Brambly Hedge: Honey Creams

Book:
The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge by  Jill Barklem
1990, Philomel Books

dahliaWe are in the dog days of Summer.  The garden is a jungle, and the freezer is full of popsicles.  In The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge, the Summer Story begins with a description of how the mice spend their time by the stream to keep cool.

 

BHSaBy the banks of the stream was the dairy mill, powered by the flowing water.  Poppy Eyebright looked after the Dairy Stump.
BHSb
BHSdFurther down the stream was the flour mill, run by Dusty Dogwood.

BHSc

The two meet walking by the stream and eventually get engaged.  What follows is the story of the preparations for the wedding, which is on Midsummer’s Day.
BHSe

Brambly Hedge Wedding Menu:
Cold watercress soup
Fresh dandelion salad
Honey creams
Syllabubs
Merengues.
Huge baskets of wild strawberries
Primrose, meadowsweet and and elderflower wine

The first drama of the story is when the groom (“Dusty by name, dusty by nature”) accidentally gets flour all over himself and his best man.  But of course, as in real weddings, once everything gets started those sort of things don’t matter.

BHSf
BHSgThe wedding is held on the stream on a bark raft.  The second drama is that during the reception the enthusiastic dancing causes the raft’s moorings to break and they drift in to the stream.  But this doesn’t cause alarm either, the dancing carries on and eventually they catch on some rushes and forget-me-nots and are able to tie up again.  When evening falls, the party breaks up and heads home  Poppy and Dusty slip away to the primrose woods, to a cottage surrounded by wild roses and honeysuckle, “the perfect place for a honeymoon”.
honeycream8Summer Story is a sweet little story and the perfect representation of an old-fashioned Summer wedding.  Like Spring Story, it is suitable for all ages and has very interesting illustrations.  The flour mill and the dairy mill pages in particular are fun to pore over, trying to see how they work.

Poppy and Dusty’s wedding menu of “cool summer foods” offers a lot to choose from, but I decided to make honey creams, because I had never heard of them.  It turns out most people haven’t!  In the end the only recipe I found was this one, which reveals honey creams to be a sort of ice cream.

honeycreams1Honey Creams

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp thick honey
4 egg yolks
Half a pint whipping cream
1 Tbsp honey liqueur (optional)

The original recipe calls for grated chocolate, but i didn’t use it because I don’t think they have chocolate in Brambly Hedge.

honeycreams2

Method:
Heat the honey in a pan until it is a bit runny.  Let it cool slightly.  Beat the egg yolks and drizzle in the honey, mixing until it is a bit thick and pale yellow. Whip the cream.  You could use pre-whipped cream or thick cream as well, depending on how light you want your creams to be.  I just put it in a jar and shook it until it was thick, which led to very set ice cream.

Whip together the egg yolk mixture and the cream mixture.  At this point you can choose whether to add the liqueur.  The original recipe calls for 4 Tbsp of whiskey, but I omitted that in case people wanted a less boozy dessert.  I divided the mixture in two and made a plain a version and one with 1 Tbsp of honey liqueur.  Divide into ramekins.  I used silicone cupcake moulds for ease of removal.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, until set.

honeycream7Without the booze, this is definitely ice cream.  I have never made a proper ice cream with egg yolks before, and the combination of the rich custard with the honey is delicious.  Be aware that this does contain raw eggs.  Here in the UK most eggs are safe raw, but be careful anyway.

The way I made them (without proper whipped cream) the honey creams are very dense, like those ice cream blocks you can buy for ice cream cakes, but they only take a couple of minutes to thaw enough to eat, and in fact melt pretty quickly, so if you are bringing these somewhere you will need a portable cooler.  They are very sweet and taste strongly of honey, so I might recommend only using 3 Tbsp honey if you don’t have a sweet tooth.  Both the plain and the liqueur version are equally nice.

