Roasted feta Photograph: Kim Lightbody for the Guardian
The intense hit of honey raises your recipes for roasted feta, Chinese-style pork and glazed potatoes to a sweeter level of loveliness.
Being in the good books of a beekeeper has certainly come in handy this week. With the aromatic, intense sweetness of honey inspiring everything from robust meat dishes to delicate and elegant bakes, I've made my way through several jars. With my sweet tooth sharpened, I seem incapable of eating any meal without a drizzle of it.
But let's begin with breakfast and Claire Tweet's honey cloud pancake, made light and fluffy by whipping egg whites and baking in a hot oven. So too were Lucy Burton's honey and rose friands were delicate and elegant. If you don't have a friand tin, fear not " these work just as well in a muffin tin. A simple honey biscuit from Diane Kitchen was the biggest baked hit, though.
Serve with a cup of black coffee and don't expect anything more than crumbs to be left over. For dinner, a little effort reaped huge rewards. Binny Shah's chilli and honey glazed potatoes are real crowdpleasers: double the batch if necessary, then fry the potatoes in advance, cooking in the sauce before serving. Vicki Higham's char siu pork, however, is best kept all to yourself. The leftovers make a lunch to look forward to the next day.
It was a tough week to judge, but in the end, I went with something that's only as good as the nectar it's bathed in. Simple but extremely effective, the salty and sweet baked feta with thyme from MarmadukeScarlet is an ideal sharing starter, or, served with a little salad, dinner for two. It's summery, yes, but I have a feeling it will be providing a ray of sunshine in my kitchen all year.
The winning recipe: roasted feta with honey and thyme (pictured above)
This recipe is a sort of roasted cheese dip; a great dish for sharing. The honey and thyme compliment the creamy and tangy roasted feta perfectly. It makes a lovely addition to a mezze spread on a hot summer's day too. Feta doesn't melt in the way hard cheeses do. It actually becomes slightly spongy, with an almost scrambled texture, which is why it does need to be served while hot.
MarmadukeScarlet via GuardianWitness
Serves 4 as a starter or mezze
200g feta cheese, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1-1½ tbsp honey
Flatbreads or pitta, lightly warmed and thickly sliced
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Take a small, ovenproof dish and line it with kitchen foil, so that it will enclose and cover the feta.
2 Put the feta in the centre of the foil. Cover with olive oil and scatter with thyme leaves. Fold the foil over to seal the parcel. Bake for about 8 minutes; the cheese will start to soften.
3 Preheat the grill. Pull the foil back from the cheese and drizzle with honey. Grill for 2 minutes, or until the honey has browned. Season with black pepper, then serve immediately with the flatbread. It goes particularly well with a cucumber, tomato and olive salad.
Pulled char siu pork
With just a little prep the night before, this recipe is quite hands-off, and tastes simply incredible.
Vicki Higham, Lake District
1kg boneless pork shoulder
3 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
60ml Shaoxing rice wine
3 garlic cloves, minced
60ml hoisin sauce
250ml dark soy sauce
1 Rub the five spice powder into the pork shoulder and transfer to a large freezer bag. Mix the honey, rice wine, garlic and hoisin into a thick paste, then loosen with the soy sauce. Pour the mixture in to the bag with the pork and seal. Refrigerate overnight.
2 The next day, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Remove the meat from the bag, keeping hold of the marinade liquid, then put on a rack (or roll pieces of tinfoil into balls, then place in the bottom of the dish and put the pork on top) in a roasting tin with 1cm of water in the base. Cook for around 4 hours, basting with the marinade every 30 minutes or so, until the pork is almost falling apart.
3 Once the pork is ready, shred with a pair of forks, then serve in steamed buns, bread rolls or on white rice. At this point, the pork can also be frozen or kept in the fridge for 3 days. Just fry it in a hot dry pan when needed " until the edges of the pork begin to brown and it's piping hot right through.
