Wednesday, February 8, 2017

St Clement's Marmalade - and an "alternative fact"

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find and replace
Who can hear the word ‘marmalade’ without tartan and bagpipes making an appearance in their brain?  Och, sure isn’t marmalade as Scottish as wee Bonnie Prince Charlie... as shortbread... as Irn-Bru, and Whisky without the ‘e’ ...  isn’t it? Hmmm.

Well, while there is a tale about a storm-battered ship, a load of sea-sick oranges and an enterprising couple named James and Janet Keiller, it appears that Dundee’s claim to be the birthplace of marmalade might be an “alternative fact”. 

It turns out that there are several recipes in archives around England that pre-date the Keiller’s 1797 marmalade factory by almost a century. However, even before that, various mermeladas were being made across Europe, (although not necessarily containing oranges) and even the Romans were known to partake of marmelo - preserved quince, pounded and mixed with honey. The Bonnie Prince himself was born in Rome so perhaps he knew a thing or two about marmalade long before it made an appearance in Dundee. 

A Spanish friend gave me the rough method for this marmalade. It’s all about proportions and once you stick to the proportions - and as long as the fruit contains enough pectin to set the marmalade - the citrus fruit content and any flavourings you choose to add are up to you. Seville oranges have a very high pectin content.  If I’m using any other orange, I include the juice of 2 lemons  to increase the pectin content. 

Because the St Clement's Marmalade recipe below contains both Seville oranges, and lemons, there is no need to add any extra lemon juice. Why is orange and lemon marmalade called St Clement's? Apparently citrus fruits used to be offloaded on the wharves of the Thames within the sound of the bells of St Clement's church in Eastcheap. 'Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement's.'

This marmalade doesn’t store for more than a few months outside the fridge due to the relatively low sugar content so I like to make small amounts that can be eaten quickly.

It is ready to eat straight away but the flavours develop wonderfully after a few weeks.
What this magical marmalade tastes like!

For 5 x 360g jars of magical marmalade you will need
1.5kg Seville oranges or a mixture of citrus fruits, untreated if possible
(I used 4 Seville oranges, 2 lemons and the rest eating oranges)

Approximately 1kg caster sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

You will also need:
A piece of muslin cloth / cheese cloth to enclose all pips and any stray pith
A plate or shallow bowl to catch any juices as you cut up the fruit
A jam pan (Maslin pan) or a large heavy bottomed pot
A ½ litre measuring jug (or equivalent) and a weighing scales
A sugar thermometer
Sterilised jam jars* (I used 5 recycled Bonne Maman jars – they take 360g each, or about 12oz)
Jam pot covers - they normally come in a packet which includes waxed discs, cellophane discs, elastic bands and labels
A jam funnel makes life a lot easier

Method
First wash the fruit, then place in a jam pan or a large pot and cover with water. If necessary, place a heatproof plate on top of the fruit to weigh it down to keep it submerged in the water. Bring the pan to the boil and leave it to simmer gently for about 2 hours or until the fruit is easily pierced with a fork. Leave to cool.


There's nothing like a hot bath to soften the skin...

Once cool, drain away the water and taking each piece of fruit in turn, halve it across the middle. Using a fork, rake out any pips, and any tough white membrane snagged by the fork, placing them in the muslin cloth. This will provide the pectin that will set your marmalade. 



Using a fork, rake out any pips, placing them in the muslin cloth

Using a sharp knife, slice each piece of fruit into shreds as thin or as thick as you like and tip into a large bowl along with any juices that have escaped. When you have finished preparing the fruit, you will need to measure it and add sugar in a ratio of 5:4. Put away the calculator! It’s simple.

Slice each piece of fruit into shreds as thin or as thick as you like

Take your measuring jug and fill it to the 500ml mark with the prepared fruit. Tip back into the jam pan or into a large heavy bottomed pot. Continue measuring until you have accounted for all the fruit.



For every 500ml of prepared fruit, add 400g of caster sugar

Now, for every 500ml of prepared fruit, add 400g of caster sugar to the pan. (I ended up with 1250mls of prepared fruit on this occasion. So, I added exactly 1kg of sugar to the pan.)


Make a little purse of the pips, wrapping them in the muslin or cheese cloth and tying the neck securely with string.  Tie the string to the handle of the pan so that the package is suspended in the mixture. Bring the pan slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Pips and stray pulp ready to be packaged.

