It’s not too late to make chocolate orange peel.

Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets the worms – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines, although I have used grapefruit peel as well. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!

Ingredients

4-5 large oranges (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins), 500g granulated sugar, 1 tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate.

Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)

Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.

Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)

A Little Christmas Liqueur Treat

Well we are on the upward slope to Christmas and like all other cooks and food lovers I am starting to prepare food before I think of anything else.

On my list of what needs to be prepared up front are a few bottles of liquid refreshment. The Damson Gin was set in place a couple of months ago and now it is time for the Curacao. I found this recipe while I was writing Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen and comes from a recipe book handwritten by William Sayer in the1820s.

Curacao is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curacao. A non-native plant similar to an orange the laraha developed from the sweet Valencia orange transplanted by Spanish explorers. Although the bitter flesh of the Laraha is all but inedible, the peels are aromatic and flavorful, maintaining much of the essence of the Valencia orange.

Curaçao liqueur was first developed and marketed by the Senior family in the 19th century. To create the liqueur the laraha peel is dried, bringing out the sweetly fragranced oils. After soaking in a still with alcohol and water for several days, the peel is removed and other spices are added. This recipe uses seville and blood oranges to give the flavor and is obviously not as strong as the original as syrup is added. The recipe calls for three teaspoons of red barley (roasted for colour), but I omitted this as it is just for colour and difficult to find. I have also halved the amounts in the original but feel free to revert.  

Ingredients

1 bottle of pale brandy,

2 seville oranges

1 red orange

350g of sugar

2 inch stick of cinnamon

900mls water 

Method

Place the oranges where they will dry very gradually until thoroughly dry when they will be ‘not larger than a pigeon’s egg’. I put mine in the airing cupboard but it takes some time. If you put them in a low oven be careful that they do not burn.

Then add them with the brandy and cinnamon to a large sealed jar, in a warm place for a week or two. When you are ready to make the Curaçao, remove the oranges and strain the liquid through muslin to remove the cinnamon and barley. 

Make a very clear syrup of the sugar and water, but not strong enough to crystallise. Cool, add the brandy then  mix it all together and store it in a sealed bottle.

I’m not sure what to do with the used oranges it seems a shame to throw them away, perhaps they would make good Christmas decorations. All suggestions welcome.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

The Staff of Life at Christmas

While we are planning our Christmas food the basics sometimes get forgotten. Don’t get me wrong I am planning my midwinter feast now, but while I was making the bread yesterday I realised that I hadn’t put bread on the Christmas food list.

Somewhere between Delia’s Mulled Wine Sorbet and Nigella’s Clementine cake I hadn’t given a thought to what I was going to make in the way of loaves and rolls.

This was mainly prompted by a review of a great video of Andrew Whitley’s DO Lecture on Bread – Why Bread needs Time. It was this lecture that started me down the bread-making road and I am so grateful, I love making bread and eating your own home made bread beats shop bought by a mile, unless you are lucky enough to have a good local real bakery.

I don’t want to sound holier than thou, I am definitely not a domestic goddess. Making my own bread doesn’t make me a better person but it does make me happy when I eat it. I like to make it by hand, the kneeding time with a bit of music in the background gives me time to think and gaze vacantly out of the window. My brother in-law on the other hand has  been converted to make his own bread by a bread machine, he made a lovely nutty, seedy loaf last time we stayed, great stuff. 

Bread really is the staff of life and by making it yourself you know what the ingredients are and where they come from, you can give the bread time to rise, you can be sure it has taste (something sadly missing from supermarket bread) and you can be sure that it will be digestable. Take back this staple and make it yours! Let’s be  nation of home bread makers rather than soft pappy bread eaters.

So back to Christmas, this year why not give someone (or yourself) a bread making book, or a bread machine or a course on bread making? You’ll reap the rewards next year.

