Marmalade time!

January means Seville Oranges which, of course, means Marmalade! Make sure you have a good sharp knife to cope with with the lengthy job of shredding the orange peel which is at the heart of a good marmalade. The job is always fiddly and best done with company, so Libby and I set to work. After much chopping and peeling and chatting all the peel, juice, pith and pips were simmering away into a suitable softness. If you’re after a recipe to try, give ours a go!

Seville Orange Marmalade

What you need

1kg Seville oranges

Juice from 2 lemons

4 pints water

2Kg sugar

What you do

Preparing the oranges
Cut the oranges in half and squeeze the juice into a large pan through a sieve to catch all the pips.
Using a spoon, scrape the pith and flesh from the orange peel and put to one side.
Carefully cut the peel into thin strips. The peel swells a bit, so remember to make them a little thinner, but it’s up to you how fine you like your marmalade peel.
Place the peel in the pan with the fruit juices and water. Tie the reserved pith, flesh and pips in a large piece of muslin to make a bag, and put this in the water too. This will provide the pectin for your marmalade to set with.
Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour or two, until the peel has softened, and the liquid reduced by about a half.
Remove from the heat and squeeze the liquid from the muslin bag into the pan. You can get rid of the pips and stuff now, you should have enough pectin in your mix.

Jam Pan

Add the sugar to the pan and stir to dissolve.
When the sugar has dissolved, return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil.
Boil rapidly until the setting point is reached, then remove from the heat, skim any scum from the surface and leave for 15 minutes before putting in warm sterilised jars. Seal the jars and leave to cool completely

Once the marmalade is boiling rapidly, it looks quite frothy and exciting. The only thing to consider is the elusive “setting point”. This is normally reached once enough water has evaporated to allow the marmalade to reach 105degC so the pectin is activated and will make the jam set. I have gone for accuracy in the form of a Digital Candy Thermometer, with a handy pan clip and an alarm as the desired temperature is reached. You can also test the marmalade for setting by putting a little of it on a cold plate and seeing if it wrinkles when you push a finger through it. In fact it is always best to try this even if you think the temperature is there, as sometimes you need to get the jam or marmalade just a bit hotter, so I put a plate in the freezer to cool too.

This combination has worked well for us, and we now have a years supply of yummy marmalade cooling on the counter.
marmalade making

Making marmalade in the fiveotherwise kitchen

Children and Sharp things.

Knife and Peeler

Knife and Peeler

It’s always been the case that our kids want to help out with  the cooking and recently Alex has been wanting to help chop up anything. This leaves us with the dilemma of letting him loose with a sharp knife and having to watch him like a hawk, thus preventing you from doing anything else OR say “No Way Jose” and loose his interest and keenness to be involved.

So thanks to Christmas, Alex has been enjoying helping in the kitchen using a special children’s knife set, from Opinel called Le Petit Chef. The set includes knife, peeler and a great device for covering fingers to protect them. In the handles there is a circle for the child’s forefinger to go in, which brilliantly leads the child to a safe and effective grip. As the supervising adult this means you can relax a bit! Everything is child sized but still with the blades sharp enough to properly cut hard vegetables. So yesterday Alex was again in charge of chopping vegetables for soup. I took charge of only the onion, whilst he got quite professional with carrots, celery, courgette and sweet potato. He has also been quite a whizz doing the vegetables over the festivities. It is great to get him involved, and he says, “This knife set is very, very good. Now I can do all the cooking!”.

Take a look at it in action in the photos below so you can see how they work and if you want to know more follow this link to take a look at in in the fiveotherwise Cook shop.

Peeler Knife

Many people say that you should never give a child a sharp knife, if that’s the case then when do they learn how to use on properly and safely? The key to teaching them knife skills is, as always, carefully supervised use of the proper tool. Show the child how to use the knife and guide their hands when they are first learning. Make sure they keep their fingers out of the way of the blade as it cuts, the finger ring and guard help with that. Never allow them to run their fingers over the blade or put the blade on anything that they are not trying to chop up. Always ensure the knife is used on an appropriate cutting surface and that the knife never leaves the surface and never goes near faces. You know your child’s ability better than anyone, so only proceed if your are sure; their safety is your responsibility. Also, it’s probably worth starting with the peeler as this is easier to use, and then you can demonstrate chopping whilst working together on a meal.