Once the sugar has dissolved, let the mixture come to a rapid (or rolling) boil, allowing it to bubble for between 8 and 10 minutes – stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure it isn’t burning on the bottom - then pop your sugar thermometer into the jam pan and wait for the temperature to hit 220°F/221°F for a nicely set marmalade. Below that, it tends to be too runny. At 222°F you’ll get a pretty solid set. At 223°F it starts to darken and become bitter. After that, you are heading into toffee territory.


A rapid or rolling boil full of bursting bubbles

You could also try the famous wrinkle test – pop a metal dish or heatproof saucer in the freezer while you are boiling the marmalade. After 10 minutes take the marmalade off the heat and drop a spoonful of the marmalade onto the cold surface, and as soon as it is cool enough to touch, push gently with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, the marmalade will set. If not, continue boiling for another minute and test again with a fresh teaspoon of the mixture. Repeat until you can see the wrinkles appear.

I prefer to rely on the thermometer as this test gives me wrinkles.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, stir in the vanilla extract and remove the pan from the heat. (If you prefer, you could stir in 100mls of whiskey to the pan at this stage) Take the muslin bag out of the marmalade (carefully – it’s very, very hot!) and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any remaining pectin-rich juices and stir into the marmalade. Let the marmalade sit for a total of 15 minutes. This ensures that the fruit will be distributed evenly throughout the preserve when you transfer it to the jars.

Carefully transfer to the sterilised jars –it is still piping hot. A jam funnel makes life much easier and helps keep the jars drip free. Press waxed jam discs against the surface of the marmalade then seal with cellophane covers, or use Le Parfait ''kiln-clip’’ jars.

A jam funnel makes life much easier and helps keep the jars drip free
 
Store in a cool dark place for a couple of months or keep in the fridge.

*Sterilise your jam jars by putting them through the dishwasher on whatever cycle you use to wash glasses, or do as my mum does and wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse and allow to dry in your oven at 100°C (or 212°F). Pin It

Sunday, January 29, 2017

White Chocolate and Cranberry Oatmeal Blondies – drizzle forecast ...

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I woke up this morning to a grey sky and a steady drizzle of rain. (If only Trump would share that trick that makes it stop raining on just him...) There is only one thing to shift me from this ill humour. Bring on the mood-enhancing white chocolate cranberry blondies...


These sweet treats are not quite as wicked as they sound. They contain oatmeal and dried fruit so that makes them practically breakfast. The recommended dosage for mood enhancement is two, with decent coffee.
The moggy isn't liking the rain either
For approximately 16 delicious ‘blondies’ you will need...
... to butter and base-line a 23cm square cake tin and to pre-heat your oven to 170°C
150g rolled oats (oatmeal flakes)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
100g butter
50g crunchy peanut butter
50g cream cheese
175g Demerara sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries

75g white chocolate for topping (optional)

Cranberries: "We're not just for Christmas you know!"
Method
First place the rolled oats and baking powder in a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth ‘flour’.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar, beating the mixture until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Then mix in the oatmeal ‘flour’.
Finally, stir in the chopped white chocolate and cranberries. Mix until just combined.
Transfer the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes until evenly golden brown.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle over or simply leave to cool in the tin before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into squares.
These are good slightly warm but even better if left go completely cold, so that the chocolate solidifies back into chunks. They’ll keep for up to a week (yeah right!) if sealed in an airtight container or cling wrap.



My lazy woman’s way to melt chocolate: snap the chocolate into squares and place in a Ziploc bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and seal. Half-fill a 1 pint measuring jug with boiling water, then carefully place the sealed bag in the water making sure the chocolate is submerged. Leave for a couple of minutes until the chocolate has melted. Remove the bag from the water and pat dry. Snip off a small corner of the bag and gently squeeze the liquid chocolate over the blondies.

[adapted from post first published 5 May 2011]
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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sweet Vanilla Scones – Worth getting out of bed for!

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A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came- a loud knock. 
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

In my house the loud knock came before the scones, and it wasn't a rat-tat on a Hobbit door, but my bedtime reading (Neil Jordan’s ‘Mistaken’) falling off the bed and crash-landing on the floor, which startled me out of dreamland. There was no going back to sleep and 2 doses of BBC drama and the news headlines later, I gave up and decided to have an early, early, early breakfast that was worth getting up for on a dark frosty morning.

I had Sweet Vanilla Scones mixed and in the oven in the time it took to brew a proper pot of Rosie Lee under a tea cosy. I poured out the first mug of the day and curled up on the sofa to devour another chapter until my nose (and my digital timer) told me it was time to take the scones out of the oven and make another brew.

