Tag Archives: Nigel Slater

My annual Seville orange marmalade expedition in pictures…

Last year, I adopted a new annual tradition of Seville orange marmalade making. I’d never attempted it before last January and haven’t tried it again since, that is until last weekend. This is mainly because the Seville orange season is only a short one (Dec-Feb), which is now nearing it’s end. To be honest, I think it’s something about the transience of these gnarly, nobbly citrus fruit that appeals to me, along with the fact that they produce awesome, bitter sweet marmalade that really packs a punch! I like a full bodied, brash marmalade, Robinson’s Golden Shredless will never grace the shelves of my fridge!

I decided to use the same Nigel Slater recipe as last year (recipe here) but to double it to make a batch of 10 jars. Before even setting to work I had assigned homes to a number of jars and I wanted to make sure there was enough left to satisfy my own addiction!

In the space of a year I seemed to have forgotten the amount of work that goes into chopping the peel of 24 oranges and 4 lemons…

2 Hours later, there I was still (not so) patiently shredding the peel…

I got there in the end though, all be it with one arm that would have made Popeye proud!

The peel and juice went in a couple of pans to soak over night, along with muslin bundles packed with the pith, pips and general leftover orange goodies…

The next day I set to work boiling up the pots of peel until they were tender…

Before adding the sugar…

and bringing them to a rolling boil…

This part of the process is the most nervewracking and time consuming. I spent the best part of two hours watching my boiling pots, skimming scum from the surface and testing it every 10 minutes to see whether it had reached the optimum setting consistency, whilst marmalade laden condensation dripped down my kitchen windows!

The magical moment eventually arrived and I was delighted to have produced a vat of beautifully deep, dark, tangy Seville marmalade goodness…

Which I spooned into a motley crew of jars…

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been drawn into quite a few marmalade based discussions and have realised that preferences in consistency, density of peel and coarseness vary greatly from person to person. The beauty of making your own marmalade, apart from the pride you feel afterwards, is that you can make it exactly how YOU like it! Mine is getting better year on year…can’t wait ‘til next January’s attempt.

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‘a taste of the sun on toast’

Last year I found this article by Nigel Slater, unfortunately at the time of reading it I’d missed the Seville orange season by just a few weeks. I stashed it away in my memory banks until a couple of days ago, which happened to fall perfectly in the middle of my window of Seville marmalade making opportunity! I love Nigels infectiously passionate way of writing about food, it always compels me to roll up my sleeves and get busy in the kitchen. So this weekend I decided to do just that and pop my marmalade making cherry, or should that be orange!

Nigel’s recipe calls for 12 Seville oranges and 2 lemons…

Scrub them really well in case they’ve been sprayed with any nasties, then score them into quarters from top to bottom (not piercing the flesh) and peel off the rind…

Shred the rind into thin strips. I found this job quite enjoyable with the aid of some good tunes and a sharp knife. I opted for a medium cut marmalade (it would have been fine but my knife skills aren’t up to much and I got a bit distracted by the music I was listening to :)) If you prefer yours chunky just cut thicker slices…

Put the peel into a large pot. Squeeze the juice from the fruit into a measuring jug but don’t throw away the pips, flesh and pith!

Make the juice up to 4 litres with cold water and pour into the pot with the peel. Tie the fleshy leftovers in a muslin bundle and submerge it in the pot…

Cover the pot and leave it in a cool place overnight to infuse.

The next day bring the juice and the peel to the boil… 

Once boiling, turn it down to a simmer and leave it bubbling away until the peel is soft and transluscent. Nigel says that this can take anything from 40 minutes to an hour and a half but mine only needed 30 minutes to reach the perfect texture.

Remove the muslin bag of goodies and set it aside to cool.

At this point you add 1.25kg unrefined golden granulated sugar and turn up the heat.

As soon as the muslin bundle is cool enough to handle you need to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the orange innards. The viscous liquid that came out had the delightful consistency of snot, which made for a bit of a weird sensation. But this magic goo is very important as it’s laden with masses of natural pectin, which helps the marmalade to set.

