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Thursday 31 January 2013

Seville Orange Posset

Fresh from our recent experience with Mr. Gosling ("Where my stitches at?"), I hope you are all enjoying the seasonal delights of the Seville orange. 

If you didn't find any, or didn't even know they were in season, well, it might be too late for you. If that is the unfortunate case, please make a note for next year.

The Seville orange is prized for a great many culinary reasons, and into these I will not go. Know only that I, as well should you, like to use them in the same way that one would a lemon. This means juiced into salad dressings, sliced in a gin and tonic (don't even get me started on that, it's literally unbearably delicious, and I can bear quite a lot of that sort of thing) and squeezed over grilled fish. 

Given their short availability (so annoying - it's like boyfriends and girlfriends: you always want the ones who aren't available), I have stashed some bags of sliced Sevilles in t'freezer and also a few bags of their juice and zest. These precious sachets are expressly for the purposes of posset making.

You see, lemon is all fine and well, but sometimes we need variety. And here it is.

I do feel slightly ghastly to be posting this knowing that the Seville season is basically over now, but ending on a negative note will never do. Let us try for a more positive envoi. Here goes.

I recently made this for dessert when we had some friends over (to watch Brideshead Revisited. Yes, really.). It went over rather well, and then one of them mentioned that we'd given him posset before. Devastated, I sought immediate clarification that we hadn't. (I can't bear the thought of giving people the same thing twice.)

'Oh no,' our guest replied. 'I'm getting confused. That was a meal we once had at Chatsworth.'

Ten out of ten, boys. Ten out of ten.

Seville Orange Posset

You will need:

600ml double cream
130g sugar
3 Seville oranges, juice and grated zest only

  1. This is so simple as to barely require instruction. Heat the cream and sugar together slowly until boiling. Boil for 3 minutes.
  2. Cool.
  3. Add juice and zest, whisk until slightly thickened. Pour into glasses and chill for 4 hours or so. Serves 6 - 8 people.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Seville Orange Marmalade

I know that the shreds of orange peel have floated to the top of my jars, but I have taken the decision not to allow myself to spend even a moment worrying about it. Feel free to on my behalf.

I never thought I would become a marmalade maker. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing a man my age should be doing. In fact, I probably wouldn't even be doing it this year if it weren't for the fact that my mother in law really enjoyed the pink grapefruit stuff I made a while back when we opened a jar at Christmas, and well, you know... Anything to keep in the good books!

I feel the same about one of my other newly rediscovered passions. Knitting. They are both very much stay-at-home-to-avoid-the-cold, cozily antiquated activities. Not manly in any sense. Then I read this. (Well, actually I read about it somewhere else, but this was the first result that Google gave me just now...)

Amazing. I'm not alone. Ryan Gosling does it too.

Ryan Gosling.

Which got me wondering. Is he a marmalade maker as well? I mean, isn't that a lovely idea? Just the absolute loveliest.

Imagine. He could come over to my little house in Cardiff and we could admire the Sevilles I'd bought that morning (which if you're quick, and live in Cardiff, you'll still be able to get from the greengrocer on Albany Rd).

A Seville orange. There is not much else to say. It is sliced in two.

After I'd sliced and juiced the fruit ('Quite a dry orange, the Seville, isn't it, Ryan?'), he could de-pith and shred the rind finely ('It sure is. And full of pips.'), keeping the pulp, seeds and discarded pith to tie up in a square of muslin.

For the sake of clarity, I did this myself. Ryan Gosling is obviously more than capable of making marmalade, and probably would come over to do so if I asked him, but this particular batch is all my own work.

We'd laugh about the word 'pith bag' and, clutching warm mugs of freshly ground coffee, put the citrus rinds on a low heat to simmer slowly and soften.

The conversation would draw to a close, leading to a short silence...

Ryan: (looks at Mr. P with questioning eyes) Well, that's going to need to simmer for about two and a half hours. What are we going to do with ourselves for that long?

Mr. P: (knowing glance and deliberate pause) You know exactly what we're going to do, Ryan.

Clutching our yarn bags, we'd run to the sofa and armchair, snuggle up against the cushions and cast on stitches for matching cabled afghans in luxurious, hand spun alpaca. 

Of course, this perfect idyll would no doubt sour when Ryan realises that it's his turn to sterilise the jars, but still... *sigh* The beauty of yarn and needles. It makes me want to pack everything in, move to Amsterdam and become one of Stephen West's free-spirited dancer friends.


Meanwhile, since that is never going to happen, here's how to get Sevilley while the season lasts...


