So, it’s that time of year when the Seville Orange crop brings a splash of colour to the fresh produce section. It’s marmalade season, especially for those of a competitive nature, because The World’s Original Marmalade Awards are accepting jars for their annual competition. Thousands of marmalade lovers participate in this popular contest, including myself last year, where a jar I made following an 1840 hand-written recipe won a gold award. Have a bash yourself – it’s worth it for the fabulous feedback you get from the judges (yes, they send comment cards for every single jar that is entered!). There’s even a section where it doesn’t matter what the marmalade tastes like, because the prize is for the label design!
I’m not suggesting any marmalade recipes here, rather some ideas for what to do when that initial enthusiasm wears off and the sacks of Seville Oranges you gleefully purchased at the start of the season are still sitting in the fruit bowl and Stuff™ has eaten up all of your spare time and got in the way of your marmalade plans. This happened to me a few years ago, and here is my suggestion for dealing with a mound of Seville Oranges and no enthusiasm/time/jars to make marmalade.
First of all, don’t throw the oranges away. Grate the zest, then cut them open and squeeze the juice. Mix all together and pour into large ice-cube trays and freeze. When frozen, seal them in a ziplock bag. Each frozen cube is roughly equivalent to one Seville Orange, so it’s easy for later use, for flavouring curds, cakes, icing, custards, tarts, ice-creams and savoury dishes. The strong, bitter-sharp flavour packs a real punch that sweet oranges just can’t match. And, of course, they make an amazing curd. Even on the years where I make marmalade, I make sure I stock up on Seville Orange ice cubes so that I can enjoy some Seville Orange curd throughout the year.
Before moving on to the recipe, let us pause a moment and talk butter. Specifically, clarified butter.
Clarified butter is butter that has had all the imperfections and unnecessary ingredients removed so that all you are left with is the very purest form of butter. Many of us might be familiar with the Indian cooking ghee sold in distinctive green tins in the UK. The ghee from these tins has a wonderful, perfumed aroma which immediately brings to mind the warms spices of India, and I do try and ensure I always have a tin in the cupboard for spur-of-the-moment curries. However, it isn’t necessary to buy all your clarified butter because t is simplicity itself to make your own.
In the context of this post, clarified butter is definitely the only choice when making fruit curds and will extend the shelf-life of your fruit curds drastically. You might think it a faff, but if you do make a batch of clarified butter, it will keep in the fridge for weeks and is therefore on hand, not just for curd, but also for lots of other cooking uses. Melted butter separates itself into three distinct layers: the top layer consists of little pieces of casein that float on the surface, the middle layer is the butter itself, and the bottom layer is composed of all the milk solids and salt that are present in regular butter. The middle layer is the only one we want, the rest can be discarded, and without the casein and milk solids, there’s nothing left in the clarified butter to spoil or go off.
500g unsalted butter
- Put the butter into a small saucepan and set it on the lowest possible heat.
- Leave it until completely melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom. Don’t stir.
- Turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
- Skim the debris from the surface, the either pour or spoon the clarified butter into either a jar or a seal-able plastic box.
- Don’t let any of the milk solids become mixed with the clarified butter. Stop pouring when this looks like happening.
- Cover the clarified butter and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.
- Pour the remaining butter and milk solids into a glass and allow to solidify.
- Cut around the disc of butter and remove.
- Rinse the disc of butter in cold water, making sure all milk solids are removed.
- Add the disc of washed butter to the rest of the clarified butter.
Seville Orange Curd
zest and juice from 3 Seville Oranges
200g caster sugar
112g clarified butter
3 large eggs
- Whisk the eggs, pour into a jug and set aside.
- Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the ingredients together until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
- Gradually pour in the eggs, whisking the mixture vigorously so that the eggs don’t curdle on contact with the warm liquid.
- Keep whisking until the mixture heats up and begins to thicken. Remember, the curd will thicken as it cools, so if it coats the back of a wooden spoon when hot, that’s it.
- Pour into sterilised jars if you like, but I find a sturdy plastic box that I can keep in the fridge is simpler. And to be honest, despite its long shelf life, its demolished in days.
P.S The deliciously crunchy, wholemeal toast in the pic is cut from a Grant Loaf.
Got a fab recipe for Christmas this week – for gifts, to scoff yourself, whatever takes your fancy – delish!
Bit like mincemeat, but without the suet – and can be enjoyed in a whole range of different ways – on scones, over ice-cream, Christmas tart (spoon into blind-baked cases) or spooned straight from the jar *guilty look* What? What???