Honey and rose friands
These are light little cakes to make when you need a little moment of calm. The people around you will love you for it.
Lucy Burton, London
125g butter, melted
2 tbsp honey
125g ground almonds
5 egg whites
½ tsp baking powder
125g icing sugar
For the glaze
100g icing sugar
½-1 tsp rose water, to taste
A handful of dried rose petals (optional)
1 Preheat your oven to 160C/340F/gas mark 3. Using a pastry brush, use a little of the butter to grease your friend moulds, then add the honey to the remaining butter and set aside.
2 Put the egg whites into a large bowl, and whisk to soft peaks. In another bowl, sift the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, icing sugar together. Make a well in the centre, then add the egg whites, followed by the melted butter and honey, then fold gently with a metal spoon until combined.
3 Spoon the batter into the moulds, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until pale but cooked and springy to the touch. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
4 For the glaze, combine the icing sugar and rose water and, if needed, add an additional teaspoon or two of water to loosen. Drizzle over the cooled friands, and decorate with dried rose petals.
My grandma used to bake honey biscuits, and then I baked them with my own kids. And now my eldest is back home and wondering where the recipe is ...
Diane Kitchen, Ilkley
120g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
1½ tbsp honey
1 egg yolk
1 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
180g self-raising flour
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and creamy, then beat in the honey and then the egg yolk.
2 Add the cinnamon and flour, then mix into a soft dough. Add a little flour if it's sticky to make it easier to handle.
3 Shape about 1 tsp of dough into a ball, roll it in a little sugar and cinnamon and put it on a greased baking tray, continuing until all of the mixture is used up. Allow space between each dough ball, because the biscuits will spread in the heat of the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Take the biscuits out of the oven and let them settle for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer them on to a cake rack or a plate to cool.
Chilli and honey glazed potatoes
These sweet but spicy potatoes are best served with rice, or delicious enough to eat on their own.
Binny Shah, via GuardianWitness
For the potatoes
2 medium potatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp crushed garlic
50g corn flour
2 tbsp water
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
For the sauce
1½ tbsp oil
2 tsp crushed garlic
1½ tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp honey
1-1½ tsp chilli flakes, to taste
1 Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes, until tender, but not falling apart. Drain, run under cold water until cool enough to handle, then cut into small chunks place in a mixing bowl.
2 Add the chilli flakes, salt, garlic and corn flour to the bowl, then add the water and mix well to form a coating around the potatoes.
3 Put some oil in a saucepan to around 4cm deep, or fill a deep fat fryer, then fry the potatoes in batches for 3-4 minutes, or until they are golden and crispy, then drain on kitchen paper.
4 To make the sauce, heat the oil in a separate pan over a medium heat, then add the garlic, tomato ketchup, rice wine vinegar, five-spice and honey and give it a good mix. Now add the potatoes and chilli flakes and stir everything together. Cook for around 4 minutes and stir constantly; the potatoes are ready when the sauce clings to them and has reduced a little.
Honey cloud pancake
This is my approximation of the puffed-up pancakes you get in American diners.
Claire Tweet, via GuardianWitness
Makes 1 pancake, serves 1 or 2
1 large egg and 1 egg white
A pinch of salt
2 tsp honey, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla extract
60ml milk, warmed
1 tbsp butter
A large handful of soft fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
1 Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. In one bowl whisk one egg white to peaks, then make the main batter in another bowl by mixing the whole egg with the flour, salt, honey and vanilla, then whisk in the warm milk.
2 Gently fold the egg white into the batter with a metal spoon, keeping as much air in as possible. Heat the frying pan in the oven for a couple of minutes, then put on the hob over a medium heat and melt the butter in pan. Pour the batter in and cook for a couple of minutes, until starting to set at the very edge.
3 Sprinkle some fruit on top, then put in the oven for around 7 minutes, until puffed up and golden, Drizzle with honey, then serve.
Eve O'Sullivan is a food writer and stylist and the author of Bake in Black (Flood Gallery Publishing)