For 12 plain and simple sweet vanilla scones you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 180°C
350g plain flour
12g baking powder
a pinch of fine table salt
100g butter, from the fridge, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
120mls fresh milk 

To glaze
1 egg, beaten (or a little milk for a less glossy finish)

A little icing sugar to dust over the finished scones (optional)

Method
Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture, lifting and crumbling the mixture between your index and middle fingers and your thumbs, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and add the vanilla extract to the bowl, followed by as much of the milk as is necessary to form the ingredients into a soft dough with no dry flour remaining, mixing gently all the while until you reach that point. You may not need all the milk.

(If you have a stand mixer or food processor, it is even easier: place the first six ingredients in the bowl and mix or pulse until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, then add the milk a little at a time - mixing or pulsing between additions - until the mixture comes together in a soft dough – add just enough of the milk until there is no dry flour left in the bowl/processor)

Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, knead gently to form a ball. The less you mix and handle the dough, the lighter the scone. Pat the dough out into a round approximately 2cm thick – you could use a rolling pin for a more even finish.

Using a 6cm (2.5”) cutter, stamp out scone shapes from the dough, re-forming any scraps into a ball and once again flattening to 2cm before cutting. This mixture yields 12 x 6cm scones. (You could make them larger or smaller if you like, adjusting the cooking time up or down accordingly).

Place the prepared scones on a non-stick baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg or a little milk. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes until risen and golden brown.

When baked through, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes before serving with butter and jam. Scones are best eaten the day they are made but generally there are no leftovers so this won’t be a cause for concern. They also freeze well.



TIP: Try to stamp out as many scones as possible from the dough on the first pass as scones formed out of the scraps of dough can turn out a bit misshapen. Also, cut the scones out by pressing straight down with the cutter, avoiding the temptation to twist (unless you want scones with individual character).


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Honey and Orange Stock Syrup - for mulled wine at the drop of a (Santa) hat... Mmmm !

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(Looking back over the years, this has proved to be one of the surprise hit recipes
 so here it is again - it was first published in December 2012.)
I’ve just finished the first batch of mince pies. The house is full of spicy, fruity scents so evocative of the impending feast. Here’s my tried and tested mincemeat recipe – it keeps for ages if you want to make it in advance, but is ready to use as soon as it has cooled. The gorgeous Christmassy aromas have made me long for mulled wine. 

Now there are mulled wines... and there are mulled wines...  I knew this bloke who was legendary for his seasonal concoction. He simply boiled together 6 bottles of wine with a carton of juice, a heap of sugar and a few ground spices ... from which he was able to fashion 5,000 servings (only a slight exaggeration). It was like the tale of the magic porridge pot.

This miracle he accomplished as follows: for every glass of mulled wine he removed from the pot, he topped it up with water and sugar. By the time he reached the 5,000th serving, the liquid was practically homeopathic, retaining just the barest memory of the original flavours. Shudder.
Bearing this example in mind, I want a seasonal punch that packs ... well... a punch!
I keep a spiced honey and orange stock syrup in the fridge ready to add festive spirit at a moment’s notice. Just add red wine, and some extra spices if you want to add a little more kick, and gently heat through. This quick and easy stock syrup is also great added to a dry Cava; and Santa might appreciate a drop or two in a glass of sparkling water or sparkling apple juice too, particularly if he’s got to drive that sleigh all the way back to the North Pole. 

For 300mls of stock syrup (approximate serving per 75cl bottle of wine) you will need...

150mls fresh orange juice
260g runny honey
The zest of 2 large oranges removed in strips, leaving behind any bitter white pith
The zest of 1 large lemon, as above
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks 

1.                 In a medium saucepan, mix together the orange juice and the honey. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes then remove from the heat and add the orange and lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Leave to cool. Strain and store in a screw top jar or bottle for up to 2 weeks. I add dried slices of orange and cinnamon sticks to the jar because they look pretty and add to the flavour.
2.                 To make the mulled wine: gently heat a bottle of half decent red wine (yes, I know the budget added €1 but still, you want something drinkable...). Add enough stock syrup to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add further spices (slices of ginger, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg etc) and slices of orange and lemon so it looks as Christmassy as it tastes.

Cheers!
For mulled wine at the drop of a (Santa) hat
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Apple & Cranberry Mincemeat - It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!

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First published in 2010 - the snow has long since melted!

