Sunday, 27 February 2011

Marmalade in Heaven

February,  and the marmalade season has brightened my life.  I do get a little excited when I see Sevilles, too excited even, because this year I think I've made about 20 jars, filling my new maslin pan to overflowing. We all make marmalade, and every year my mother is required to declare whose is the best. I confess, I always win - though my sisters, strangely, always seem nearly as  triumphant.

This recipe is no secret, because it's a Delia.  Very dark and chunky, we found our last bottle was two years old, and gee, it was superb. It was Delia who said you could freeze the bitter little oranges.  Just think, I could have had 30 jars. The other beauty is the method, so totally me - long and slow. 

For my second tranche, I used The River Cottage marmalade recipe with demerara sugar - it has a superb light jelly, although I panicked about the amount of pith at the last moment, so spent three hours straining the syrup and trimming every single little shred!  Bliss.

Dark Chunky Marmalade
So: 3lbs (if you can contain yourself) Seville oranges
2 lemons
6 lbs white sugar

Scrub, obviously, add 5 pints water, and bring all fruit to a simmer. Cover well and gently poach for three hours.  Allow to cool, remove all pith and pips from the halved oranges and lemons into a saucepan, add about a pint of the liquor and boil for 10 minutes. Strain the whole lot through a large muslin cloth back into the pan.  Now: the slicing of the orange peel. This is a precision job, as my family has found out. This year I may have gone a teeny over-chunky - no matter. Add the peel back into the pan, and finally, the gooey pith from the  muslin cloth, squeezed and squeezed and squeezed.  If your hands aren't red and raw and stinging after all that.... it'll probably work just as well.   Cover the pan with a cloth, and leave overnight.  
At first light - although I think that's just me - warm the sugar for 10 minutes in the oven (as Delia helpfully puts it, in a roasting pan - like I'm going to pour 6lbs of sugar straight into my oven) and add to the warming liquor, stirring till the sugar is completely dissolved. Bubble gently for three or four hours.  Test for  wrinkles with a cold saucer. Don't be too strict.  The first time I made this marmalade, I boiled it for 6 hours, not believing I had got a set.  A few people lost fillings.

Four hours, and it really will be set.  Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes. More.  The very last thing you want, believe me,  is for the peel to float to the top. Ladle through a wide-mouthed funnel into freshly hot-dishwashered jars. Seal.  Relax.

Excuse me, I think I'm off to find some more oranges...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Secrets and Pies

Spring is here, although my daffodils aren't up.  That's because they're still in a bag outside the back door.  But when the sun shines it really does feel like winter is done. We had a cooked breakfast the other Sunday.  Daughter home for the weekend, after a tough week hunting for digs, so it definitely was a case of breakfast in bed for her.  Just the usual, but both she and her dad finished the meal and asked the same question:  How did you do those tomatoes?  So here is my secret for doing comfort tomatoes:

Chop 6 spring onions, fry in a fair amount of butter and a little oil. Chop six on-the-vine tomatoes (if you haven't got on-the-vine, you can't make this dish - only joking!) add to the onions, and then add salt and pepper, a teaspoon of tomato puree, a teaspoon of brown sugar - maybe a little less - and a good tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and lots of love.  Bubble gently for a bit.  Serve on toast with bacon and Duchy eggs.

Another winner is these beans.  I got this idea from watching Jamie, and he picked it up in Italy, so it's true Italian beans, I suppose.  Soak white kidney beans overnight - although last night I brought them to the boil, let them stand for an hour, fresh water, boiled again, and they were absolutely whatever.  Fill them up with cold water, add two or three (or more) cloves of garlic, unpeeled, a tomato or two or three.  Boil gently for around an hour - kidney beans collapse all of a sudden, but you want them well cooked.  Drain the beans but leave a giant mug of water in the bottom of the pan (secret no 1)  then peel the tomatoes and garlic, mash all together and add back to the beans    (no 2)  add a huge amount of olive oil, pepper and salt,  mix.  I bubbled it away for a few more minutes, served with sausages, maybe the fried tomatoes - there is no better way to do a pot of beans.

And I suppose to justify my title, here is something I made for the kids when they were younger.  The  nieces were here, and they grandly named it:  Auntie Jenny's Magnificent Sweetcorn Pie, and I think we did it a few times - and I admit, I rather liked the name.  Really it's sweetcorn fritters with extra onion, and everyone loves sweetcorn fritters.  Fry lots of onions well,  add two tins of creamed sweetcorn, and fresh-cooked corn off two cobs, or a large tin of whole sweetcorn kernels.  Mix with two or three eggs,  around half a cup of flour - maybe more,  plenty salt and pepper, parsley if you have, pour into a large quiche dish and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes or so.  A giant slab with a little salad will keep kids happy - if a little grandiose on names.