Kitchen stories: Oranges are the only fruit
By Sybil Kapoor
Published: January 7 2011 22:01 | Last updated: January 7 2011 22:01
|Testers at the Marmalade Awards in Cumbria|
Like most avid marmalade makers, Dr Yen-Chung Chong’s methods are very particular. The retired biochemist, based in Brighton first squeezes the juice from Sicilian blush oranges and some lemons. Then he filters the liquid overnight through a jelly bag, reboils the debris with water and adds hand-cut rind. The liquids and zest are boiled with white cane sugar and home-made Seville orange pectin; finally, he pours in campari.
This quirky recipe won Dr Chong the “double-gold” laurels at last year’s World’s Original Marmalade Awards, held annually in Cumbria. Established in 2006 by Jane Hasell-McCosh, this sticky celebration has shown that home cooks and small artisan makers are doing much to change a delicacy that has been made in Britain for more than 300 years, but has made little progress save for switching from a dinner-table treat to a breakfast toast staple.
“I love marmalade and I really wanted to do something to try and improve its quality,” Hasell-McCosh says. “Amazingly, it’s taken on a life all of its own. Last year we had over 800 entries.” British shops sell Seville oranges in the last three weeks of January, so the festival is held over a weekend in mid-February at Hasell-McCosh’s stately home, Dalemain Mansion, crammed for two days with tables laden with amber- and russet-coloured jars.
Hasell-McCosh receives entries from all over the world, including a yuzu marmalade from Japan, which is “definitely an acquired taste”. To meet demand, she has added three new categories to the competition – International, Inventive and Family Affair. All of which might sound a little eccentric, until you realise that Hasell-McCosh is a natural marmalade marketing genius. Amateurs can enter myriad groups, from Military and Clergy to Bed and Breakfast. The entry money goes to charity.
Everyone from Michael Bond (author of the Paddington Bear books) to manufacturers such as Thursday Cottage are involved. As Pam Corbin, judge and author of The River Cottage Handbook No 2: Preserves, says: “it’s a marvellous meeting place for marmalade makers, and it’s gaining momentum year on year.”
|A competing marmalade|
Jonathan Miller, a buyer at Fortnum & Mason, is also interested. “Fortnum’s wants to encourage small niche makers who use small-batch, open-pan methods,” he says. “Last year, the festival’s artisan category had some brilliant marmalades including a kumquat marmalade from Museu de la Confitura in Spain and a Wake-Up Marmalade made with a little chilli from Wild & Fruitful in Cumbria.” The latter is now sold in Fortnum’s, alongside Ludlow Food Centre’s dark Lady Windsor’s Marmalade, made with molasses.
Everyone who enters gets feedback. Lord Henley, who entered the Peers & Political category, managed to improve his marmalade to such a degree that last year he won his group prize, beating a Scottish MP. Victor Gubbins, ex-Royal Dragoons and winner of last year’s best Military marmalade, is not afraid of the strong competition involved, even within his own household: “As my wife also enters the festival, I make my marmalade after she’s gone to bed.”
The range of methods is extraordinary, from the traditional formula of cooking whole Seville oranges to simmering the cut peel in an Aga oven. “I still find it amazing that just by cooking citrus fruit and sugar in a pan you get such variety and complexity,” Miller says. Clearly, this is just the start of a British marmalade renaissance.
The 2011 festival runs February 12-13 (entries must be in by February 7); www.marmaladeawards.com
Paddington Bear's favourite marmalade buns
Published: July 19 2008 03:00 | Last updated: July 19 2008 03:00
Paddington is one of an illustrious line of hungry bears in children's literature and many youngsters are first introduced to marmalade by his passion for it. One of the joys of coming to London from Darkest Peru, where marmalade is scarce and regarded as a special treat, is that he is allowed by the generous Brown family to have marmalade every day (and honey on Sundays). So Paddington is able to buy his favourite marmalade buns with his pocket money, take marmalade sandwiches to the theatre and bring a jar of marmalade to the seaside.
While marmalade sandwiches may be too much of a good thing for younger palates, marmalade buns are more gently orangey. So here is a recipe for marmalade buns that would appeal to Paddington. The kind of bun he might enjoy for elevenses with his good friend Mr Gruber, who keeps an antique shop on Portobello Road in London: "Mr Gruber usually had a bun and a cup of cocoa in the morning for what he called 'elevenses', and he had taken to sharing it with Paddington. 'There's nothing like a chat over a bun and cocoa,' he used to say, and Paddington, who liked all three, agreed with him even though the cocoa did make his whiskers go a funny colour."
How wonderfully cosy sounding and utterly irresistible.
This recipe is very flexible and can be made as buns (small sponge cakes) or a single cake in a loaf tin. I ice my buns/cake with icing sugar and fresh orange juice but they are also delicious without icing - and make far less mess in suitcases. It's worth reinstating elevenses simply as an excuse to eat them. It makes one large cake or 12 small buns. You need a 12-bun tray and 12 paper cases or a large (25x11x7cm) loaf tin, greased with butter and lined with baking parchment.
Ingredients 175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange (unwaxed)
Juice of ½ orange
2 rounded tbs thin-cut marmalade
175g self-raising flour
For the icing
200g icing sugar
Juice of 1 orange
Orange food-colouring paste (optional)
*Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the paper cases, if using, in the bun tin.
*In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one until fully incorporated into the mix. Add the orange zest, juice and marmalade and stir in thoroughly.
*Add the flour and fold in gently with a metal spoon.
*Divide the mix equally between the paper cases and place them in the bun tray or spoon it into the loaf tin.
*If you are making one cake, bake for 40-50 minutes but check after 35 minutes. Use a metal skewer or sharp knife to test if it's ready. Insert it in the cake and if any trace of uncooked mixture comes out on the skewer or knife the cake is not fully cooked. Return it to the oven and bake until the knife or skewer comes out clean. If you find your cake is browning a little too quickly, place a sheet of foil on top to prevent it burning.
*If you are making a dozen small buns, bake for approximately 20 minutes.
*Transfer the tin(s) to a wire rack and leave the buns/cake to cool. Do not begin to ice them until they are completely cold.
*To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add half the orange juice and a tiny amount of orange food-colouring paste, if using, and mix. Add as much juice as it takes to make the icing thick and glossy and spread the icing over the buns/cake.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.