Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a soft spot for blood oranges. I love everything about them: their bitter-sweet taste, the element of surprise- how ruby red will they reveal themselves once stickily peeled? But mostly, I love their short-lived season. In my privileged little corner of East London, I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it. A bag of plum heirloom tomatoes? A bottle of artisan gin? A plate of snails and bone marrow? All a five minute walk away from where I’m sitting right now. So a fruit that is in season for only a few short weeks, that you actively have to hunt down? That’s a real rarity. I can have the plumpest blueberries, crunchiest green beans and juiciest apples all year round, but you try finding blood oranges in August. Go on.
They are also in season when we need them the most, because despite a few days there where Spring seemed like it might not be a complete impossibility, winter seems to still be clinging on for dear old life. So these bursts of sunshine are a real saviour in these desperate times. There aren’t many weeks left to make this marmalade, but I did just see the last of the Seville oranges at my greengrocer’s. Get out there quick!
This is based on Nigel Slater’s marmalade recipe in the Guardian a few years ago. I’ve added blood oranges for a bit of sweetness, Sevilles can be a bit too bitter for some. You can find the original recipe here.
Bloody Seville Orange Marmalade
Makes 6 jars
You will need:
10 Seville Oranges
8 blood oranges
1.5kg golden caster sugar
1. Remove the skin and pith from all of your oranges and lemons. There are lots of different schools of thought as to how to do this, Nigel suggests scoring with a small knife into quarters then peeling. Others halve the oranges, squeeze out the juice and then hollow them out before cutting each half into larger chunks. Your call.
2. This is the slightly tedious bit. You need to cut all your peel chunks or quarters into shreds- either thick or thin depending on your preference, or a bit of a mixture of you can’t quite be bothered. Do this in batches, sit down, put the radio on. It’s a sticky, messy, time consuming business, there’s no way around it.
3. Reserve all the pulp, seeds and any juice spillage. Squeeze all juice into a measuring jug and make up to 4.5 litres with cold water. Pour into a large bowl and add all of the sliced peel. Place the squeezed out pulp and seeds into a muslin bag or tie in a cloth and leave to soak in the juice overnight.
4. The next day, transfer the juice and bag into a large pan. Bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer until the peel is soft and almost translucent- about 1.5 hours. Lift out the bag and bring the pan back to a boil with the sugar. Once the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any residual juice into the pan with rest. Put a saucer in the freezer.
5. Keep at a rolling boil until the marmalade reaches setting point. You can test for this by dolloping a teaspoon of the mixture onto your cold saucer. Once cool, it should crinkle when pushed with a finger. If it doesn’t, you aren’t there quite yet. My marmalade took just over an hour to get to this point, but do keep testing as yours might take less time.
6. Pour or spoon the marmalade into sterilised jars and leave for about 10 minutes before sealing. Leave to cool completely before storing, or cracking open and spreading on hot buttered toast.
New Years seems a long time ago now, but given that I haven’t posted anything since the holidays, I thought it worth mentioning. I had a fantastic start to 2014 up in the Lake District, battling downpours but nonetheless finding a break or two between the clouds for brisk walks amongst the valleys and dales. It is a brilliant place for a party, great for hunkering down, games, the aforementioned walks and, above all, eating. There were about 25 of us and I was put in charge of pud on the big night itself (no pressure). I went for a classic pear and frangipane tart, with plenty of boozy cream to go with, of course.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about pears and tarts recently as well as sweet spices, like cardamom, ginger and saffron. The tart recipe in this post was a bit of an experiment, but one that payed dividends. A decadent dinner party pudding with ginger pastry, saffron poached pears and rich, bitter chocolate ganache. I implore you to give it a go.
In other news, I was recently given a selection of syrups from Iceland. These include birch-tree syrup, rhubarb syrup and a berry syrup. It is very difficult to find anything out about these syrups online, mostly because all my search efforts seem to lead to the budget frozen supermarket chain, Iceland, and its online listing for Lyle’s golden syrup. I’ll keep researching, but what I can tell you is that these little pots are a total joy. I was particularly excited to try the birch syrup as I recently went to Scandinavian food event where I had birch sap sparkling wine by Sav, which was, incidentally, absolutely delicious.
With my birch sap syrup pot, I made a pear and birch spread for toast and cakes. Fruit butters are really no more than purees and sound much fancier than they are. But I do love the idea of making these as preserves and having a jar around just for when you fancy it. This would make a great cake filling as well. Of course, if you can’t get hold of birch sap you can simply use a high quality maple syrup. I also grilled some pears, brushed them with birch tree syrup and then simply served alongside a simple cardamom yoghurt. This actually makes a delicious, slightly unusual breakfast and is just the thing to ward against these wet days.
Spiced Pear, Coconut and Birch Butter
You will need:
5 medium pears, peeled
2 tbsp birch syrup (or good quality maple syrup)
pinch sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Roughly chop pears and place on a baking tray. In a small bowl, mix together the syrup, salt, coconut oil and ground cinnamon.
2. Toss through the pears and bake for about 30 min until golden and beginning to caramelise. Cool thoroughly then blitz in a mixer or using a hand blender. Spread over toast, muffins or stirred into your muesli for breakfast. Will keep for 1 week in the fridge.
This is a rich, decadent dessert. Perfect to impress as it combines pastry making skills, pear-poaching and chocolate work (ganache). However, it really is easy as pie to make and looks beautiful once you cut into it. Definitely one for the grown ups, though, as the chocolate is bitter and the saffron aromatic.
Chocolate Pear Tart with Saffron and Ginger
You will need:
For the pears:
6 pears, peeled
100g caster sugar
100ml pear liqueur
1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 slices ginger
1 strip lemon peel
For the pastry:
250g plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
For the ganache:
250ml double cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1. To poach the pears, heat the pear liqueur and water in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, saffron, ginger and lemon peel and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and bring to a gentle simmer. Top with the round of greaseproof paper and weight down with a saucer. Cover and allow the pears to poach until just tender, about 30 minutes. Lift out and allow to cool before halving and scooping out the core with a teaspoon.
2. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar and ginger. Work in the cubes of butter until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. You can either do this by hand or in a mixer. Combine the egg yolks with 2 tbsp of water and add about half of it to the flour mixture. Work to a dough, adding more liquid if necessary. Wrap into cling and flatten into a disc then chill for 30 min. Roll out, line and blind bake the pastry case for about 20 min in a 200C oven.
3. Place the chocolate in a small bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then stir to combine. Add a few tsp of the saffron syrup to taste along with some additional pear liqueur, if desired. Finally, stir in the eggs.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C. Arrange the pears in pastry case then pour over chocolate ganache. Bake 25-30 mins, until just set with a tiny bit of wobble.
I’ve had a bit of a break from my blogging activities last week due to illness. Fret not! I only had a bog standard cold. Made myself a bowl of hearty chicken soup to re-fuel. It’s just chicken and veg (onions, swede, carrots, peppers) plenty of stock and spices (turmeric, cumin and paprika).
You will need:
A shallot or half a red onion
A dash of fish sauce or Worcester sauce
In a large bowl, mix together your grated cheddar and courgette, the chopped onion or shallot a dash or two of sauce and a good bit of salt and pepper.
Spread onto some lightly toasted bread and place under a warm grill for a bout 5-7 min
Fish phobics, look away now.
On hot buttered toast.