baked ricotta with bee pollen

i was admonished by a friend recently – she came for supper "aaaages ago" and i promised i’d blog the starter we had – anna hansen’s baked ricotta and bee pollen cakes with honey and lemon dressing – but haven’t. so this post comes with an air of guilt, both for making julia wait but also because it’s an interesting and delicious dish and well worth trying if, like me, you’re curious about bee pollen.

the only trickiness with this recipe was tracking down bee pollen – a couple health food shops seem to sell a powdered version but the granules i saw in the picture in the modern pantry cookery book were more elusive. in the end i managed to get them from wholefoods (the piccadilly store in london).

i’d never had bee pollen before and it’s an interesting flavour – much greater depth than honey, an initial sweetness but then a floral and slightly spicy flavour. the jar recommends sprinkling it on muesli or honey on toast. apparently there are also great health benefits associated with bee pollen.

as for anna hansen’s recipe, it was delicious - creamy and light, slightly crunchy from the pollen, and lifted by the dressing and contrasting bitterness of the chicory and olives. it also kept well – i had a few leftover portions which i baked a couple of days later and they were just as good.

anna hansen’s baked ricotta and bee pollen cakes with manuka honey and lemon dressing (serves 4)

500g ricotta cheese

50g parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for sprinkling

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 teaspoons bee pollen, plus extra for sprinkling

a little dried chilli (optional)

a scattering of bitter salad leaves

a few green olives

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

for the dressing:

1 tablespoon manuka honey

juice of 1 lemon

zest of ½ a lemon

75ml olive oil

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

mix the ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, thyme leaves and bee pollen together then season to taste.

line a baking sheet with parchment and place four 6cm baking rings on this (i used little loose-bottomed tartlet tins, which worked well) and divide the ricotta mix between them. grate extra parmesan on top, sprinkle with chilli if you are using it and add a little extra bee pollen. bake at 180c for 8-10 minutes until golden. leave to cool.

whisk all the ingredients for the salad together, seasoning to taste then toss with the salad leaves, adding just enough to coat them lightly. serve the cakes with the dressed leaves and olive.