Home Made Honeycomb with Goat’s Curd Toasts

Some days, are shockers.

There was a great book that my mum and dad used to read to us when we were little; ‘ Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day‘.

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”.

But some days are just like that.

When you’re cooking, the effects of one are obvious. It’s there in the taste, the smells, the ruinous rubble on the bench. Some days it just doesn’t go right.

Occasionally you can blame distraction. You’re off thinking about something else; maybe your Dad in hospital on the other side of the sea, the logistics of another looming week with a busted internet connection, the curious pain in your coccyx, or the fact that it’s still minus two outside and it’s April. It’s situations like this which mean you end up over working pastry, taking out some internal frustrations on a compound of butter, flour, sugar and an egg- distractedly kneading and pulling at it, as if it was bound for bread. When you’ve blind baked a tart shell and it shrinks back in on itself (much like your husband retreating from your soggy sweary self in the kitchen) you can hardly blame it.

Oh, but you’ll try. You’ll blame it on the new flan dish. You’ll blame the weather. Your hot, pregnant hands. But really, you just overworked your bloody pastry, leaving the gluten no option but to expand- and later shirk back to its natural state- no matter how much quiet time you gave it in the fridge in between.

All of this is fine, salvageable. It’s just pudding.

Except if you work around food.

Because here’s the blessing and the curse. The more you do something, the less acceptable the muck ups are. You’ve volunteered to take a dessert to a gathering of people, some who you know and some that you don’t? You’ve got a book of recipes and travel stories coming out in the next couple of weeks?

No pressure, but that date tart better be good. That’s not a plate of food- that’s a business card. That’s your sense of self, right there on a plate.

Like a supermodel with spots, or an accountant who runs into default, it’s just not-quite-right for you to flounder. You should be better at this by now.

Which is why you might end up having to have a stern talk to yourself self while huddled on the kitchen tiles, with flour scabs on your trousers and a scrunched up wad of sodden paper towel in your fist. ‘It’s not about the pastry’ you’ll surmise, shocked at the tide of emotion that’s rising. And really, it’s not. That shell is most likely the scapegoat for everything else that’s going on in your head and in your day.

So you do what you can with limited time, butter and flour to hand. You fill the skinny tart and bake it anyway. You clean up. You turn the left over filling into actual custard on the stove, boozed up by Pedro Ximenex. Pedro disguises most things. You carry it all on the train for an hour and a bit to a fancy lunch. And you breathe a silent sigh of relief that by the time dessert rolls around everyone (except you) has had too much Cote du Rhone to even notice what they’re eating. It’s all just crust and sweet squish on a fork.

What’s below is another easy muck up in a kitchen. It happens when you confidently research recipe after recipe, weighing up the internal merits of one over an other and eventually get to work making something as simple as homemade honeycomb. Honeycomb, that magical eruption of sugar and air, slightly fizzing on your tongue that’s sweet to the core. It’s a key component in hokey pokey ice cream. It’s the substance of  a Crunchie, or Violet Crumble bar. And it’s the star of the show in one of my favourite plates in all of London.

It should be a right doddle to make- sugar and golden syrup, melted together until you have an amber pond. Then it’s hit with a jolt of bicarb soda, which causes it to froth and bubble, climb and grow. While it’s cooling you can play with it like silly putty, fashioning shapes and shards if you fancy for decoration. Otherwise just let it cool and then cut it into squares. It can then be rumpled through vanilla ice cream, sprinkled over chocolate mousse, dunked into chocolate, or transformed by pairing it with something slightly savoury.

What you don’t want to do is misread your recipe and distractedly add three tablespoons of bicarb soda, instead of three teaspoons.

Because what you’ll get is a seething, Ghost Busters style torrent of sudsy caramel. It will look terrifying. It will be a right nightmare to clean. And it will taste hideous. It carries traces of bathroom grouter and the paste they leave on your teeth at the dentist, coupled with the mean grimace of burnt sugar.

In those instances you can only do one thing. Forgive yourself. If you’re in an ok state of mind, you might even be able to say those words out loud without a lone tear tracing down your cheek, as penance for every other thing you’re currently beating yourself up about.

Then chuck it out. Start again. Pay attention. Realise that some days just are like this- even in Timbuktu. And then reward yourself with a plate of carbohydrate, goat’s curd and lovely shards of golden sugar.

On days like this sweetness and light may not be anywhere near your face- but at least it can be on your plate.

This starter of griddled bread, whipped goat’s curd and honeycomb crumbs comes from one of my favourite restaurants in London; Elliot’s. It’s opposite Borough Markets- my Peter Pan Happy Place. Elliot’s draw on the best produce from the markets and turn it into inventive, delicious and unpretentious food. They’re most famous for their mussels with ndjua, but there’s not much on the menu that I won’t happily devour. They also make what I think is some of the best bread in London and are now giving Monmouth a run for their money with take away coffee using Square Mile beans.

This is a curious combination of bread, cheese and sweetness which absolutely works. They serve it on brioche, but I prefer the sturdiness and tang of sourdough. The goat’s curd is lightly whipped, making it cloud-smooth and airy. It’s seasoned with plenty of black pepper. The honeycomb adds both sweetness and crunch. Try this next time you’re after something for a starter platter for friends to go with a bottle or two of prosecco. It would also sit beautifully with some other simple antipasto plates- like cured meats, a few figs with mint and olive oil or artichokes with aioli.

I promise you. Better days are made of this.

Home made Honeycomb

Makes 30 pieces of honeycomb (enough for goat’s curd topping as well as for gifts/hokey pokey ice cream/ surreptitious snacking).


4 tbsp golden syrup
200 grams of caster sugar
3 tsp of bicarbonate soda (TEASPOONS, not tablespoons. Don’t be me).

Here’s how we roll

1) Line a baking tray, the size of an A4 sheet of paper with baking paper.

2) Combine the syrup and sugar in a saucepan and place over a medium heat.

3) Swirling the pan, heat until the sugar melts and a caramel forms. Don’t touch it. It will be very hot. Don’t stir it, just gently swirl. Bring the temperature up to 150C/ 300 F, or until it is bubbling and light brown.

4) Measure out the bicarb and dump it all into the bubbling sugar at once. Stir quickly to disperse. It will start to grow, froth and bubble.

5) Pour the seething mass into the baking paper lined tray to cool for at least 20 minutes.

6) To clean the saucepan, run it under hot water- the heat of the water should melt the hardened caramel. If the sugar is very persistent in sticking, try filling the saucepan with hot water and bringing to the boil.

7) To serve the honeycomb with the goat’s curd take a loaf of bread and cut into slices and toast under a grill. Take 400 grams of goat curd and whip it using electric beaters for a minute until it is fluffier. Serve the warm bread, soft curd and shards of the honeycomb on a platter, with salt and pepper on the side. It’s excellent with prosecco as a starter for 6-8 people.

  1. Flour scabs! That’s hilarious!
    This looks divine.

  2. Really sorry you had a shi@$y day. This looks delicious – I have always wanted to try making honeycomb, and now I shall!

  3. Great great post. Everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the joy of cooking and learning and being human. David Lebivitz sends out emails of his fails – I love that.

  4. Glad it all worked out in the end 🙂 I’ve always wanted to make my own honeycomb! I loove Crunchie bars but they don’t have them in many places in the US.

  5. Yes we all have failures in the kitchen (some more than others I will add) and even more, we all have bad days made worse by hormones and worry for loved ones far away. Hang in there and tomorrow, as Scarlett would say, is another day.

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