baking with marmalade :: 2

P1270246This, my second marmalade cake, got a thumbs up from the entire family — I expect this had something to do with the fact that it was iced. But it’s also a lighter, brighter-tasting cake than the chocolate version in the last post.

The recipe is from Jane Brocket’s Vintage Cakes and it works a treat. I made two slight modifications — using the juice and zest of Sevilles rather than ordinary oranges, and a mix of Muscovado and caster sugar because I didn’t have any soft brown sugar to hand.

It’s the usual sponge cake method, with marmalade, orange juice and zest incorporated after the sugar, butter and eggs but before the addition of the flour. It takes ten minutes to whip up and then around 45 minutes to bake, depending on your oven. The difficult part was resisting the temptation to dig in before the cake had cooled enough to be iced.

P1270257

And that’s it on the baking front for the moment. I do have a few more marmalade recipes up my sleeve, but I think it is possible to have too much of a good thing, so I’m calling time on the cakes for a while (the recipe, however, is at the end of the post).

I’ve had a rather domestic, low-key start to the year, which has been a real treat. But work is gearing up again. Last week James and I visited several exciting houses in Bristol and today I’m off to London for a really lovely shoot for The Guardian. The house is in Peckam, my old neighbourhood, and belongs to a very talented friend, Rachael,  whose work you can see here. More on all of this next week.

MARMALADE CAKE

Ingredients: 175g soft butter; 175g light soft brown sugar (or mix as described above); 3 eggs; grated zest of 1 (Seville) orange; juice of half an orange (Seville in this instance); (optional: 25g candied peel, which I didn’t use as my marmalade was quite chunky); 3 rounded dessert spoons of marmalade – I made mine very generous; 200g self raising flour.

Method: preheat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180c

1/ beat or whisk butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

2/ add the grated orange zest, juice and marmalade (candied peel too, if you are using it) and mix in gently. Next sift the flour into the mixture and fold in gently.

3/ spoon the mixture into a greased and floured tin and bake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes, but start checking after about 30.

Ice once completely cool using 150g icing sugar mixed with the juice of an orange. Again, I used a seville (I’ve still got another 20 or so to get through!).

seville season

P1270200Blink and you miss them: the season for Seville oranges is so short that many greengrocers and supermarkets don’t get round to stocking them at all. And if you fail to bag a kilo or two in January, early February if you are lucky, you can forget about making marmalade for another year.

I suspect that I am more in thrall to the ritual of making marmalade than I am to the  marmalade itself. I like the idea of tracking my prey (has anyone spotted them in the shops yet, I ask fellow marmalade makers), gathering the jars and then setting aside a day in which to juice, slice, boil and then bottle these unpromising oranges which are so bitter and lacking in actual fruit it’s a wonder that anything good can be done with them at all.

P1270175This year it’s fair to say that I’ve gone a little overboard. No one, not even the keenest marmalade maker, needs more than a couple of kilos of Seville oranges. But a fruitless search (excuse the pun) for marmalade oranges in my local shops resulted in a trip to Bristol’s fruit and veg market with my mother-in-law, Sue, where a kind of madness came over us. We were offered 20kg/44lbs of Sevilles for £17 with a few lemons thrown in for free. It seemed to silly to say no.

I have now made sixteen jars of marmalade with roughly 2kg and given 2kg to a friend. This leaves me with another six kg to deal with. Hmm…

P1270186And then, as I put my jars away, I found three jars of marmalade from January 2012. Vintage marmalade, you might say. It looks a little fudge-like so I’ve decided it needs using up quickly. Some will go in a marinade; some in a chocolate cake; and I now have it on good authority from various Instagramers that bread and butter and marmalade pudding is the business.

But of course none of this deals with the Seville orange mountain on the kitchen table. So I spent yesterday evening doing a little googling and have come up with some interesting recipes for the oranges themselves rather than clever things to do with marmalade. I will report on my experiments.

And tomorrow I’ll post the marmalade recipe I use.

St Philip’s Wholesale Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Market: Albert Crescent, St Philips Monday to Friday, 5am – 11am Saturday 5am – 9am

thank pippin it’s friday!

P1250472At the girls’ primary school, SATS week is known as doughnut week because the children’s efforts are rewarded with a daily doughnut. Some might see that as a double-dose of ill health, but the doughnuts certainly take the edge off the exams and really, in the greater scheme of things, where’s the harm in a one-off week-long doughnut binge? Slightly more questionable is Doughnut Day, a ritual which our family has embraced with alarming ease, and celebrated with grave commitment, ever since Joe first came across the Pippin Doughnut stall on Wine Street.