Anyhoo – It’s also going to provide the opportunity to illustrate creativity, because the preserve I ended up with was not the one I intended to make, but is still absolutely delicious.
This recipe began life in the kitchen of Mme Christine Ferber, the undisputed QUEEN of preserves. She lives in Niedermorschwihr, the little Alsacian village of the borderlands with Germany and is the go-to woman for the likes of Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and anyone else who demands nothing but the best. Her preserves are made from local, seasonal produce and she presides over every batch. Never working with more than 4kg of fruit at a time, she marries flavours and textures beautifully, and has created over 800 flavour combinations.
So I found this recipe on a French magazine website almost a year ago and have been dying to make it all year. When I managed to snag the last 4 quince at the local farm shop, I thought I was all set, but the further I got into the recipe, the more I found out that I lacked some of the ingredients, so I just had to improvise like a BOSS. Now don’t start flapping about not having quince, because I didn’t have enough either – so I improvised with apples. Then I couldn’t find any dried pears, so I used dried pineapple instead. And so it went on.
So what I have for you here, and in the picture above, is the recipe I made, rather than the recipe I followed. It makes about 8-9 jars – plenty for gifts and a couple to keep. For anyone who is interested, the original Christine Ferber recipe is here.
2 kg of fresh quince or Bramley apples or a mixture of both
2 litres of water
1 kg granulated sugar
200 g dried pineapple
200g dried figs
100 g dried prunes
200g dried apricots
100g raisins 
50 g candied lemon peel, cut into thin strips
50 g candied orange peel cut into thin strips
50 g dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g walnuts pieces
150g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 ground star anise
- Wipe the quince/apples with a cloth and rinse in cold water.
- Cut into quarters and place in a preserving pan and cover with 2 liters of water.
- Bring the pan to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the juice through a colander and then strain it again through a piece of muslin to clear it of most of the pulp.
- Discard the fruit pulp.
- Measure out 1300ml of the hot liquid and pour over the dried pineapple. Leave it to soak for 3-4 hours. You can leave it longer – overnight if you like, but I was in the mood to make this jam NOW! Today! 😉
- Wash your jars and lids and put into the oven on a baking tray at 100°C, 80°C Fan. Always err on the side of caution and have more jars than you think you’ll need.
- Cut the figs, prunes and apricots into strips 3mm wide. NB DO NOT get the ‘ready to eat’ dried fruit – it’ll just break down into a mush. Make sure you get the old-fashioned ‘tough’ dried fruit.
- Slit the dates and remove pits. Slice into 3mm strips
- Pour the apple liquid and the pineapple into a preserving pan with the sugar, figs, dates, prunes, apricots, raisins, lemon and orange peel, cranberries, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and the spices.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Skim any scum from the surface.
- Keep cooking on high heat for five to ten minutes, stirring constantly.
- Skim again if necessary.
- When the temperature reaches 100°C, add the walnuts and almonds.
- Bring the mixture to 104°C and test that the setting point has been reached by spooning a little of the syrup onto a cold plate and placing in the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat while you check. If the surface if the jelly wrinkles when you push your finger through it, then setting point has been reached. NB This is really just to double-check – if it reaches 104°C, you’re fine. This is not a solid-set jam, it’s more ‘fruit suspended in spiced apple jelly’.
- Ladle into the warm jars and seal whilst hot.
- Wipe jars and label when cooled.
 I used Sainsbury’s snack raisins, which is a mixture of golden, flame, crimson and green raisins. Beautiful!
Right off the bat I’m going to admit that this is not an original recipe, but it IS one of my absolute favourite Christmas dishes. In fact, I like it so much, I make it even when it isn’t Christmas – it makes a fab meal all by itself, especially when served alongside some crunchy stuffing! My (English as opposed to Dutch) sister-in-law made it years ago and I managed to pry the recipe out of her clutches long enough to make a copy – The Precious! It’s from an old Prima magazine, and I’m sharing it today as a suggestion to making your Christmas that little bit easier and a whole lot tastier.
To my mind, one of the best things about the traditional Christmas turkey meal isn’t the bird itself, it’s all the trimmings that go with it: bacon rolls, chipolata sausages, stuffing, chestnuts, cranberries, etc. However, on probably the most stressful day of the year foodwise, you don’t really want to be juggling all these itty-bitty bits on top of everything else, so here’s a fabulous and delicious solution: Trimmings Tart. All the traditional Christmas trimmings gathered together in a kind of savoury Tarte Tatin, with a balsamic caramel glaze and topped with crumbly, buttery, walnut pastry.