You need to bring the marmalade to a rolling boil and regularly skim off any froth that rises to the surface, otherwise your preserve will end up cloudy. This part of the whole process is definitely the most time consuming. I watched my boiling pot like a hawk wanting to make sure that I caught it at the exact point that it reached setting consistency. Nigel recommends boiling it initially for a good 15 minutes and then testing it by spooning a tablespoon of marmalade onto a plate and putting it in the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface of the chilled marmalade…it’s ready. If not, then keep it boiling and repeat the test every 10-15 minutes.

I had to exercise some real patience (not my strong point) as my marmalade took its own sweet time to reach setting point…a pot watching, froth skimming, nail biting 70 minutes! quite a bit longer than Nigel’s worst case scenario of 50 minutes.

But the gorgeous deep, rich preserve I was left with was worth every second…

Spoon the marmalade straight into sterilised jars and seal them immediately…

I resisted the strong urge to slather it straight into some toast and made myself seal every jar and wait until the marmalade was fully set before sampling it for the first time.

In the words of Mr Nigel Slater “here it is, a little pot of bright, shining happiness, full of bittersweet flavour and stinging thumbs”…

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Blueberry, peach and almond cake

A weekend with my family usually revolves around eating delicious food and lots of it! We had quite a few birthdays to celebrate so we rolled them all into one and had a huge family barbecue, to which everyone contributed something. It felt like we ended up cooking up and eating a whole farmyard’s worth of meat…I was in heaven! Once everyone had recovered from the meat fest and tucked into desert of fresh fruit brulee (a family favourite) and Granny’s summer pudding we entered the cake round…my domain. We still had a lot of the saffron clotted cream cake left but I also made Nigel Slaters ‘cake for midsummer’, which I’d ripped out of the Observer Food Monthly magazine in June and stashed in my book of ‘must bake’ recipe clippings. It goes a little something like this…

175g butter

175g golden caster sugar

200g ripe peaches

2 large eggs

175g self raising flour

100g ground almonds

1 tsp grated orange zest

a few drops of vanilla extract

150g blueberries

Line a 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Halve, stone and chop the peaches and set aside for later.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. I used a handheld whisk. Beat the eggs in one at a time. If it looks like it’s starting to curdle add a small amount of flour.

Mix the flour with the ground almonds and fold into the butter mixture in a few batches. Add the orange zest and vanilla and last but not least, the blueberries and peaches.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and Nigel says to bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes. I like my cakes extra moist so after 1 hour I tested it by inserting a sharp knife into the middle of the cake and as it came out relatively clean I decided it had had long enough in the oven.

On Nigel’s advice I sprinkled the cake batter with golden caster sugar before putting it in the oven, creating a gorgeous sweet, crunchy crust on the moist, fruity almond cake.

This cake was super easy, light, tasty and I never thought I would use this word to describe a cake but it was…well…refreshing!

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Use your loaf

My favourite way to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon is, surprise surprise, with a spot of baking. I realised that due to my housemate’s dislike for lemon/orange peel I had been neglecting cakes with these ingredients and thought it was high time that I built them back into my repertoire. So I set about trawling the interweb to find a good recipe and found an Observer article written by Nigel Slater called Crumbs of Comfort. I love his writing style and the fact that he is such an obviously, passionate foodie. A few years ago I read his book, Toast, which is the story of his ‘childhood and adolescence told through food’ and is a very good read. 

I decided to try out his Lemon Loaf Cake described as ‘A truly moist cake scented with lemon and almond, with a thin, sweet-sharp icing’. Sounded good to me!

The recipe lacked any raising agents so what came out of the oven was a dense, compact loaf and I was a bit worried that it would be too stodgy but good old Nige set my mind at rest by saying that as a ‘general rule, the taller the cake the less good it is to eat. As usual less is more.’ While the cake was still hot and fresh out of the oven the recipe tells you to prick some holes in it and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, which made a satisfying sizzling sound and an amazing smell! I had to exercise some patience and wait for it to cool before icing with an icing sugar and lemon juice paste.

But it was definitely worth the wait….

It was amazingly moist. The lemon and almond flavours, which go so well together, were delicate but still shone through the buttery goodness of the cake. In fact it was so good that I even managed to tempt my lemon hating housemate into trying a slice and…she’s a convert! That’s what I call a result.

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