Now is the time to make mincemeat so that it has time to mature before you make the mince pies. This is in the oven as I type and the house smells divine!

For me, the Christmas season starts as soon as the fruity, spicy, alcoholic aromas of mincemeat rise from the oven. Best of all, it is astonishingly simple to put together and the long slow cooking transforms these simple ingredients into something magical. If kept sealed, my Apple and Cranberry Mincemeat will keep for up to a year* in a cool dry place – assuming that for some strange reason you don’t scoff the lot over Christmas.

*I once found a jar of mincemeat that had moved house twice with us and was still perfectly good after three years… Darina Allen, Ballymaloe's famous stirrer-of-mould-back-into-the-jam, would approve. As she says "Trust your senses. Look at food. Smell it. Taste it - if in doubt, just have a small taste." 

Obviously, common sense must prevail.


Simple ingredients...  

A word of warning: if you make this mincemeat, you will be called upon to perform your magic every year henceforth.
For approximately 4 magical jars (1.5kg in total) you will need
... to pre-heat the oven to 100°C
 
200g apple, grated
200g raisins
200g sultanas
200g currants
100g dried cranberries
200g dark brown sugar
100g mixed peel
50g walnuts, finely chopped
50g whole almonds, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
a tiny pinch of ground cloves – about one-sixteenth of a teaspoon
125g butter, cut into cubes
grated peel and juice of 1 large orange
grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons Apple Schnapps (or Brandy, or Whiskey for a more traditional flavour)

You’ll need also an additional 2 tablespoons of whatever alcohol you choose, to stir in at the end.

... magical food (that looks much prettier in jars) and tastes incredible in a pastry case 

1.                          Mix all the ingredients together in a large oven proof dish with a lid. Cover and place in the preheated oven and cook gently for 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so.
2.                          When the cooking time has elapsed, remove from the oven and allow to cool, stirring briefly every half hour until cold.

3.                          Finally, stir a further 2 tablespoons of Apple Schnapps (or Brandy, or Whiskey) into the cold mixture before sealing in clean, dry jars. That’s it, job done. Someone else can make the mince pies!

Someone else can make the mince pies !!!


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Monday, October 31, 2016

Mini Orange and Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Walnut Crust – Trick? Treat!

Pin It First published: 27/10/14



 Legend has it that long ago, in the depths of Ireland, there was a farmer named Jack. Jack was notoriously mean and sneaky. Over the years he had peeved heaven and hell so much with his meanness and trickery that when he popped his clogs, he was refused admittance to both. To get rid of him, the Devil sent Jack away with a burning ember to light his way through eternal darkness. Jack hollowed out a turnip in which to carry the ember. To this day, he roams the earth looking for a resting place, with the strange lantern lighting his way. Wooooo-ooooh. The End.

Okay, the legend is a bit longer than that but the essential bit is the lantern. Thankfully, when Irish emigrants brought the legend and the lantern to the other side of the Atlantic, they discovered that pumpkins were a lot easier to carve than turnips and looked much more impressive. I’m glad because Orange and Turnip Cheesecake doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

For approximately 22 mini cheesecakes you will need…
… to preheat the oven to 160°C while the cheesecake bases are chilling.

Filling
500g full fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia) at room temperature
250g pureed pumpkin pulp (available in a tin)
125g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon corn flour, sifted
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
a small pinch of ground cloves (go easy, it’s a very strong spice)
finely grated zest of one orange (just the very outer layer)
2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk 

Biscuit base
225g digestive biscuits (graham crackers)
75g walnuts
75g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
90g butter 

Decoration
Ready-made spooky chocolate shapes
OR some melted chocolate and an artistic flair

 For the filling
First make the filling. (This allows excess air bubbles incorporated while mixing a chance to escape, reducing cracking in the surface of the cheesecakes.)
Place all the ingredients, except the eggs, in a food processor and pulse until combined into a smooth batter. Now add the eggs and pulse until just combined. Transfer to a large jug and leave to one side while you prepare the base. 

For the base
Line 22 muffin cups with paper liners (I use two 12 cup tins and line 11 cups of each)
Place all the ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor and pulse until the biscuits are reduced to a fine crumb. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the crumb mixture to the melted butter and stir to combine.
Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin papers, about a heaped teaspoon in each and press down lightly and evenly. Place in the fridge until cool. (Preheat the oven now).
Pat the base into an even layer - the back of a teaspoon will do but this little cookie stamp is perfect
When the bases have chilled for about 10 minutes, remove from the fridge and divide the filling between the paper liners, leaving a gap of about 3mm at the top.
Carefully transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes or until they have risen very slightly and there is no wobble when you shake the tins gently.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the muffin tins. They will collapse a little. This is normal and allows room for the chocolate decorations to go on top.
When cool, cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight if possible.
Cover with white, milk or dark chocolate. Decorate with contrasting spooky chocolate shapes. (You’ll need to work quickly as the chocolate sets almost instantly on the cold cheesecake.
Happy Halloween!!!