You could add any topping you want; I added blueberries.  Overall they are an amazing and luxurious Summer treat, perfect for a day on the river.

honeycreams11
Take your ice cream outside and enjoy it in the Sun, preferably by a body of water, or even a paddling pool to rest your feet in.


 

 

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Glad Midsommar: Strawberries and Cream

Book:
Nursery songs & rhymes of England illustrated by Winifred Smith
1895, D. Nutt

Sweetpea show at the PYO farm
Sweetpea show at the PYO farm

Glad Midsommar!  Last week was Midsummer, and it might have been a very festive one for you if you live in certain countries, particularly Scandinavian ones.  It is not so much a thing in my neck of the woods, and I have had a busy couple of weeks with lots of work, but I wanted to do something to honor the festival.  Last weekend we went to our local Pick Your Own farm, and brought home a punnet of gooseberries, a punnet of raspberries, and a punnet of strawberries.

berrypicking

At the PYO we bought lardy cake!
At the PYO we bought lardy cake!
THE BEST
THE BEST

punnets1
A common food at Midsummer parties is strawberries, and I thought I would make something that would be satisfying without being too much work (or involve turning on the oven — we are having a heatwave here!).
I was inspired by this nursery rhyme:

curly locksThis book

rhymes

contains most of the classic nursery rhymes, in all of their strangeness, alongside beautifully pristine black and white illustrations.  “Curly Locks” itself is fairly straightforward, although it’s not clear whether it is aspirational on the part of Curly Locks herself, or whether she is not buying her suitor’s line.  It might be a fun assignment to write her response to the proposal.  As it is, it is pretty convincing.  Of course, I can get curly locks with the help of rag curls, I already sit on cushions a lot and I definitely can’t sew a fine seam.  But strawberries, sugar and cream?  I’d sure like to try that.

flowers&punnetClearly, strawberries, sugar and cream are the ultimate in luxury.  Now, there are two ways to have strawberries and cream.  The best way is to come home with some strawberries freshly picked by yourself, immediately douse them in cream, and tuck in.  But you might want to be a little fancier, maybe for an occasion such as the 4th of July this weekend.
strawberries1
Strawberries, Sugar & Cream

Ingredients
1 cup of the nicest-looking strawberries, topped and halved
Sugar to taste (I used 1 tsp)
1 cup extra-thick (or whipped or clotted) cream
Fresh mint to garnish

Method
Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar to taste on the cut halves. While I like the strawberries tart, the sugar helps draw out the juice.  Leave for 5 minutes to let the sugar work and then cover the lot with cream.  This dish is best left to marinate, so put it in the fridge for 2 – 6 hours, stirring a couple of times to incorporate the juice.  Serve in a glass with mint leaves.

addingthecream
Eat in the garden and feel very luxurious since you are not currently washing dishes or feeding swine!
strawberiiesandcreamTo make further use of the strawberries, I also made some Pimm’s.  This is for grownups only!  Pimm’s is very popular in this part of England, and people do end up drinking a fair bit of it in the Summer, both the real stuff and knockoff versions.  There’s lots you can do with Pimm’s, but the usual is (fizzy English) lemonade with additions as various as strawberries, mint & cucumber, sometimes with apples, lemons and/or oranges as well.

pimms1
Pimm’s Cup

Ingredients
Pimm’s (no substitute for non-UK people, I’m afraid.  Apparently it is gin-based but it does not taste like gin to me.  You could try a dash of rum or brandy)
Fizzy lemonade or other lemony soda
Sliced strawberries
Fresh mint leaves, torn
Other garnishes as desired

Method
Pour the Pimm’s and add the lemonade, in a ratio of one part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade.  Add garnishes to taste.  Pimm’s is best made in a big pitcher and put in the fridge for half an hour or so, because it improves with time, the drink absorbing the flavours of the fruit and mint, and vice versa.
pimms2It’s almost too hot to sit outside…so I might need to jump in the sprinkler setting on the garden hose before I enjoy my strawberries two ways!