March 2014

March 2014

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seville orange marmalade

What could be better on a Sunday morning than fresh-from-the-oven crunchy bread (on this occasion an oat and linseed loaf) and home-made Seville orange marmalade? Every January I always look out for these bitter, slightly knobbly, fruits in the supermarket and make a few jars of preserve which, actually, don’t last too long in our marmalade-loving family.
When we first moved to Spain in 2003 we lived in an area surrounded by family-owned orange groves grown largely for juicing. However, it was also rather irksome to see Seville orange trees lining most town streets but grown purely for decoration. It was so sad to see these fruits drop off as they ripened only to rot on the ground completely wasted. And yes, I’ll own up, as the locals didn’t use them at all, I used to ‘scrump’ mine, after dark, from the odd tree sited away from traffic pollution as it was impossible to buy them from the shops. Even when living far away from my UK home, my annual marmalade making could, and still does, continue!
I have always used the same simple recipe:
6 Seville oranges
1.4 litres of water
1.1 kilos jam sugar

Slice the oranges in half using a metal spoon, scoop out the flesh over a bowl to collect any juice, leaving the pith behind. Reserve the shells.

Put the flesh, juice and pips into a food processor (or, as I do, use a stick blender) and blend until smooth.

Push the puree through a sieve into a preserving pan.

Now scoop out as much of the pith from the shells as possible. Slice the rind into thin matchsticks and add these to the sieved flesh in the pan.

Pour in the water.

Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 1 hour or until the rind is very soft and the mixture has reduced by half.

Over a low heat, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for 10 minutes or until setting point is reached.

Allow the marmalade to cool slightly and then pour into sterilized jars.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Golden sweet cornbread

I was determined this week to a) defrost the freezer and b) to clear out the shelf in the cupboard where I keep all the different bags of flour, etc. With this spell of freezing weather in mind, I thought I could quickly take everything out, wrap it in newspaper, pop it into a cool bag, and place it in the garden for a short while – after all, the temperature is well below freezing outside at the moment. Well, I got as far as finding all the bags of blackberries that we had lovingly picked in the hedgerows last summer and knew I had to stop and make a preserve with them before I did anything else.  I am not a fan of all the little fruit pips and so stewed the fruit gently until cooked then passed it all through a sieve. Equal quantities of strained juice to sugar, after boiling for less than 5 minutes, resulted in a wonderful thick fruity spread. Now I just need to find room for the filled jars!

My second attempt at spring cleaning also took a back seat when I found on the cupboard shelf a bag of polenta flour or fine cornmeal. I have to tell you that I hunted high and low for this product a couple of months ago to bake a special cake and managed to buy some, at enormous expense, only for the resulting confection to be a huge disappointment!  The bag of flour has not been touched since.

So, determined to ‘use up’ rather than ‘throw out’, I remembered this cornbread recipe that I have been meaning to try for some time. Cornbread originates, I believe, from the States and so the measurements are in the easy volume or ‘cup’ format.  Served warm from the oven, with my unctuous blackberry jam, it was a real treat. The defrosting and shelf-clearing can wait until tomorrow!
Golden Sweet Cornbread
1 cup plain flour
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil)

Preheat oven to 400F/200C (slightly lower for fan ovens). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and oil and mix until well combined. Pour immediately into the prepared pan.
Bake in oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cornbread comes out clean.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Healthy Citrus and spice cake

Well, we are nearly two weeks into January and I hereby confess all my sins over the festive period – shopping in the sales, watching too much television, having the odd alcoholic drink, not going to the gym and, significantly, eating far more than is the norm for me, as well as indulging in some of the most delicious but calorie-laden foods! What is to become of me? OK, hold the front page, you are all my witnesses, after my birthday next week – well, a girl has to enjoy dinner out on her special day -  I am really going back on the wagon of healthy living.
However, this weekend, I still had to satisfy my urge to bake and I scoured my not insubstantial hoard of recipe books for such a confection which used ingredients that I already had in the store-cupboard. One recipe that leapt out of the page included fresh cranberries but, as my husband has been advised not to eat cranberries as they interfere with his medication, I changed the flavour to zingy citrus with the slight warmth of cinnamon spice.
I also wanted to try a silicone mould that I had bought for 99p in the sales. It was a ‘moment of madness’ purchase but promised a cake shaped like a beautiful rose – hard to resist I know! The actual result, after baking, was sadly rather disappointing and probably exactly why the price had been slashed to an all time low! Never mind, the cake tasted fine and, as a lower calorie alternative, one I will keep up my sleeve and make again for a future healthy eating tea-time indulgence.
Here’s the recipe:
Citrus and spice cake
Zest of two clementines (I used tangerines) plus 3 tbsp juice
3 free-range eggs
190g golden caster sugar
2 x small tubs (120g) Greek-style low fat luscious lemon yoghurts
1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp orange extract
200g self-raising flour, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 180C or fan 160C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
Whisk together the yoghurt, eggs, vanilla and orange extracts, plus zest and juice. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Stir all the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until smooth.
Pour into prepared tin and bake for around 50 minutes or until golden and slightly springy to the touch. Finally, leave cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.