Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Tale of Two Marmalades

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Having stumbled across the Marmalade Awards website (here) which is hosted at Dalemain in my home county of Cumbria, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and to make my own marmalade. Having made jam for over 10 years I figured how hard can it be?

A quick trawl of the Internet and my cookery books showed me that there is not much variation in ingredients, but plenty of variation in methodology.

Thanks to the lovely people in Twitterland advising that farm shops were the best source of Seville oranges, I took a quick trip to Fannys Farm Shop in Merstham to pick up 2 kilos of oranges (and indulge in a delicious scone whilst I was there)!

I also found out that they do a marmalade competition. So now I have two competitions to enter!

The recipe I used was 1kg Seville oranges, 2kg sugar and juice of 1 large lemon. Simples no?

Marmalade Number 1 – Thick Cut

My favourite preserving book is River Cottage Preserves by Pam Corbin (try making the sweet pickled damsons – they look a bit odd, but taste amazing!). So I decided follow her method – principally because it didn’t involve fiddling with bits of muslin!

First I washed and cut the oranges in half (removing the green bit at the top) and squeezed them.

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I used a wooden fruit reamer and let the pips fall into a sieve.

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Then I chopped up the fruit – peel, pith and all. I guess this would be classed as thick peel.

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I added the peel to the juice with 2.5 litres of water and left it to soak overnight.

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The next day I boiled it for about an hour and a half until the peel was soft. Then added 2kg of Demerara sugar and the lemon juice, and slowly heated it until the sugar dissolved.

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Then heated it to a rolling boil until it reached setting point. This is supposed to be 105 degrees centigrade. Not that I would know as my jam thermometer is rubbish! I use the plate in the freezer approach, and occasional teaspoons of marmalade to test for set.

I filled half my jars and then added 25ml of Amaretto to the rest of the marmalade in the pan. Having tasted it, the amount of Amaretto was too small as the marmalade is very strong tasting so you can’t really taste the Amaretto.

So…..Ta da…. Here is the finished product. It tastes absolutely amazing. Bitter and sweet all at the same time.

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Marmalade Number 2 – Thin Cut

Having made some thick cut marmalade I wanted to have a go at competition standard thin cut. According to lots of recipes I could do the same as the thick cut but just shred it finer. But I thought It would be difficult to get the peel very fine so I found a different method, which I will outline below.

This time I peeled the oranges with a potato peeler, leaving as much pith on the orange as possible.

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Then I shredded the peel finely (it took forever – I did it in front of TV on Saturday night!).

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I then laid a piece of muslin (50cm square, though I would recommend larger) over a bowl and squeezed the oranges into it, dropping the pips and discarded outlets into the muslin.

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I put the shredded peel, squeezed juice and 2.5 litres of water into a bowl and added the pith and peel that I had knotted into the muslin.

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(That’s actually in the pan, but you get the gist).

I then put a plate over the top to push down the muslin (and keep it under the water), and weighed it down with tins and jars. I left this overnight to soak.

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The next day I boiled it for about 90 minutes to soften the peel, and then squeezed the muslin into the pan to get all of the pectin out. Then I added 2kg of white sugar and the lemon juice, heated gently until it was dissolved and then boiled it at a rolling boil.

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And this is where something went wrong. For some reason the marmalade never really set, and what I have ended up with is really delicious tasting marmalade syrup!

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I’m assuming it was something to do with not extracting enough pectin from the pith, but I’m not 100% sure. Some recipes treat the lemon the same as the oranges. Maybe that would boost the pectin levels. Advice would be most gratefully accepted.

I will let you know how I get in in the competitions. Obviously I will be entering the thick cut version!

Oh and see if you can spot the deliberate mistake on the labels!!

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Fat Free Chicken Curry

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It’s the New Year, and it’s most definitely time to lose weight. So it’s back in the Slimming World diet (without actually re-joining the club – I have all the books now!).

I did this last year and lost 1 1/2 stones, so I know it works for me, and one of my favourite things to eat was a fat free curry. By my reckoning it’s ‘syn free’ in Slimming World speak, which basically means on the ‘extra easy’ plan you can eat as much as you like. Yes really!!

So I thought I would share my recipe with you. I make a big pot and freeze portions for days when I can’t be bothered to cook, or sometimes I take it into work for lunch.

There are not really precise amounts or particular ingredients that I use, just what’s in the fridge and cupboard, but do try and get a good mix of veg, as that makes it stretch further.

Fry light cooking spray
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 chicken breasts, skin and any visible fat removed (I use free range), chopped into bite sized chunks
Curry powder (not paste)
1 large carrot, chopped
Green beans, halved
Handful of new potatoes, halved
Handful of mushrooms (I like chestnut mushrooms)
Can of chickpeas, drained
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube
Bunch of coriander, chopped
Bag of fresh spinach

Spray your pan with Fry Light (this is essential -don’t use oil as this is what makes it fat free!) and add the onions. Put a lid on and sweat the onions over a low heat for about 10 minutes. If they start to brown too much add a little water to stop them sticking. You want them to be soft and translucent.

Add the peppers and let them soften, then add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Turn up the heat and add the chicken allowing it to brown slightly. Then chuck in the curry powder using the amount recommended on the pack. It doesn’t really matter which curry powder you use. I like Sharwoods, but use whatever you have. Do not use curry paste as this usually has oil added. Mix to coat the contents of the pan then cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the rest of the veg (not the spinach or chickpeas) and stir. If you are using cauliflower or broccoli add it later as it cooks quicker than the other veg and can go mushy if you overcook it.

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Add the canned tomatoes, stock cube and enough water to make a slightly runny sauce (fill one of the cans about half way- that should be enough). Don’t worry if its too runny, you can boil it off later.

Add 2/3rds of the coriander and the can of chickpeas. Stir and put the lid on.

Cook until the chicken and veg are all cooked through. If the sauce is a bit thin take off the lid and cook for a while to allow some of the liquid to boil off.

Add the spinach and remainder of the coriander. Put the lid back on and allow it to wilt, then stir it in.

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It should look like this…

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And I like to serve it with rice and a huge dollop of fat free Greek yoghurt.

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The recipe would work equally well with prawns instead of chicken, just add them at the end of the cooking time.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and syn free recipes.