AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK NOONAN, OUR TRUSTED HEATHER HILLS HONEY BEE KEEPER IN PERTHSHIRE
Q: What inspired you to start farming honey?
The honey farm was here when I first went to school and I loved the smell of the heather honey being extracted – I still do. The lifestyle of being a beekeeper out in the countryside visiting the apiaries in some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland helps as well.
Q: When did you start your business and who has been involved from the beginning? Is it a family business?
The business was started in 1945 but my brother and I joined in 1991 when the previous owner was looking to retire. It is a family business and we have been lucky in that some of the staff have been here as long as we have. The farm has a great history of employing local people and it has produced some great beekeepers over the years.
Q: What do you like to do with your spare time when not working?
Being a Great Taste Producer – anything to do with food and drink! I have just signed up this week for a chocolate making course.
Q: What is your favourite part of your job and the farming process?
The whole year is evolved around the production season and there is no greater feeling than seeing a good honey flow coming into a hive that you have nurtured all year. It happens on a warm, sunny day when the nectar in the plants is yielding – the worker bees return to the hive laden with honey and covered in pollen. The bees are happy and the karma is good.
Q: Can you share with our readers a secret cooking recipe using your honey?
One of the best recipes is traditional Cranachan. It combines the very best of Scottish products; raspberries, whisky and heather honey, with cream and toasted oatmeal. Add hazlenuts for more crunch and make it your own.
Q: Do you have any favourite Noble Isle products – not just the ones containing your extracts! 😉
We all use the Noble Isle Heather Honey Hand Wash here at the farm but at home, I have the Whisky and Water.
Q: Can you tell us an interesting, quirky fact about Heather Hills honey?
The farm has 1300 hives and when full, at the peak of the season, 52 million worker bees. They carry out a lot of the essential pollination needed for the local fruit farms. The honey bee population is in decline and we want to increase awareness of the importance of bees in pollination and their continued survival. We offer several adoption packages – from adopting a bee to adopting a hive – where you can contribute to ensuring their survival and essential work. More information can be found on our website at www.heatherhills.co.uk/adopt-our-bees
Save 10% off your first order at Heather Hills Farm – use code NOBLEISLE17 at www.heatherhills.co.uk or call 01250 886 252 to place an order. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other Heather Hills Farm offer. Offer valid 01 April – 31 April 2017.
Heather Hills Farm has been traditionally gathering honey from the Scottish Highlands since 1945. Enjoy 10% off the finest award-winning speciality honeys and handcrafted artisan preserves – made with the fruit pollinated by our their own bees. 100% natural. No artificial flavours or preservatives – just as nature intended .
Our Founder & Director Katy’s favourite Noble Isle recipe using Heather Hills Farm honey, for you to try at home:
HONEY, BLACKBERRY & BAY TART
– 150gr plain flour
– 100gr ground almonds
– 2 x teaspoons of honey
– 90gr unsalted cold butter cut into cubes
– 1 x free-range egg
– 50ml cold milk
– 100gr unsalted butter
– 4 x tablespoons of honey
– 2 x free-range eggs
– 100gr ground almonds
– 2 x tablespoons of plain flour
– ½ a Lemon – Zest only
– ½ an Orange – Zest only
– 1 x Vanilla Pod / Scrap seeds out with sharp knife
– 450gr Blackberries
– 6 x Bay Leaves
– Crème Fraiche
– Runny honey
Pre-heat oven to 200 c (180 fan)
Lazy pastry goes straight into food processor. Everything in, except milk, pulse to crumb like texture and then slowly add milk. Take out and form ball on counter top adding more flour if needed.
Wrap dough in Clingfilm and put into fridge to rest for 30 minutes or longer.
Butter your tart tin. Roll out your pastry onto flour counter until it is ½ cm thick. Ease into tin, pushing pastry into sides, trim off excess. Then prick the base with fork and back into fridge for 30 minutes.
Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill up to the top of case with baking beans and blind bake for 10 minutes. Take out the case, remove beans and paper, return to oven for another 5 minutes until firm. Then leave to cool.
Now to make the frangipane – I use a mixer for ease. Mix the butter and honey until smooth, add eggs and stir well. Then add almonds, flour, citrus zest and vanilla seeds from pod. Mix together until you have a smooth thick paste. Scatter the blackberries on base of tart case, then pour on top the frangipane, add bay leaves on top.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove bay leaves.
Serve with crème Fraiche and a teaspoon of honey. You can decorate the plate with fresh bay leaves from the garden, a couple of blackberries and a dusting of icing sugar.