P1250471I comfort myself with the fact that our Doughnut Day doughnuts are no ordinary doughnuts — and they really are, as you will see, extraordinary doughnuts — but there’s no way round the fact that what we are talking about here is a ball of dough which has been fried and then rolled in sugar. I’m not sure whether I’m trying to excuse our addiction or justify it, but the bottom line is Pippin doughnuts are delicious  I say that as someone who doesn’t even like doughnuts — and the reason we have just one doughnut day each week is entirely down to the fact that the Pippin Doughnuts only come to Bristol on Fridays*. They are also rather expensive at £1.30 each, £6.50 for six, or £10.95 for twelve.

P1250468But then again, the ingredients used to create the doughnuts are far from cheap and the dough, which is proved twice to improve texture and flavour, takes a long time to make. With homemade fillings as delicious and varied as gooseberry jam, lemon curd and rhubarb & custard, I think it’s fair to say that Pippin doughnuts are about as far removed from your usual supermarket doughnuts (Krispy Kreme included) as you can get. I think of them as being like Stella Artois: reassuringly expensive and much, much tastier.

P1250474

P1250480 P1250482The girls may forget their school books, PE kit, packed lunches, front door keys, shoes and socks even, but every Friday, whilst grumbling at each other over the breakfast table, they remember to place their doughnut order.

P1250486In the photographs above you can see last week’s box which contained three Bear Claws (this is what a Canadian friend says the oddly shaped cinnamon-coated doughnuts are called back home, but I think Pippin just list them as cinnamon and sugar), one chocolate ganache, one gooseberry and, just out of sight, a cappuccino doughnut with a coffee custard filling and topped with coffee icing and a dusting of cocoa powder.

P1250487Gourmet cup cakes your days are numbered, the designer doughnuts have arrived!

http://www.pippindoughnuts.co.uk, pippinbakery@aol.com, 01793 496210                            Pippin Doughnuts Wine Street, Bristol every Friday apart from the last Friday of the month. 

at last…

P1210770…spring has sprung!

P1210766Things are finally happening in the garden: the Amelanchier is now in bloom, the first of the tulips is up — a hanger-on from last year, and the only one in the pot to put in a repeat performance (I thought it worth leaving them by way of an experiment).

P1210759The little clump of violets — which were a freebie, left in a bag attached to a neighbour’s railings — has bulked up and is twice the size it was last year. I am hoping that it will form a mat around the base of the rose, William Lobb, with which it shares bed.

P1210750

P1210748And in the pop-up green house the rocket and sweet pea seedlings are racing away, with runner beans, climbing courgettes (more of which in a later post), cobea scandens (alba and purple varieties), and coriander not far behind.

I’m sorry posts have been rather thin on the ground. I’ve been tied up with the project I mentioned in an earlier post, and on top of that the Bristol 10K is looming. I have become a slave to running and the 5th of May feels very, very close. The time I had in mind for the race (there is no escaping the fact that it is a race, it seems) is, I fear, woefully optimistic. As with the climbing courgettes, more on running anon.

simnel cake :: 2

cakeHere it is, this year’s Simnel cake basking in the only sunshine we’ve had this Easter.

According to Jenny Baker, who cites The Art of British Cooking, by Theodora Fitzgibbon, as her source, Simnel cake derives its name from the Roman siminellus which was a special bread eaten during spring fertility rites. Later, the name attached itself to a fruit cake enriched with marzipan which girls in service were allowed to take home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday. Perhaps the Roman bread was transformed over the years, and it became the enriched cake. Who knows? Either way, the cake has become associated with Easter and, like its Christmas cousin, it is a cake that keeps well. So although Easter Sunday has been and gone, for most families the school holiday has only just begun, which means that there is plenty of time to bake and consume this cake.

So here is the recipe I use, from Jenny Baker’s Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool,  though I imagine that there are many other versions out there online.

This one calls for an 18cm (7inch) tin with tall sides, and I think the dimensions are important as the cake doesn’t rise much — there is no raising agent.

Ingredients:

350g marzipan (the recipe in the last post will give you more than enough, I roll the scraps into balls and dip them in melted chocolate as you can see here if you scroll to the end of the post); 100g butter or margarine; 100g soft brown sugar; 3 large eggs, beaten; 150g plain flour, sifted; 1/2 tsp mixed spice; 350g mixed dried fruit; 50g chopped mixed peel;1 lemon, grated rind and juice; Apricot jam;1 egg white for the glaze.

Heat oven gas mark 3/325/160. Grease and line tin.

Take one third of the marzipan and knead it and roll into a disc the same size as the cake tin. Set to one side

Cream butte and sugar together and once it is light and fluffy add the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the sifted flour, mixed spice , dried fruit, mixed peel, lemon juice and zest.

Pour HALF the mixture into the tin, level it and then place the marzipan disc on top. Pour the rest of the mixture on top, smoothing it over.

