ArchiveFebruary 7, 2009


There’s a big pot of citrus peel bubbling away on my cooker in my kitchen. The whole house smells of marmalade and I love it. The aroma of freshly cooked Seville oranges brings me back almost 40 years when I made my first marmalade. I was so proud of my few pots of glistening preserve studded with thick peel; I kept it on my kitchen shelf so I could admire them and show them off. Even though my favourite is Seville orange marmalade, I make lots of recipes to suit my mood. Sometimes I crave a dark bitter marmalade, on other mornings a fruitier one hits the spot and gives me better results for marmalade tart.
The bitter Seville and Malaga oranges are in season for about 5 or 6 weeks at this time of year. These are the orange trees whose blossoms perfume the air along the roadside in the towns and villages in the South of Spain. When I first saw these trees laden with fruit, I was intrigued. Why had no one picked them? I was deeply impressed by how law-abiding the Spaniards were!
Gradually the penny dropped and I realised the beautiful ripe fruit were actually marmalade oranges, far too bitter to enjoy.
Ironically the Spaniards rarely make marmalade and they are somewhat perplexed by the British and Irish craving for this bizarre preserve. The whole crop of Citrus Aurantium is harvested and sent to British marmalade manufacturers with a sprinkling distributed through the retail trade for those of us who love the experience of making our own marmalade. If you can’t manage to make a years supply during the short Seville orange season, remember these fruit freeze perfectly so you can make a few batches at your leisure later in the year.
This whole orange marmalade version is brilliant to have in your repertoire. I’ve also included a kumquat marmalade recipe given to me by an Australian friend – we make this every year as a special treat and store it in little glass jars. Kumquats are considerably more expensive here than in the antipodean countries, but it’s really worth the extra expense.
One little word, for the past few years I really sought out organic marmalade oranges, because I find it much easier to soften the peel, so if you can find them, it’ll be worth the extra expense.  

Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-6 weeks.

Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2 lbs (900g) Seville Oranges
4 pints (2.3L) water
1 lemon
4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips, tie them in a piece of muslin and soak for 30 minutes in cold water. Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.

Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx. Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.

Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating.   Pot into hot sterilised jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.

N.B. The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.

Whiskey Marmalade

Add 6 tablespoons (8 American tablespoons) of whiskey to the cooking marmalade just before potting.

Seville Orange Bakewell Tart

Serves 10-12


6oz (175g) flour
4oz (110g) unsalted butter
1oz (25g) castor sugar
2 egg yolks

Almond Filling

9oz (250g) soft butter, unsalted
9oz (250g) castor sugar
9oz (250g) whole almonds (If you are feeling lazy use ground almonds but it won’t taste so good.)
3 eggs
1 dessertspoon Grand Marnier

1/2 – 3/4 pot (8-12fl ozs) of homemade marmalade

1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin with ‘pop up’ base.

Crème fraiche

First make the pastry.

Put the flour and butter into the food processor.  Whizz for a few seconds then add sugar and egg yolks, turn off the machine just as the pastry starts to form a ball.    Chill for 1/2-1 hour.  Line the flan ring with pastry, fill with paper and baking beans, chill for 15 minutes in a refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 180c/350F/regulo 4. Bake blind for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the almond filling.   Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.

Whisk the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy; add the ground almonds, eggs and Grand Marnier if available.   Spread the marmalade over the base of the tart.  Spread the almond filling over the top.

Reduce the oven to 160°C/325°F/regulo 3, and bake for approx. 40 minutes.   Allow to cool on a wire rack.  

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

Seville Orange Marmalade Cake

Serves 8-10

350g (12oz) self raising flour
pinch of salt
140g (5oz) butter
140g (5oz) castor sugar
4 tablespoons Seville orange marmalade
2 organic eggs
3- 4 tablespoons of marmalade

17 x 7 1/2 cm (6 1/2 x 3 inch) cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, rub in the butter and add the sugar. Make a well in the centre; add the chopped marmalade and lightly beaten egg and mix to a softish consistency with 5 tablespoons milk. Put into a lined tin and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 1/4 hours approximately.

Allow to cool, still wrapped on a wire tray. Paint the top with marmalade and dust with icing sugar.


Kumquat Marmalade

Makes 3 pots approximately

In season: winter

My favourite marmalade, I first tasted this in Australia in the Regent court off Potts Point in Sydney, one of my favourite places to stay in the world and certainly the best breakfast.

1 kg kumquats
1¾ litres (56fl oz) water
1¾ kg (3 lb 1oz) sugar

Slice kumquats thinly crossways.  Collect the seeds, put in a small bowl with 250ml (8fl oz) of the water, allow to stand overnight.  Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with the remaining water, cover and allow to stand overnight.
Next day, strain the seeds, save the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam); discard the seeds.
Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender.
Add the warm sugar and stir until fully dissolved.  Bring to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes. Test for a set, put a teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer, it should barely wrinkle when pressed with a finger.
Remove the pan from the heat while testing.
Pour into hot sterilised jars. Cover and seal and store in a cool dry place.

Marmalade Glazed Loin of Bacon
Serves 12-15

4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kg) loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked
½ pot Seville orange marmalade
whole cloves 20-30 approx.

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 15 minutes approx. to the lb.  Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Chop the rind in the marmalade into dice, and then spread both the marmalade and rind over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/regulo 9 for 15 – 20 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.

Note: We use loin of bacon off the bone.

Fool Proof Food

Deep Fried Sprats with Tartare Sauce or Garlic Mayonnaise
In general January or February have few highlights, apart from the arrival of the marmalade oranges in the shops – but when the Sprats arrive in Ballycotton the excitement is tangible. We feast on them for a few short weeks – deep fried, soused, pickled and smoked. Don’t even think of gutting them you may be shocked but we eat them insides and all – completely delicious.
Serves 6 – 8

450g (1lb) Sprats
well seasoned flour
lemon segments
tartare sauce or garlic mayonnaise

Just before serving: Heat the oil in a deep fry to 200°C / 400ºF. Toss the sprats in well seasoned flour, cook until crisp and golden. Put an oyster shell or a little bowl on each plate to hold a generous spoonful of tartare sauce or garlic mayonnaise. Serve immediately with segments of lemon.

Hot Tips

Organic Marmalade Oranges
Contact organic greengrocer Caitriona Daunt to buy her organic marmalade oranges (086) 3623918 or visit her at her vegetable stall at the Midleton Famers Market on Saturday mornings or at Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday mornings.

St Bridget’s Day Brunch

Kerry Slow Food are hosting a Slow Brunch to celebrate St Bridget’s day in Kilkooleys Bar, Ballybunion, Co Kerry at 11:00am Sunday 1st February. Learn how to make a St Bridget’s cross as an extra bonus – €20.00 Slow Food members and €25.00 non members.

Thrifty Tip

You can bulk out soups, casseroles and stews with a can of haricot, cannellini or black eyed beans. Chickpeas are also delicious – if you soak the dried pulses overnight and cook them yourself they’ll be cheaper and even more nutritious.


Past Letters