Category Archives: recipes

Orange Marmalade

dscf2665Its that time of year again – marmalade time.

1 kg Seville oranges – guaranteed to have more pips than flesh and even when you think you’ve got all the little blighters they keep popping to the surface during the interminable boiling time.

1 lemon – this one came wrapped in tissue paper.  It was the only one wrapped in the crate with its little logo covered square of protection – so obviously it was the one I needed despite the fact it was virtually at the bottom of the box.

2kg of warmed granulated sugar…you know that adage about the watched pot – what it should actually say is that the warmed sugar is either stone cold or welded to the bottom of the pan.  There are no in-between stages.

A small muslin bag for all those pips. The chances of you having one of these unless you’re like me and saw them in a sale several years ago and thought they might come in useful are remote – and it turns out little muslin bags with drawer strings are very useful indeed.  They will also be exceedingly useful next time you’re shopping and see something else in the kitchen paraphernalia range that your loved one feels is excess to requirements.  Now you will be able to remind him or her of those handy little muslin bags whilst looking virtuous and highly organised.

I cup of cointreau or spirits of your choice – to add to the marmalade not to while away the time whilst the marmalade cooks.

8 X 375g sterilised jam jars.


First chop your oranges and deseed them.  Its the pith that makes the marmalade bitter but I very swiftly discovered that my marmalade wasn’t going to be delicate and ladylike – for starters the oranges had lives of their own and for seconds it turns out that I have many cuts on my fingers.  The mandolin did not work particularly well as the little device for stopping you chop your fingers off didn’t like the orange peel very much.  Any way ultimately I chopped a kilo of oranges into roughly equal strips and collected most of the pips.  The pips go in a muslin bag which as luck would have it I had (as I may already have mentioned).  The oranges and the lemon chunks go in a very large bowl and then you add 2.25 litres of water followed by the bag of orange pips and a plate to cover it all.  Go away and do something else for twenty-four hours.

Transfer the pleasantly citrus concoction to a large stainless steel pan along with the pips in their bag.  If you use copper you’ll end up with very clean copper and very dirty marmalade – take it from one who knows.  Gently heat.  You need to halve the amount of liquid.  The longer it takes the softer the peel will be.  When the kitchen is steamy because you’ve forgotten to put the extractor fan on open the window so the neighbours can share your orangy sauna and turn on the extractor fan.  Thank your lucky stars you don’t have wallpaper in the kitchen and if you do tell yourself that you needed to redecorate in any event.

Deposit 2kgs of sugar in a pan – heat gently watching it nervously for any signs of sticking.  This means you need to stir it regularly but gently because otherwise hob cleaning is going to take on a whole new meaning.

When the sugar is warm and the liquid in the other pan has halved, add the sugar to the liquid.  I took the bag of pips out before adding the sugar not he grounds that I wanted to use the bag again and knew how difficult it would be to get clean otherwise.  Put your thermometer in the pan and prepare for a long couple of hours inhaling orange steam. The setting point for marmalade is 104 degrees centigrade or 219 degrees farenheit.  One very helpful book informed me that if I went over the setting point that the marmalade would never set – a dispiriting thought.  Remove the odd rogue pip, stir to stop sticking, admire the peel shrinkage and when the temperature is close to setting point add the cup of spirit.  There will be alarming bubbling of the kind that you’d expect to see in a cauldron and the temperature will drop unexpectedly despite all the bubbles.

Don’t forget to sterilise your jam jars.

Eventually after a very long time the optimum temperature will arrive.  By that time you should have planned the next month, be able to breath through your nose and gone off making marmalade until next year.   Remove pips and any scum. Pot the marmalade up without pouring it over your hands. Seal and leave to cool.  Apparently you can enjoy it for breakfast the following morning.  Is now the time to mention that I don’t like marmalade very much? However, the Pottermeister’s jar has already got her name on it!

Now all you need to do is clean the kitchen or find a willing victim – er, sorry- helper, to do the washing up and clean the hob.