Bake for 1 hour at gas mark 3 / 325/160 and then lower the temperature to gas mark 2/ 300/150, and bake for another hour.

Allow cake to cool and turn it onto a rack after about ten minutes. Once totally cold, brush the top with apricot jam, roll another third of the marzipan into a disc and place this on top. With the remaining marzipan make eleven balls (to represent the eleven faithful apostles). Brush with egg white and then return to the oven for ten minutes until the top is lightly browned – gas mark 4/350/190.

Simnel cake :: 1

P1210316I first ate Simnel cake when I was a teenager, whilst on holiday in Wales. I still remember the thick layer of marzipan buried in the middle of the cake coming as a delicious surprise. A surprise twice over, as I was never really a fan of marzipan: I’ve always found it tooth-achingly sweet, though this does ease off during cooking.

I don’t think I came across Simnel cake again until I started making it myself, nine years ago, shortly after Martha was born. I’m not sure what prompted me to make the cake — possibly the discovery of this simple recipe for marzipan — but I have made one every year for the last eight years. Tomorrow I will make my ninth, but today I made the cake’s key ingredient: marzipan.

This recipe is so easy, so satisfying, and frankly, so delicious, that I’ve never bothered with shop-bought packets since. Be warned though, the flavour is far more subtle than the gritty, bright yellow blocks available in the supermarket: gently lemony and not especially sweet and the texture is softly grainy. I’ve blogged about the ease of making marzipan before, but here is the recipe again, this time with step-by-step pictures to prove that it really is a cinch to make. First gather your ingredients …

350g ground almonds; 225g icing sugar (sifted); 3 egg yolks; juice of one lemon.

P1210318Next, mix the almonds with sugar and beat the egg yolks with lemon juice. Then combine the two mixes, and knead together into a ball with your hands, rather like making pastry.

P1210321And voila! Marzipan. It’s quite a sticky mixture, so if you find your hands are still coated with mix, dip them in a little icing sugar, rub together and let the ‘crumbs’ fall onto the ball of marzipan and then dab them in.

The recipe comes from Jenny Baker’s marvellous book Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool.

Now I’m off the make the Simnel cake itself.

a good egg

P1210183

On Thursday night I went to a lovely party at Tart, on the Gloucester Road, to celebrate the publication of A Good Egg — A Year of Recipes From an Urban Hen-Keeper

Genevieve Taylor is the hen-keeper of the title, and her book is a charming and inspiring diary of a year in her kitchen, her garden and her hen-house. When not tending her hens, she is also a very talented food stylist and cook (you’ve doubtless been inspired by something she has created without realising it, as her work has appeared in many magazines and ad campaigns), and the book grew from Genevieve’s blog, The Urban Kitchen, which she started when her first batch of chickens arrived and surprised them all with their dedicated laying: 3-4 eggs a day, every day, all year. That’s a lot of eggs.

P1210185But Genevieve is clear that A Good Egg is not an egg cookery bible (neither is it a how-to for prospective hen-keepers), explaining that it’s “a seasonal diary of all that I did with my eggs, and the food that I grew and gathered to eat alongside them.” In fact it is Genevieve’s passion for seasonality that is at the heart of the book, informing her writing as well as her recipes. A point she proved with a lovely reading from the 14th March which was all about wild garlic; as she read we were treated to slices of wild garlic flamiche (the wild garlic had been gathered locally, that morning), followed by mini mocha eclairs and tiny rhubarb pavlovas. Delicious.

P1210186And the recipes — nine or ten for each month — despite coming from the kitchen of a very talented cook, are by no means complicated or fussy; rather they are dishes designed for busy family life: delicious, wholesome and speedy. Of course the temptation is to say “Pah!” to seasonality and leap ahead with the help of the supermarket — which in the case of Crisp cannellini bean and Courgette Fritters is exactly what I intend to do. Other recipes to whet your appetite include a Peach and Almond cake with lavender syrup; English Nicoise of Smoked Trout, Jersey Royals and Asparagus; Courgette and Lime muffins; Broad bean, Feta and Mint Omelette… I could go on… and on!

P1210184

The book is a rather beautiful object in its own right — a Tiffany-blue-green cloth cover, with an (egg yolk?) yellow ribbon for marking favourite pages — illustrated throughout with wonderful, hunger-inducing photographs, taken by Bristol-based photographer, Jason Ingram (his blog is over there to the right of the screen and well worth exploring).