Leek, Potato & Spinach Frittata

This weekend we tried out a rather good recipe for a frittata that we’ve wanted to try for while, it’s a bit like the one at The recipe first requires you to fry the potato, leek and onion on the hob before adding the spinach, whisked egg and then putting the cheese topped dish into the oven to cook. It needs the ingredients to be cooked together in the same pan that then goes in the oven for 10 mins. You can use a frying pan with an oven proof handle but for feeding six this gets quite big. So using Tart Tatin, which is designed to go from hob to oven, is really neat. The layering made it a rather attractive lunch. See what you think.

Spinach and Leek Fritatta in the kitchen

Mincemeat Streusel

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special, I had a go at Mary Berry’s mincemeat streusel as a tray bake using a Gobel Tarte Maison, which has a fancy edge and a loose bottom to help get the bake out! I personally have no idea how Mary got hers out of the tin, and she wasn’t giving away any secrets.
I didn’t follow the recipe from the website perfectly, as I had plenty of homemade mincemeat already. I was also lacking in semolina for the streusel topping, so I substituted ground almonds to try and give a coarse texture and a flavour that is quite complementary to mincemeat.
The pastry was super thin, the topping grated well and cooked to a crunchy golden. Once cooled in the tin, the loose bottom allowed the streusel to slide out beautifully, keeping the fluted edge wonderfully crisp. The result was a delightful improvement on traditional mince pies, which we shall be definitely repeating for Christmas.


Whose kitchen is it anyway?

Because I have injured my knee, Neale has taken over the kitchen this week, with a little help from Libby. I think he has enjoyed it, especially making food for baby Sam, which is surprisingly satisfying. He has coached Libby through making a lamb curry and spaghetti bolognese, and tried an old recipe for Sam of a Moroccan style lamb, which has apricots and spices in it, and which went down a storm. They are managing very well. Neale is a good cook, when I let him have a go, but I am looking forward to being back in charge!

Tuesday night is pizza night

pizza_nightTuesday night is pizza night in our house, so at some point after lunch I persuade Jonathan to go start some white bread dough for the pizza bases. Sometimes I end up having to mix it myself, and Jonners usually needs help to get the dough really well kneaded.
We use about 1.2kg of strong white bread flour, 2tspn quick bread yeast, and 2tspn salt.  Make a well in the flour and add a good few tablespoons of olive oil to get into the Mediterranean feel , and a generous 600ml or so of hot water. Both boys like doing the start off stir in  with a knife, but as it gets mixed and heavier they call for me to finish it up and knead it. I like using oil in bread because it saves doing the rubbing in of butter or margarine, which I dislike.
This amount of bread will do three big pizzas plus a loaf, which can cook either before or after the pizzas whilst the oven is hot. I also like sneaking a sweet potato (or a normal one) into the hot oven to bake with the bread and pizza. Then I can use the potato mashed up with a little full fat milk for Sam’s baby food for a couple of meals. Sam does like pizza, he has thin slices cut from a plain cheese one, but he can’t eat enough yet to fill his tummy, so a  couple of tablespoons of mashed sweet potato is very useful.

Elderflowers Mean Summer

elderflower_cordialWith the cold spring weather some things have been very late getting going, and it has seemed a long wait for the elder to flower around here, but this weekend there were finally enough creamy heads around that when the sun came out for a bit we skipped off down the lane to pick a load to make elderflower cordial. This is something I always try to do as it is such an easy cordial and yet it really tastes good. Everyone seems to have a different recipe for this. My recipe comes from a BBC book called “Fruity Passions” which went with a series in the eighties, mostly about wine making! (We have tried quite a few of the wine recipes too over the years) As with most things I do, the original recipe has been modified to fit what I’ve got in. Basically you steep about 25 flower heads in 1.5litres of cold water, 250ml orange juice, a couple of lemons thinly and 1.5kg of white sugar. I also add about 15g of tartaric acid if I’ve got it, this year the tartaric acid was not enough so I added a bit of citric acid too. You can get acids from health food shops or wine making suppliers.elderflower_on_bush_large The whole mix just sits on the counter for a day, filling the kitchen with wafts of perfume that sum up summer for me. After 24hours you strain the liquid through muslin, or a fine sieve and bottle. I usually freeze a few pots for when I need a lift later in the year. Sometimes it can be a little sweet, but if you pop a few slices of lemon and some ice in a jug, add cordial and fizzy water to taste, it is a drink we can all enjoy. Summer is here.