Elderflower Cordial

DSCF2293.JPGElderflower cordial – how summery is that? My mother used to make it when I was a child. There was one memorable occasion when we made it, bottled it and then put it a little too close to the central heating boiler for comfort. The cordial fermented, the pressure built, the screw top untwisted and zipped across the room with rather a loud ping resulting in a half hour search until someone encountered a sticky pool of elderflower cordial and deduced what had happened. Note: think cool dark storage space.


Living as high up as we do the elderflower is only just coming into full bloom although the general guidance is that elderflower blooms from May to June – so if you’re reading this in the lowlands south: it’s too late to make your own cordial this year. I’ve been keeping an eye on the elderflowers for the last fortnight whenever we go for HWIOO’s afternoon perambulation.


A couple of afternoons ago, in between showers, we toddled off with a basket of Miss Marple proportions and a pair of scissors having already purchased 20z of citric acid from the local health food shop. It came in a plain plastic wrapper. I am so pleased we weren’t stopped on the way home! The citric acid is for preserving the cordial. It also gives the sour taste in lemons and turns up in dishwasher detergents (lovely). There are recipes that don’t contain citric acid – after all we’ve only been using it in it’s chemical formulae as a preservative for the last hundred years and presumably the lemon is also a preservative. Next year I may well not use the citric acid.  I’ll have a look and see what Mrs Beeton has to say on the subject.  Jamie Oliver and Rivercottage also have variations on the recipe.


Here’s what to do and not to do.  First gather 35 heads of elderflower. Give them a good shake to get rid of insects. I rinsed mine when I got home. Place in a large bowl. Add zest of four lemons. Chop and add lemons.  Other recipes use a mixture of lemons and an orange.


Place 1.3 kg of sugar and  2 1/2 pints of water in a pan. Dissolve. Add sugar water to the elder flowers and lemons. Stir well. Add citric acid. Stir again. Cool, cover, leave over night. Remove stray insects.

DSCF2295.JPGUse a muslin to drain the liquid off and then place it into sterilised bottles having removed the last of the stray insects should there be any. There should be a 2.5cm gap at the top of the bottles.  My book – The Hedgerow Cookbook for the Wild at Heart- suggested further sterilisation by means of a water bath  to prolong the life of the cordial.  It the bottles are old fashioned stopper bottles they have to be completely sealed and if they’re screw top then the bottles should be loosely closed. You place a trivet or folded tea towel in the bottom of the pan, then your bottles, standing upright.  Fill the pan with water until the bottles are completely submersed. Heat the water until it’s simmering and keep it simmering for 20 minutes. You may wish to look at it nervously every so often. Then turn off the heat, leave the bottles for five minutes before removing them very carefully so that you don’t burn yourselfDSCF2296.jpg.  Place the bottles on another folded tea towel or a wooden surface or else the bottles may crack – generally speaking a shower of hot glass and hot sugary cordial is not to be recommended.  Tighten the screw tops.  Unfortunately I don’t have a pan that’s large enough so probably shouldn’t have even attempted the process (note to self – find a very large pan for future cordial making activities.) However, I did and consequentially discovered that overfilling the bottles is not a terribly good idea as there is expansion (yes I did get a physics O level but clearly didn’t apply my learning in this context), a build up of pressure and then the laws of physics took over without any help from Scotty from Star Trek! There was a rather unpleasant cracking sound and one of the bottles broke in mid simmer resulting in hot, glass filled elderflower cordial which is not, generally speaking, to be recommended. My tea towel also decided that simmering wasn’t good for colour fastness.




Gingerbread galore

DSCF2132I made gingerbread snitches a fortnight ago. The cutter, along with the sorting hat and house badges, came all the way from America.  I have no idea why there’re none readily available in the UK.

They looked reasonably snitch like when they came out of the oven, which is more than could be said for the Griffindor house badge which had lost its imprint during the baking process. Unfortunately I then iced the snitches with white and yellow. The result? Flying poached eggs.

