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Making Marmalade

Marmalade

This week I’ve taken on a new preserving interest: marmalade! What brought this on was not the imminent end of Seville Orange season, but rather the discovery of a new fruit: the Bergamot orange!

The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester has been stocking Bergamots the last few weeks. I’d never seen or heard of them before, but on a recent visit to the shop, while waiting in the check-out line with my shopping, I heard the woman in front of me talking excitedly about the contents of her brown paper bag: “I’ve heard of people using them in gin and tonics, but I think they’ll make an excellent hot tea!”

Naturally, the mention of “gin and tonic” got my attention, so I asked her what she was talking about and she kindly revealed the contents of her bag – a bundle of little “Bergamots”, something I’d never seen before. So I decided to get a few and find out what the fuss was all about. Indeed they do make great tea, and are wonderful juiced in smoothies (I surprisingly haven’t tried the gin and tonics yet).

Bergamot mania at breakfast this morning: Earl Grey tea and fresh #juice featuring Bergamot & ginger.

Knowing that my access to Bergamots (and organic ones at that!) would be short lived, I wanted to do something to preserve the bounty. My friend Kavey picked some up last weekend and preserved them in syrup following her same recipe for candied clementines. I decided to use the opportunity to finally have a go at making marmalade, one of my favourite preserves and something I find far more versatile than jams (case in point: buckwheat crepes with marmalade and toasted flaked almonds – superb!).

I read up on marmalade and was immediately intimidated by the numerous steps involved. Peeling, blanching, soaking, slicing, boiling, de-seeding and wrapping things in muslin. Different people seem to have different methods, and as I read, my brain became a fog, so much so that I could no longer differentiate between pith, pulp and peel.

Fortunately I found a couple of recipes that helped simplify it all for me.

Making marmalade

First was David Lebovitz’s Bergamot Marmalade recipe which I followed almost exactly. I was about 100g short of sugar which meant it took longer to set but the result was still freakin’ delicious and achieved my hopes of encapsulating that Bergamot goodness in a long-lasting form. Since making this, I’m finding as many excuses as possible to use it. Turns out marmalade is an excellent addition to Chinese stir-fry. (See what I mean about marmalade’s versatility?)

Marmalade

I was so excited by the success of my Bergamot marmalade that I decided to do it all over again with grapefruit and lemons. I had a hunch that grapefruit would require some special treatment, being so thick-skinned and pithy, so I went back to my marmalade recipe research and found Pam Corbin’s whole fruit method for making marmalade in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (the recipe uses Seville oranges but you can adapt it for other fruits). The recipe involves boiling the whole fruit to soften the skin, then halving and de-seeding the fruit before slicing it into strips. Again, for this marmalade newbie, I appreciated finding a recipe that was crystal clear about every step (and didn’t require me tying anything in muslin).

(I know I’m being a whiney pants about the muslin thing and I’m sure if I saw someone do it I’d feel silly for ever being so intimidated. But at the same time, this marmalade making is unfamiliar territory to me, and the more a recipe requires me to do additional Google research to follow it, the less likely I am to actually make the recipe!)

While the grapefruit marmalade was boiling away, I gave it a taste and thought it was a little TOO bitter. Some sort of divine intervention from the marmalade gods took over (or was it subconscious remembrance of the Hawkshead relish company) and I decided to add some ginger. Marmalade transformed!

Marmalade

Some other marmalades I’d like to try:

 

Turkish Style Flatbreads

Turkish Style Flatbread

My bread mojo has been lacking lately. I feel like I’ve had a long string of loaves that are too flat, flatbread that is too dry, lacklustre sourdough starter and cardboard-esque pizza bases. It has me feeling a little ho-hum about bread, while desperately craving something great.

I decided to try two things: first, a new recipe. I opted for the Turkish flatbread from the River Cottage Bread Handbook. The second thing I tried was following the recipe exactly – no cutting corners, no experimenting with different flours. Instead, I paid attention to what I was doing and put my faith in the recipe. It didn’t let me down.

The dough includes yogurt and olive oil to create a soft pillowy flatbread. The dough wasn’t as wet as what I’m used to, but I resisted the urge to add (very much) extra water and let it do it’s thing. It rose as it should, and it was very easy to roll.

Making flatbread

Making flatbread

I love flatbread because you can roll the dough into whatever size you want – big ol’ flatbreads for sharing with friends, or little mini breads to stack and freeze and keep on hand for whenever you need it. I rolled mine into about 4″ diameter, 3mm thick (do you like how I’m mixing my measurement systems?) and then got on with the baking.

The recipe calls for the rolled-out dough to be baked quickly on a hot skillet, and then finished in the grill. You can imagine my delight as I saw the dough puff and rise on the stovetop.

Making flatbread

What you don’t see, however, is the bread rapidly burning underneath! Lesson learned: these flatbread bake VERY quickly, and it’s a little fraught working with the skillet and then the grill. I ended up making most of the flatbreads on the outdoor BBQ because it’s much cleaner, harder to burn and you can make more than one flatbread at once!

Making flatbread

The resulting flatbreads weren’t so “flat” at all, but they were exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been eating them with gusto with raw kale salads and beetroot and walnut hummus (another River Cottage recipe). Most importantly, however, I feel relieved to have had a baking success. The mojo is returning. Next up, sourdough?

Turkish Style Flatbread

Turkish Style Flatbreads
 

Ingredients
  • 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g powdered dried yeast
  • 20g fine salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 325ml natural yoghurt, warmed
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra for coating

Instructions
  1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt, water and yoghurt in a bowl to form a sticky dough. If it seems really dry, and you’re having trouble working all the flour into the dough, add more water, a little bit at a time. Add the oil, mix it in. Knead until smooth and silky (either by hand or with a machine – I use a mixer with a dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes).
  2. Shape the dough into a round, then place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
  3. Deflate the dough, then if you have time, leave to rise a second, third, even a fourth time (this improves the dough but is by no means essential).
  4. Tear off pieces the size of small lemons (or smaller, or larger, if you like) one at a time, shape into a round, then using plenty of flour, roll out to a 3-4mm thickness and leave to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  5. To bake on the stove / grill: Heat a large heavy based frying pan over the highest heat and set the grill to maximum. When the pan is super-hot, lay the first bread in it. After a minute or possibly less the bread should be puffy and starting to char on the bottom. Slide the pan under the hot grill, a good 15cm from the heat, and watch your creation balloon magnificently. Remove the bread when it starts to char on the top, brush on some olive oil, then server.
  6. To bake on a BBQ: Make sure the BBQ is good and hot. Lay the rolled out dough directly on the BBQ. You’ll see it start to bubble and puff. When it starts to char, flip it over and cook until it starts to char on the other side, too. Remove, brush on some olive oil and serve.