You have to really want to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen to make this. Standing, stirring and not much else. But it’s worth it. The intensity of the bittersweet oranginess is wonderful. Like sucking Cointreau through a straw … (I’m guessing …)
Many years ago we had a New Year trip en famille to Majorca and the orange trees were in full fruit. We did the little Tren de Soller trip up through the mountains and you could have reached out and plucked the oranges as you climbed through the orchards. So I really like making marmalade, for the nostalgia trip. But this year I thought I’d try something different. I used the recipe in Sophie Grigson’s book, ‘Feasts for a Fiver’ and it has worked beautifully. She warns vigorously against letting it thicken too much as it will turn to inedible curds. This would be most irritating but fortunately didn’t happen to me. Nevertheless, because you can’t see the water simmering under your bowl, it’s impossible to tell (a) whether the bowl is touching the water, and (b) how fast it’s simmering. And the instruction ‘… until it thickens…’ is always a bit stressful. I mean, how thick is thick? So there’s a bit of anxiety involved in staying on the right side of curds.
9-12 Seville oranges
550g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter
5 large eggs
Grate the zest off the oranges; squeeze the juice till you have half a pint; and put them together in a heatproof bowl with the sugar and the butter. Put the bowl over a simmering saucepan of water (see comments above – don’t let the water touch the bowl or it might burn). Stir gently till the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted.
Beat the eggs and strain them into the orange mixture. Stir constantly ’till it thickens’. Sorry, I can’t help you on that one except to say that she suggests 25 mins and mine took 35. Pour into sterilised jars and cover tightly. Keep for a month in the fridge – it goes off after that. Or give a jar to a very special someone whom you really really love, and make sure they eat it within the due date. It would be a pity to kill your nearest and dearest with the fruits of your labour. ‘Death by Orange Curd’ … maybe for future reference.
And I just want to say something about the grater. Last night I watched (again) ‘Vera Drake’, directed by Mike Leigh and starring Imelda Staunton (brilliant performance). It’s a wonderful film, somewhat unlike various other Mike Leighs in that it has a very clear storyline. But what a story, and told with such pathos. Anyway she had a grater identical to mine(you may have one too, it’s bog-standard supermarket issue). I won’t tell you what she used hers for, as it won’t enhance your appetite for Seville Orange Curd. But I do urge you to find out. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t know about it, see if you can guess. The accompanying items for her use are carbolic soap and a length of rubber tubing … Enjoy!
On Christmas Eve I met somebody in the Kingsgate I hadn’t seen for many years. He and I attended a local drama class together, coming up on 20 years ago. We had a lot of fun, improvising and rolling round the floor and whatnot. I was already a mature wumman, and he but a strip of a lad. ‘Let’s do it all again, Helen,’ he said. If only! But what’s he doing now? Only appearing on prime time television!
Derek and his partner had a stall outside M&S and were catching glazed Christmas shoppers on the way by. He told me they are growing tea in Scotland – in Scotland? and have meantime set up their stall as the Wee Tea Company. He gave me a couple of packets of beautifully boxed tea – Ginger Chai and Minty Green – and told me to get in touch.
That was a nice wee interlude in the last-minute rush but it was only yesterday I got round to tasting the tea. It was a cold, windy night and I opened the Ginger Chai for a long slow warmer. Yes, it did the trick. The hot water on the needly leaves conjures a clear, orange-tan coloured brew; and as I don’t have a tea strainer (note to self: hurry up and buy one), you can see a little needle of tealeaf lurking at the bottom of the cup. Not in a bad way. Barely enough to merit a reading of the tealeaves. I hate it when your cuppa is full of soggy sludge at the bottom, but the Ginger Chai dregs were far too elegant to be dreg-like.
The scent of the Ginger Chai was warm-to-floral; the taste was spicy-gingery, with a bit of a floral aftertaste, and leaving a nice tingle on the tongue. I liked it a lot and will serve it to friends with some nice buttery shortbread. Haven’t tasted the Minty Green yet, will let you know when I do. Growing tea in Scotland? Who’d have thought it. But I suppose China’s mountain climate is also pretty challenging at times. Maybe the Chinese are as suspicious of Scottish-grown tea as we are of Scotch Whisky distilled in places like Japan. But hey, you’ve got to pay attention to the food miles! Good luck to you, Derek, in your enterprise.
Ah! Epiphany! Find a star and follow it!
Am sitting in the pre-daylight pearly bubble, at the PC, trying to catch up with lots of little jobs that should have been done sometime during the past fortnight when I was off work. Off to Edinburgh shortly, to catch up with colleagues and friends, and get started again. Doing okay except in one respect: I said I’d make a cake for us to welcome the new year, and you know what? I couldn’t face it last night. I’m all caked out, and what I want to eat today is not more flippin’ cake thank you! Raw carrot and beansprouts seem more attractive, and that’s saying something.
Yesterday I visited friend Rose with broken arm, and took a quiche. Rose, poor soul, is not in a position to be critical but I doubt if Paul and Mary would have been impressed. Mega Soggy Bottom. Dreadful pastry. So, for a week or two at least, cake is not the star I’ll be following. Back to bread perhaps. I had a second go at bread rolls last weekend and they were a major improvement on my previous batch – you can compare the photos (previous post – Bread of Heaven) and see for yourself. I think this is partly because my kneading has improved and the dough rose better, and partly because I divided them up more evenly. The crumb was quite dense, but in a good way – not one of those full-of-nothing-but-air jobs.
However, back to Epiphany. Not necessarily the mythic journey of kings, or wise men, or astrologers, or whatever, following a literal star through the desert. But a bit of inspiration to reflect on the people and things that are important to you, and joy in finding them. Happy New Year, everybody, and wishing you unfailing hope for your travels.