(The cheesecakes will freeze, undecorated, in a single layer in a freezer container for up to a month. Thaw before decorating.)

Note...
For the chocolate shapes, I copied templates from the internet, making sure to size them a little smaller than the diameter of the cakes. I printed them out and placed them on a baking tray, under a sheet of non-stick baking parchment. I melted chocolate in a ziplock bag then used it as a piping bag by snipping off a tiny corner and drawing over the shapes I could see through the parchment. (I also ate a lot of the ones that didn’t turn out quite right but you could re-melt them if you have stronger willpower than me.)


I placed the finished shapes in the fridge for an hour until solid and then carefully peeled away the paper before transferring them to the chocolate-covered cheesecakes.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Accidental Paella – the case for the defence ...

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Originally published: Thursday, June 14, 2012


While poor Jamie Oliver has attracted the wrath of a nation, I managed to get away with my version of "Pie-Ella". There are no mountains, there is no sea, there is not even a pinch of tradition, but ¡Dios mío! it tastes great!



The moment I hit “Publish”, the paella police were on their way over ...

The crime...
Taking a traditional celebration of the mountains and the sea, removing the tradition, the mountains and the sea, and turning it into mid-week WOW* supper.
*War on Waste

The plea... guilty, but unrepentant...
Your honour, I swear I had no idea what I was doing when I opened the fridge. I was day-dreaming about a trip I had to Majorca in the distant past. My personal rain cloud accompanied me, and how! The island suffered the worst storms and floods in decades - just for those couple of weeks I was on holiday. However, I remembered a plate of golden paella I ate there, shivering on a sheltered terrace watching a feeble sun battle in vain against storm clouds. It was utter comfort food.
Hi! Remember me!

Mitigating circumstances...
Perhaps that's why I turned away from the straight-and-narrow of my go-to creamy chicken curry for this quick and easy mid-week supper. This week’s budget doesn’t run to prawns and rabbit, but I am pretty sure that paella evolved from humble origins, making the most of available ingredients. Plus, one pan, and about 30 minutes - what's not to love?
One pot, 30 minutes - what's not to love!

The evidence...
Anyway, back to the fridge, which revealed the remains of a cooked chicken – yawn... However, the fridge also held a jar of pimentos del piquillo (sweet roasted red peppers – widely available) which can add sunshine to any dish, as well as a nub of chorizo left over from the Cornish-ish pasties last week and I found myself taking a detour. “I can resist everything - save temptation”, as one of my fellow countrymen put it so beautifully.

The witness for the defence
Your honour, I call my rice-hating beloved who shovelled three helpings into his mouth while sighing rapturously – ok so he’d missed lunch but even so! Perhaps I should offer some to the paella police or would that compound the crime with bribery? 

For 4 servings you will need...
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
50g chorizo, cut into fat slices then halved
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 pimentos del piquillo, roughly chopped
1 green pepper (or sweeter yellow pepper if you prefer), cut into strips
75g fresh or frozen petit pois, or sugar snap peas
400g cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
250g paella rice (from your deli – a great store cupboard standby)
600mls good quality chicken stock, hot
100mls dry white wine
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley 

1                    Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. I used a 30cm (12 inch) pan for this recipe – in a paella you are aiming to get as much rice as possible in contact with the pan. Add the onion and cook until softened without colouring (about 5 minutes). Add the crushed garlic and the chorizo and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, pimientos del piquillo, green pepper, peas, chicken and rice and stir together for about a minute.

2                    Now add the hot stock, dry white wine, thyme and pepper. Stir to mix and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice, the rice is tender and the mixture is no longer soupy (about 20-25 minutes). Removed from the heat and cover with a clean tea-towel for about 5 minutes before sprinkling with the fresh parsley and serving on warm plates. The sign of a good paella – whether WOW* version or the traditional version – is the socarrat – the delicious golden crust of rice at the bottom of the pan – the bit that everyone fights over.
No mountains, no sea, no tradition, but rather tasty!

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