Seville Orange Marmalade

You will need:

 750g Seville oranges (see above if you're a local!)
1.5 kg granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons

  1. Half the oranges. Juice them, and then scrape out the pulp, pips and as much white pith as possible. Reserve this pulpy mess, and tie it up in a piece of muslin. That there is your pith bag. Slice the orange rinds as thinly or thickly as you like. I think very thinly is better, but will allow you the freedom to choose.
  2. Put the juice, rinds, pith bag and 1.9 litres of water into a large (LARGE!) pan, and cook gently for a few hours until the rind is soft. The liquid will have reduced by about a third.
  3. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly until the setting point (* see note) has been reached. This took about 20 minutes for me, though start checking at 10.
  4. Turn off the heat. Stir gently for a few minutes, to disperse any bubbles, and pour into hot, sterilised jars (* see note). Seal immediately with new lids. Use within 2 years.
NB: To check for setting point: when you start boiling the marmalade, put a saucer in the freezer to chill. After boiling for the required time, drop small dribbles of the marmalade onto the saucer and wait a moment. If, when you poke the puddle of marmalade with your finger the surface forms a wrinkle, the setting point has been reached.

I re-use jars. This recipe will fill 5-6 regular sized ones. To sterilise them, wash the jars (remove any labels) in hot soapy water, then rinse them. Place right side up on a baking sheet and dry them off in a 100°C oven. I leave them in there at that temperature until I'm ready to fill them. I also sterilise the lids by boiling them for 10 minutes. I buy my lids new. Get them from your local kitchen supply store.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Cocoa Chiffon Cake

Is it too late to say 'Happy New Year'? I don't really know what the protocol is for that. I'm sure many would say we are too late into 2013 now, but as someone who still had Christmas decorations up until late last night, I feel safe flying in the face of adversity. I hope it will be joyful and prosperous for each and every one of you.

I trust you all had a wonderful holiday season; I was at home for Christmas (and want to eat that dinner again now!) and away for New Year, which gave me chance to introduce some friends and colleagues to that most frivolous and camp of seasonal drinks, The Snowball. They went down a treat!

This is the time of year when I would normally be faffing around with lamingtons, and although I did consider doing another round of Re-Invention, I have decided against it. Apologies to all, but part of my New Year pledge to myself is to at least try and eat less sugary stuff. Obviously I'll still be baking as much as ever, but I just can't handle adding coconut covered cake cubes to the pile of leftover Christmas cake, cookies and chocolate that we have yet to make a dent in.

Now. A new year means a fresh start. And that means it is time to talk resolutions. I figure that sharing mine might make me more likely to stick to them. Thus, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Make more time for family. I live so far away from them that they probably think I forget about them, even though I don't.
  2. Be nicer to my husband. I don't want to get divorced. 
  3. 'Date Night' - at least one every time I'm home. If it's good enough for Barack and Michelle...
  4. Not be so obsessed about saving set amounts of my salary each month. I need to enjoy myself as well as take care of the pennies!
  5. Work on the side project I've been procrastinating about for far too long now.
  6. Knit myself a sweater. It is time.
I am sure I'll add to this list, but it seems good enough for now. I was going to add 'Get a decent pepper grinder', but I accomplished that at the end of last year.

I thought it fitting that the first recipe for 2013 should be a special one. And this Cocoa Chiffon is surely that. It's not only Mr. Other P's favourite cake ever, but also one he makes himself. Yeah - you all thought I was the only baker in this house. Well you were wrong! This chiffon was the flavour of the latter part of 2012 in Casa P, and now it can be yours as well. I've served it in the photo with some ice-cream, but what you really want on the side is a generous slick of chilled and creamy peppermint crème anglaise. Fortunately, I am also providing you with the recipe for that. Happy, happy.

Mr. Other P's Cocoa Chiffon Cake

You will need:

50g best quality cocoa powder
175ml boiling water
125ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
350g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs, separated, plus 4 extra egg whites (keep the yolks for the crème anglaise)
1 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

  1. Heat the oven to 160°C. Have ready a 25cm angel cake tin. Do not grease or line it
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool slightly and add the vanilla and oil, followed by the egg yolks. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients and tip them into the wet mixture. Beat everything well until you have a thick, smooth batter.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold this meringue into the chocolate and flour mixture, and transfer to the cake tin.
  4. Bake for 60 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Immediately invert the cake, till in its tin, on a wire rack and leave to cool. When it has completely cooled (give it a good hour and a half or so), run a knife round the edge of the pan. Remove the base (you'll need to use your knife here too - chiffon cake sticks to the pan!), turn the cake the right way up and serve in thick slices with the custard sauce below or whatever you like.
Peppermint Crème Anglaise 

You will need:

4 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
300ml single cream

  1. Beat the first three ingredients together until smooth. You can add a little extra sugar if you like a very sweet sauce, but for me, this is fine.
  2. Heat the cream in a small pan until it starts to steam and there are small bubbles forming at the edges.Pour a little onto the yolk mixture and beat the mixture with a whisk to temper the egg yolks. Slowly, still beating, add the remaining milk, pour the whole lot back into the pan and heat gently, stirring, for a few minutes. Strain the mixture into a jug and chill until needed.

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