Make it ahead of time and all it requires on the day is 20-25 minutes to cook the pastry and heat the filling – you could do that while the turkey was resting. Turn onto a plate to serve and cover any crumbly edges with rosemary sprigs – it’s what I did! When I turned the tart out this morning, I forgot to loosen the pastry from the edge of the pan (not that the original recipe tells you to do that!), and so it didn’t all come out smoothly. I’ve got to be honest, I actually toyed with the idea of dashing to the supermarket at 10am and buying more ingredients to make another one. But then I thought: No, hang on – what it this was Christmas Day? No shops open to fall back on, so some improvisation would be in order. And let’s be honest here, it’s going to be on the table for all of five minutes before people are ripping into it like a monkey on a cupcake, so no need to agonise over presentation too much. The original serving suggestion does actually include sprigs of rosemary, admittedly not quite as many as I used, but I think they make it look very Christmas-wreathy.
The glaze is dark due to the balsamic vinegar, but I quite like that as it makes the red of the cranberries really pop. Feel free to use white balsamic if you can get it, or a mild wine vinegar to lighten things up. Use any mushrooms you like, but chestnut mushrooms won’t have lots of black juice oozing out, and will keep their texture. Fresh chestnuts are wonderful and give great texture to the forcemeat, but a little time-consuming to peel and cook. If you know you won’t be using them in anything else, you could buy them ready-prepared. Try and get good quality, lean bacon for the bacon rolls – otherwise there’s more faffing about trimming off the excess fat. Extra cranberries can be made into sauce with just a little sugar and water. Don’t roll your pastry too thin – there’s a hefty number of ingredients to support once the tart is turned out. This quantity makes just about a perfect amount of pastry for a 24cm tart.
225g plain flour
1 large egg yolk
2 cloves of garlic
85g lean smoked bacon
85g chestnut mushrooms
85g smooth liver pate
60g fresh breadcrumbs
1tbs fresh thyme
1tbs snipped fresh chives
85g cooked, peeled chestnuts
16 round shallots
1tbs vegetable oil
3tbs light muscovado sugar
2tbs balsamic vinegar
16 rashers of rindless smoked bacon
16 chipolata sausages
A handful of fresh cranberries
rosemary to garnish
- Put the flour, butter, walnuts and egg yolk into a food processor and blitz. Depending on the moisture in the flour and butter, the yolk might be enough to bind it together. If not, use 1-2 tbs cold water until it comes together in a ball.
- Knead the dough smooth, then cover in plastic and chill in the fridge.
- Peel the onion and garlic and chop them finely in a food processor.
- Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onions and garlic until softened.
- Chop the bacon in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes.
- Chop the mushrooms in the food processor, then add to the pan and cook for a few minutes to release the moisture.
- When the mixture seems dry, tip it into a mixing bowl
- Add the breadcrumbs, pate, chopped chestnuts and herbs and mix thoroughly.
- Make the mixture up into balls using a tablespoon or a small ice-cream scoop to measure.
- Pour boiling water over the shallots and leave for 2 minutes. This makes them easier to peel.
- Peel the shallots and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Dry.
- Roll the bacon up and secure with cocktail sticks.
- Grill the sausages and bacon rolls.
- Heat the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the shallots until golden. NB This should be the pan you will use to bake the tart, so make sure it has an oven-proof handle or one that can be removed. Alternatively, when the shallots are cooked, tip them and the glaze into a cake/tart tin.
- Add the sugar, balsamic and water to make the glaze and cook for a further 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Arrange the forcemeat balls, bacon rolls and sausages in the pan with the shallots.
- Add the cranberries to fill any gaps. Allow the filling to cool.
NB If you’re making the tart ahead of time, then stop here. Cover the filling with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until required.
To bake and serve:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Roll out the chilled pastry until just large enough to cover the filling.
- Lay the pastry over the filling and tuck round the sides.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.
- Set the cooked tart aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
- Run a knife round the edge of the pastry to make sure it isn’t stuck to the pan.
- Place a plate over the pastry and carefully flip the pan over to turn out the tart.
- Gently lift the pan off, checking that none of the filling has stuck. If it has, use a slice to ease it from the pan and place it neatly back into its place on the tart.
Cover up any pastry/filling disastersGarnish the tart with sprigs of rosemary.