 

 

and don’t forget to watch the video http://www.breadmatters.com/andrew-whitleys-do-lecture 

Oh and we will be having cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sourdough spelt loaf for sandwiches on Christmas day.

want some good baking books? click here

My favourite cabbage recipe

I used to hate cabbage as a child but I love it now and this is one of my favourite ways. From Delia Smith’s Cookery Course Part 1 published 1978 – thank you Delia.

Cabbage with Garlic and Juniper

Ingredients

1 lb cabbage prepared and shredded (use any but I prefer savoy), 1/2 medium onion, 1 clove of garlic (crushed), 6 juniper berries, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt & freshly milled black pepper

Method

In a good solid saucepan or flameproof casserole, gently heat the olive oil and soften the onion in it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile crush the juniper berries (either in a pestle & mortar or or by crushing them with the back of a tablespoon). Then add these to the onions along with the crushed garlic. Fry for about 1 minute longer, then add the shredded cabbage. Stir it around until it is glistening with oil, season with salt and pepper, then put a lid on and let it cook in its own juice for 10 minutes – stirring once or twice so that it cooks evenly.

I also use leeks instead of onions. So quick and easy but delicious. Goes beautifully with the Christmas dinner.

 

Christmas Sweets

Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets them – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!.

Ingredients

4-5 large oranges, 500g granulated sugar, 1tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate. (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins)

Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)

Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.

Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)

My favourite nearly Christmas Cake

Every year I look forward to clementines – the smell is pure Christmas and I eat them like sweets. It must be a mental reminder of the orange at the bottom of the Christmas stocking calling to my inner child or something – anyway carrying on………………….

This recipe was a real find - Clementine Cake from How To Eat by Nigella Lawson. Easy to make, gluten free and absolutely delicious. I look forward to making this before Christmas.

Ingredients

4 – 5 clementines (around 375g total), 6 eggs, 225g castor sugar, 250g ground almonds, 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder. (If you really want it gluten free use gluten free baking powder or make your own)

Method

Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and take out the pips. Then pulp the whole fruit skin and all, in a food processer.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/ 190 degrees C and butter and line a 21cm springform cake tin.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well adding the pulped clementines.  Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer comes out clean. You may have to cover with foil after about 40mins to prevent the top burning, as you can see from the photo I forgot to do this. Put on a rack to cool then remove from the tin. I agree with Nigella this is better the day after but it doesn’t always last that long.

English Christmas Gingerbread

After the Arundel Fair Trade Fair, once again a great success, I have officially declared Christmas. So here is the first offering.

Christmas English Gingerbread

Here is a lovely recipe for gingerbread biscuits that can be used as tree decorations or even just eaten! This recipe comes from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer and published in 1896. A classic cook book, this was published in America at around the same time as Mrs Beeton was producing her tome. also in the book are recipes for Gossamer Gingerbread and Fairy Gingerbread which I haven’t tried. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Ingredients

1 lb /500g plain flour, 8oz / 250 g butter, 1 cup of caster sugar, 1 tablespoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, black treacle (enough to mix).

Method

Mix the flour, sugar, ginger and salt. Work in the butter with your finger tips and add just enough black treacle to bring the ingredients together (I used around 4 tablespoons). Let stand overnight to get thoroughly chilled. Roll very thinly, cut to shape and bake for 20mins in an over gas mark 5/180c.

Delicious! Merry Christmas – eat well. P.s. yes I did decorate these myself, not a 5yr old.

Arundel Fair Trade and Ethical Christmas Fair

If you are anywhere near Arundel on Sunday 25th don’t miss the Fair Trade Christmas Fair at Arundel Castle.

Event Details

Date: Sunday 25th November, 2012. (N.B. Sunday not Saturday this year.)

Venue:Arundel Castle, West Sussex, BN18 9AB, with access via the Lower Lodge gate in Mill Road. (The rest of the Castle Gardens & Grounds will not be open to the public.)

Time:10.00am – 4.30pm.

There will be FREE entry for the public.

This year for the first time I have a stand there. look forward to seeing you.