Now while a bad workperson always blames their tools it probably helps to have the right tools in the first place. This week armed with a rather clever squeezy bottle with nozzle from Lakeland  rather than a plastic bag with a hole in the corner and slightly firmer icing I did manage to produce some passable crowns though I wouldn’t want to present them in the Bake Off tent or to the WI. I’m not denying that some practice is required and a rather more vibrant yellow but it’s a start.


Next time the Little Madams visit they want to make blinged up crowns.  I’ve been instructed to get some of those inedible silver balls, chocolate stars and fruit pastilles because, apparently, crowns require jewels.  So that’s the entertainment sorted for half an hour.


That just leaves the expansion issue- not out waistlines- the dough expansion. After consultation with the Mater it is clear that I’ve been slapdash with my golden syrup. I’m using the recipe from the Bake Off Celebration book that I found during a rummage in a charity shop (!!) but rather than weighing the quantity I’ve been spooning it out of the tin with enthusiasm. The result is a slightly softer gingerbread and a loss of definition.


So the next batch will be weighed rather than spooned. I shall put some flour in the scale pan and then measure exactly. The batch after that will be different again. The Number One Daughter says that replacing the golden syrup with honey provides the sweet gooiness but is healthier than golden syrup. That batch will possibly have lemon flavoured icing. Who knows I might even return to my Harry Potter cookie cutters in due course. I’m also wondering how long it will take the Little Madams to become fed up with gingerbread. After all there’s a whole world beyond biscuits – there are gingerbread houses; pele towers; castles; cathedrals with boiled sweet windows; three dimensional biscuits; gingerbread star stacks that look like Christmas trees; gingerbread Christmas tree decorations and that’s before I get hold of the book entitled “Dress Your Gingerbread.”


DSCN0229-2.jpgI’ve followed my friend Naomi’s suggestion and gone along to the local WI meeting. I’d hoped for an Embroiderers’ Guild but there’s not one for miles, though I can go to a knit and natter at a nearby library should I feel the urge – I don’t. I’d much rather go to see Tatiana and Teddie when the weather and work permits.

Anyway, it was a rainy windswept night when I lurched off into the darkness. I arrived having walked through a rather large puddle so wasn’t necessarily looking my best as I tried not to squelch too noticeably. I needn’t have worried. The ladies I met were lovely and very welcoming – they certainly asked a lot of questions. The chairlady was late – there was the milking to do you see.  Then came the joy of singing Jerusalem – I sang (that’s the verb I like to use but it’s not necessarily the word other people would employ)  the bits I remembered and mimed the rest.  I hadn’t realised that learning it by heart was a mandatory requirement.


I’m not sure whether the WI is for me or not. Some of the speakers on the programme sound a tad on the soporific side but the conversation at tea and biscuit time had me sitting on the edge of my chair. I very swiftly came up to speed on four generations of farming families, their births, marriages, affairs and deaths as well as the chap who has a propensity to ring dodgy telephone numbers to listen to young ladies whispering naughtiness in his ears – I’ve no idea what his name is or what he looks like but those in the know were not surprised; apparently his grandfather was one for the ladies as well. Miss Marple was right – absolutely everything does happen in a village.


Meanwhile blackout curtains have been purchased and positioned; I’ve sent out the novel so expect that I shall probably be able to paper the downstairs toilet with rejection letters in due course; I’ve learned what to do with a ham hock – this involves cooking it at a very slow temperature for many hours with lentils or split peas- and I’ve sorted my stationery (I may be a fire hazard).

I’ve also discovered that if you have a box of homemade jam and leave the box somewhere cold then the labels will ultimately fall off if not effectively glued into position. Breakfast is sometimes a bit of an adventure as a consequence. HWIOO thought he’s chosen rhubarb and orange jam but had actually picked the last jar of greengage. I’m under instructions not to make any more jam until such time as the stock cupboard is somewhat barer. Personally I don’t think this includes mango chutney or lemon curd….