Every year at this time I start leafing through my cookbook library searching for never-before-tried Christmas recipes. At our house, in addition to the traditional turkey, we like to present a couple of new recipes just to give the traditional dinner a novel twist.
This year the one inspirational gem that grabbed my attention was sitting on my desk buried under a pile of papers.
British Columbia’s chef Angelo Prosperi-Porta’s Honey, is a collection of 85 sweet and savoury recipes that incorporate golden bee nectar.
Honey is one of nature’s sweetest foods and just leafing through the recipes made me want to defrost a roast and whip up the Slow-Roasted Beef Brisket marinated in honey brine.
Prosperi-Porta has worked at some of Western Canada’s best hotels and restaurants, opened Angelo’s Cooking School and fostered the development of his own beehives. He is a natural authority on honey from the hive to the table.
“The main reason I use honey is that there are so many different varieties each with its own distinct flavour,” he writes in the preface.
His recipes are casual and informal and easily adapted for any season of the year. Yet by using honey instead of sugar, each recipe has a slightly different taste and texture that teases the taste buds and invites conversation.
The recipes cover breakfasts, breads, snacks, entrees, vegetables and desserts. There’s even a section on sauces, spreads, preserves and the medicinal uses of honey (particularly helpful during winter months).
Fresh from the oven Rosemary, Honey and Cornmeal Scones or Warm Chocolate Almond Crepes with Raspberry Honey Butter sound perfect for Christmas Day breakfast after the gift opening.
For Christians celebrating Dec. 24 as a no-meat festivity, there are several very savoury fish recipes including the mild-flavoured Halibut Fillet With Apple Cider Relish.
For anyone wanting to side-step turkey and ham but not go afoul of tradition, there is the delicious option of Pan-Roasted Game Hen with Honey-Brandy Glaze or the Roasted Duck Breast with Fresh Plum Merlot Butter Sauce.
My big dilemma is deciding on the vegetable side dishes. Most people tend to be pickier about vegetable dishes than the meat centrepiece.
However Prosperi-Porta includes several refreshing root vegetable recipes such as Honey-Roasted Parsnips and Roasted Beets with Orange and Honey Glaze that appear designed to please the fussiest guest.
Most of the recipes are so kitchen friendly, they could easily be combined or adapted to other favourite family recipes.
Although the bulk of the cookbook is recipes, Prosperi-Porta offers an educational component on bees and their importance in the entire ecosystem. He discourages pesticides and even lists different flowers people can plant to attract bees.
Particularly helpful is a chart of 16 different honeys that describe their characteristics and best uses. Not only is Honey food for the belly, it also provides food for thought.
By Angelo Prosperi-Porta