P1210187

This last image I include, because it sums up for me, Genevieve’s un-fussy, straightforward approach to cooking: for who hasn’t failed on the planning-ahead at some point? I am  regularly caught out by the dastardly line, hidden in many a recipe, which runs something like “… and now leave in the fridge for 12 hours, preferably 24.” No! No! No! My friends are arriving in four hours’ time, not tomorrow, goddammit! Though I must stress, this particular recipe does not offer a clever route around the protracted process of making a Christmas Pudding. It’s just that I liked her admission that tradition and rules don’t dominate her kitchen or her recipes — in this case it’s her failure to make the Christmas pud on Stir Up Sunday. Her Carbonara with cavolo nero is probably a better example, not least because she describes it as “inauthentic in the extreme,” though it sounds heavenly.

And finally, as I have already said, although A Good Egg is not a guide to keeping chickens, be warned, it will certainly tempt you to have a go. Last night, as I thumbed through my copy, I found myself considering all manner of bizarre constructions — tree house!? — in order to add a chicken or two to our household even though I know our garden is far too small.

veg street

veg streetHaving spent the last week with my head in her new book, Veg Street, Grow Your Own Community, I rang Naomi Schillinger this morning in order to check a few things before writing this review. It was meant to be a quick call, just five minutes or so, but forty minutes later when I rang off, I realised that a quick chat is a vain hope once two gardeners, or obsessives of any kind, for that matter, get going. There is always more to discuss.

Naomi is fabulously enthusiastic about gardening, and our not-so-little chat was illuminating in many ways. Not least on the question of how she managed to get so many people in her community, many of whom were strangers to her as well as to each other, to start growing vegetables en masse. But, having spoken to Naomi, although I remain impressed that over 100 households are now involved in her scheme, I’m no longer surprised: her energy and her passion for growing vegetables is infectious. Every neighbourhood could do with a Naomi. Sadly that isn’t possible, but her book is certainly the next best thing to having Naomi at your side.

The book (and the community scheme) is the result of Naomi’s decision to turn her sunny front garden over to growing vegetables having been defeated by the shade in her back garden. And as anyone who has ever spent time pottering in a front garden will know, before long passers by will stop for a chat and a little update on what you’re growing. Naomi’s success with runner beans, leeks and lettuces attracted just this sort of attention, and neighbours began to follow her lead. Fast forward four years to last summer, and the front gardens of Naomi’s neighbourhood were brimming with beans, courgettes, potatoes and sweet corn, along with all the usual front garden fare.

Although Veg Street is, at its heart, the story of Naomi’s neighbourhood gardening scheme (and she’s generous when it comes to information on how to set up something similar), the book is by no means limited to community gardening. In fact the emphasis is really on gardening in small spaces: from front gardens to balconies, grow bags to window boxes.

Organised month by month, with seasonal task lists, detailed directions on planting and propagating, as well as regular ‘simple but brilliant’ ideas (the paddling pool plant watering system is particularly inspired), Veg Street manages to be both down to earth and inspiring. I’d recommend the book to anyone who has ever wanted to grow fruit and vegetables, but has either felt overwhelmed by the prospect, or simply frustrated by lack of space. The list of edible flowers in particular, is fantastic: I had no idea that you could eat hollyhock flowers or daylilies.

wigwamIt’s safe to say that Veg Street has reignited my interest in growing vegetables. After last year’s dismal weather, I’d rather given up on the idea of trying to grow anything to eat in my garden. In the picture above you can see what became known to me as the wigwam of doom — erected last spring in a moment of heady optimism, it remained bare throughout the summer as successive bean seedlings were devoured by slugs.

But Naomi has convinced me to try again, and on her recommendation, I raced out to Wilkinson’s last week and bagged a mini greenhouse. At the weekend I filled it with trays of seeds. And inspired by Naomi’s success with growing potatoes in containers, I’ve ear-marked an old metal dustbin for just this purpose. I shall keep you posted on my progress. And until then I’d suggest that you track down a copy of Naomi’s book and pay a visit to her blog, Out of My Shed (she’s running a giveaway, hurry, hurry, hurry!)

happy christmas

P1190649                                   We had a lovely day, hope you did too.

P1190650

and, better late than never, our wreath …

P1190516made from a swatch of weeping birch twigs which I found on the pavement on Christmas morning last year and kept for just this purpose. A rare (and embarrassingly excessive), bit of forward planning.

christmas: making and baking

baking plansTime to dust off a favourite cookery book – Linda Collister’s Christmas Treats to Make and GiveThe girls are still in full baking mode (both Martha and Bea have been to GB Bake-off themed birthday parties in the last fortnight, and their cousin is threatening Matilda with something similar along the lines of Come Dine With Me), so I thought it would be a good idea to channel their enthusiasm and get them to bake some Christmas presents.

For my part, I am planning to make a few treats from Diana Henry’s excellent Salt Sugar Smoke. I have already raided Ikea’s kitchen department and have a large stash of jars at the ready, along with some really lovely labels (also from the Swedish giant). Just need to brave the high street in search of the ingredients…