Paradiso, Cork, for the inspiration)
Serves 6
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g Colonsay Wildflower Honey
  • 150g Natural or Greek Yoghurt
  • 300ml milk
  • 8g carrageen, rinsed
  • Put the cream, vanilla, honey and yoghurt into a medium sized saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat.
  • In another pan, bring the milk and carrageen to the boil and simmer very gently until the milk becomes slightly viscous, about 6-7 minutes. It is important not to make the milk too thick at this stage to avoid setting the pannacotta too firmly. 
  • Combine the 2 liquids, pass the mixture through a fine sieve 3 times to remove all the carrageen. 
  • Carefully pour the mixture into 8 serving glasses or lightly butter 6 dariole moulds and line the bases with baking parchment and fill these. Chill for 8 hours.
  • To serve, run a knife carefully around the edges of the dariole moulds and carefully unmould or serve in little glasses, topped with foraged Wild Strawberries.

Alison Henderson


The Slow Food blog is welcoming contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here

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