Monday, February 04, 2008


My latest New Statesman column is about marmalade. Seville oranges are still in the shops, but will not be there for much longer.

The recipe I used was from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat. Its appeal is that it saves you the business of separating pith and pips from the uncooked oranges, and with muslin bags. Nevertheless, Nigella confesses -- or confessed when she wrote this book (published 10 years ago) -- that she has never made marmalade; and the recipe illustrates the drawback of writing about a procedure that you have not carried out yourself. She does not tell you whether to cook the oranges in a covered or uncovered pan; and she does not emphasise, when she tells you to return the cooked, cut-up oranges to the pan, that the pan also contains the cooking water. These points are obvious, no doubt, to an experienced cook, but were not obvious to me.

I cooked the oranges in a covered pan. That left a high proportion of liquid to orange mixture; but the marmalade did set, albeit after 30 minutes rather than the 15 that Nigella specifies. A friend tried the recipe with an uncovered pan, successfully. I would worry that too much liquid would evaporate, and that the oranges, incompletely submerged, would not cook properly. A compromise is in order.

I did not have enough caster sugar. I used about 900 g of caster, and 500 g of muscovado. The marmalade is so delicious that I shall use this mixture every time from now on.

700g Seville oranges
1.2 litres water
Juice of 2 lemons
900 g caster sugar
500 g muscovado sugar

Put the oranges and the water into a saucepan, bring to the boil, and simmer, partly covered, for two hours. Remove the oranges, reserving the water, and cut them up, pulp and all, into whatever size peel you prefer.

Remove the pips, along with those from the juiced lemons, put them in a small pan, cover them with a little of the orange cooking liquor, and boil for five minutes. Strain this juice back into the cut-up oranges. Add the lemon juice.

Pour the sugar into the pan with the cooking liquor, and cook over a low heat until dissolved. Tip in the orange mixture, turn up the heat, and simmer until set. You test by putting a teaspoon of it on to a saucer, putting the saucer in the fridge for a few minutes, and stroking the mixture with a fingertip. If the surface wrinkles, the marmalade is ready. If you are worried that the marmalade might become too set, take it off the heat while the sample portion is cooling.

When it is ready, stir the marmalade to distribute the peel. Spoon it into pots; it should fill about five standard-sized ones.


Mark Thwaite said...

It's a good job I don't really like marmalade Nick as there is no way I could even afford seven hundred oranges. And, if I could, they wouldn't all fit in the kitchen! ;-)

Nicholas Clee said...

Whoops. It was bound to happen in a recipe in which I criticise another writer.

Thanks for spotting it, Mark.