It's half past nine on an exceptionally dreary Friday morning and I'm racing southbound towards Fitzrovia aboard my bicycle hands freezing, lights glowing, tyres squealing. I pass by the thunderous Euston Road, whiz around the corner and arrive, a minute later, in Warren Street. I disembark and chain up the bike, push open a door beneath cobalt blue awnings and suddenly the drab streets outside are forgotten. The room before me is softly glowing, warm and inviting. I've arrived at Honey & Co., a fairly new but perfectly formed caf-bistro, owned and run by ex-Ottolenghi husband and wife Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer.
I'm drawn to the display beneath the steamy window, where lemons topple over each other in bowls nestled between glistening cakes and pastries of all shapes and sizes. I spend close to five minutes contemplating the options in agonising wonder. What on earth to choose? I plump for a slice of lemon and poppy seed cake and take a seat at the only free table. The space is simple, but full of interest. Plain white walls contrast with a colourful tiled floor. Shelves reaching to the ceiling are lined with rows and rows of jewel-like jams and spices. Metal pots from Jerusalem hang above the bar, in the back courtyard plants tumble out of every nook and cranny. The cake, by the way, is delicious. I vow to return very soon.
Itamar and Sarit have been kind enough to share three of their favourite recipes from the restaurant all superb for sharing with friends and family over a long, languid Easter weekend. With floral ingredients and spices abundant, they should ward off the persisting cold and conjure up a little springtime hope. Enjoy.
Makes approximately 10 cupcakes.
125g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp elderflower cordial
100g sour cream
160g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
This is an un-conventional and fast way to make cupcakes and works a treat every time. You can mix by hand but put some energy into it, I am lazy and use a food processor with the blade. Mix butter and sugar to combine, add the eggs, vanilla essence, elderflower cordial and sour cream. Finally, add flour, salt and baking powder and mix until just combined. Pipe into cupcake cases in small tins 3/4 full and bake at 170C for approx 20 minutes or until springy to touch.
100g cream cheese, very lightly warmed
1-2 tsp elderflower cordial
60g icing sugar
Beat together with a flat spoon until smooth and workable. Spread on each cupcake.
Cracked Wheat salad with apricot and orange blossom
We serve this salad as a part of our mezze selection, but it works well with a lovely piece of roast salmon or chicken.
1 cup cracked wheat
1 cup boiling water
Pinch of salt
50g dried apricots
50g roasted pistachio roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp orange blossom
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp good grade olive oil
Salt and pepper
To prepare the cracked wheat, pour over boiling water mixed with salt and cover for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid, then use a fork or your fingertips to break it up into grains. Chop the apricots into long strips and mix with the cracked wheat, the pistachio and the parsley. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to absorb flavours before you adjust the seasoning.
Slow cooked lamb shoulder with plums and roses
This is a high impact dish, it looks amazing when it is served, but it can sit in the oven on a low heat for a long time meaning pre-dinner stress can be avoided.
lamb shoulder on the bone
1 large onion
3 tbsp ras al-hanut spice mix
1 tsp salt
6 red plums
1 large onion
1 head of garlic
2 tbsp dried rose petals
1 large cinnamon stick
I like to use a heavy bottom saucepan for this, but a roasting dish will do as well.
Make a paste out of the first onion, ras al-hanut spice and salt and pepper in a food processor or mincer. Rub the shoulder all over with this paste. (You can do this in advance.)
Quarter your plums. Cut the second onion into large wedges (6 to 8 depending on the size of the onion). Cut the garlic head in half. Scatter these, the rose petals and cinnamon stick in the base of your pan and place the marinated shoulder on top. Place in a hot oven (220C) for 20 minutes.
Open the door carefully and pour water into the base of the pan reaching half way up the lamb shoulder. Cover the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 180C. Bake for 1 hour before opening the oven carefully again, baste the liquid all over the lamb and if you can, turn it over, but be delicate. Cover again and reduce the heat again to 150C. It will need to cook for at least a further hour, or until the meat starts falling off the bone. The more you baste the lamb the softer it will be.
Garnish with some more rose petals and dig in.